Like many towns, Enterprise, Alabama, has a prominent monument. But the monument in Enterprise is unlike any other. The statue doesn’t recognize a leading citizen; it celebrates the work of a beetle. In the early 1900s, this boll weevil made its way from Mexico to the southern US. Within a few years it had destroyed entire crops of cotton, the primary source of revenue. In desperation, farmers started growing another crop—peanuts. Realizing they had been dependent on one crop for too long, they credited the beetle with forcing them to diversify, which led to increased prosperity.
The boll weevil is like things that come into our lives and destroy what we have worked hard to accomplish. Devastation results—sometimes financial, emotional, or physical—and it is frightening. We witness the end of life as we know it. But as the people of Enterprise learned, the loss of what is old is an opportunity to discover something new. God may use hardship to get us to give up a bad habit or learn a new virtue. He used a thorn in Paul’s flesh to teach him about grace (2 Cor. 12:7-9).
Instead of striving to preserve old habits that are no longer effective, we can view every hardship as an opportunity for God to cultivate a new virtue in us.
The thorn with its abiding pain,
With all its wearing, ceaseless ache,
Can be the means of priceless gain. —Anon.
INSIGHTIn Paul’s letter of 2 Corinthians, he repeatedly bares his soul. In the early portions of the letter, he is forced to defend his role as an apostle, while later he shares the heartaches of all he suffered for Christ. Paul concludes by describing how a painful condition (an undefined “thorn”) is being used as God’s instrument to teach him lessons about grace (12:7-10). This is indeed a very transparent and pain-filled epistle.
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