“…but [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” – 2 Corinthians 10:9
Most of us are familiar with the New Testament’s admonitions to contentment with possessions. I’m thinking here of the message of 1 Timothy 6:8: “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.” Or Hebrews 13:5, which says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’” I doubt these verses sound like news to anyone, though I wonder if toilet paper hoarders from a few months ago shouldn’t revisit them.
My point so far is that we usually think about “having enough” in terms of contentment with physical possessions. And I’m certainly on board with cultivating gratitude over greed, contentment over covetousness, magnanimousness over miserliness. But the New Testament writers make an even deeper point than contentment with stuff.
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes an experience in which he prayed repeatedly for God to take away a “thorn in the flesh.” Scholars see this thorn as a reference to either Paul’s personal anxieties, or physical ailments, or experiences of persecution. Take your pick. When Paul’s thorn persisted, Paul discerned God’s answer, “My grace is enough. In your weakness my power is made complete.” Paul’s word “enough” is the same root word found in “be content.” Paul prays for God to remove his thorn and God’s response is, “Let my sustaining grace, despite your thorn, be enough, be sufficient, for you. Because there is a mysterious relationship between your childlike trust in me and my power to see you through.”
Whenever I’ve participated in a Seder service commemorating the deliverance of the Hebrew people from slavery, I’ve been struck by the traditional song “Dayenu.” It has a catchy tune and a simple message: “It would have been enough” (dayenu). Fifteen verses contemplate the “enoughness” of even one of the Lord’s gifts: “Lord, even if you had only brought us out of Egypt, dayenu.” “Lord, even if you had only executed justice upon the Egyptians, dayenu.” “Lord, even if you had only fed us manna in the wilderness, dayenu.”
I think Paul is getting at dayenu-level contentment and “enoughness” in 2 Corinthians 10:9. Lord, even if you don’t take away my thorn in the flesh, your grace is enough. Lord, even if my personal anxieties aren’t alleviated, your grace is enough. Lord, even if my physical ailments aren’t relieved, your grace is enough. Lord, even if we don’t have a cure for COVID-19 anytime soon, your grace is enough. Lord, even if my job situation is precarious, your grace is enough. Lord, even if we have to hunker down for another six, or nine, or twelve months, your grace is enough. Can I pray this prayer? Can you?