International Standard Version
1I must boast, although it does not do any good. Let's talk about visions and revelations from the Lord. 2I know a man who belongs to the Messiah. Fourteen years ago—whether in his body or outside of his body, I do not know, but God knows—that man was snatched away to the third heaven. 3I know that this man—whether in his body or outside of his body, I do not know, but God knows— 4was snatched away to Paradise and heard things that cannot be expressed in words, things that no human being has a right even to mention. 5I will boast about this man, but as for myself I will boast only about my weaknesses. 6However, if I did want to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be telling the truth. But I am not going to do it in order to keep anyone from thinking more of me than what he sees and hears about me.
7To keep me from becoming conceited because of the exceptional nature of these revelations, a thorn was given to me and placed in my body. It was Satan's messenger to keep on tormenting me so that I would not become conceited. 8I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me, 9but he has told me, "My grace is all you need, because my power is perfected in weakness." Therefore, I will most happily boast about my weaknesses, so that the Messiah's power may rest on me. 10That is why I take such pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for the Messiah's sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong.
11I have become a fool. You forced me to be one. Really, I should have been commended by you, for I am not in any way inferior to your "super-apostles," even if I am nothing. 12The signs of an apostle were performed among you with utmost patience—signs, wonders, and powerful actions. 13How were you treated worse than the other churches, except that I did not bother you for help? Forgive me for this wrong!
14Now I'm ready to visit you for a third time, and I will not bother you for help. I do not want your things, but rather you yourselves. Children should not have to support their parents, but parents their children. 15I will be very glad to spend my money and myself for you. Do you love me less because I love you so much? 16Granting that I have not been a burden to you, was I a clever schemer who trapped you by some trick? 17I did not take advantage of you through any of the men I sent you, did I? 18I encouraged Titus to visit you, and I sent along with him the brother you know so well. Titus didn't take advantage of you, did he? We conducted ourselves with the same spirit, didn't we? We took the very same steps, didn't we?
19Have you been thinking all along that we are trying to defend ourselves before you? We are speaking before God in the authority of the Messiah, and everything, dear friends, is meant to build you up. 20I am afraid that I may come and somehow find you not as I want to find you, and that you may find me not as you want to find me. Perhaps there will be quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly conduct. 21I am afraid that when I come my God may again humble me before you and that I may have to grieve over many who formerly lived in sin and have not repented of their impurity, sexual immorality, and promiscuity that they once practiced.