For most of us, life is largely a long process of becoming increasingly unable. For those born without any discernible physical or intellectual disability and even for many who are, life begins as a thrilling process of increasing ability. We learn to crawl and walk, to lift weights and climb stairs, to bike centuries and run marathons, to dance and marry and make love. We are at our physical and mental prime from our late teens to our early 20s. Such ability is a wonder that we glory in, perhaps most vividly portrayed in Michelangelo’s David, the prototype for the male human being at the pinnacle of his glory.

But from that point on, we slowly but surely become increasingly unable. We’re not as quick as we used to be in the gym and on the field; childbearing takes something out of us that never comes back; concentrating on difficult reading takes extra effort; a knee goes out; our vision clouds; it’s harder to get down to play with kids and even harder to get up. Whether gradually or quickly, we move to that state where our entire being, from head to foot, is disabled—we die.

This may be heartbreaking, but it is not a tragedy: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:16–17).

In fact, there is something about our inability that reveals the heart of the gospel. We’re not sure what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was, but it is not a reach to see it as a physical disability (some scholars suggest extremely poor vision, for example). “My power is made perfect in weakness,” God tells Paul (2 Cor. 12:7–9). ...

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