Galatians 4:13 (New International Version)
13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you,
What was the illness that afflicted Paul? There have been several theories. One suggestion is malaria that Paul contracted in the swampy areas of Pamphylia and that caused him to change his path to the higher ground around Pisidian Antioch to recover. Another suggestion, based on the particular verbs used in the passage, is that Paul suffered from some form of epilepsy. Then again, based on Paul writing with ‘large letters’ (Galatians 6:1), the suggestion has been put forward that Paul suffered from some sort of problem with his eyes.
The details of the illness are unimportant. What stands out in this passage is God’s providence. Something that we might have perceived as a setback or an obstacle to the gospel in fact proved the very means by which it advanced. We need to have the right perspective on the role we play and God plays in all things and that human strength may not be what progresses God’s purposes but, as in this case, human frailty.
Paul had the right attitude to perceived weakness:
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)