7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
The context of this passage is really interesting. 14 years earlier Paul had an out of body experience that left him awed, overwhelmed, and speechless. It was the kind of experience that he could have boasted about; that he could have written a book about; that could have led to a lucrative speaking tour. But the Lord, in His sovereign care, made sure this did not happen. And Paul didn’t really understand why God did it the way that He did it.
Most of us have what we might call a “thorn in the flesh.” It might be a chronic physical ailment. It might be a person. It might be a “proneness” – some habit or inclination that we just can’t shake. It might be a financial or other life situation that makes life difficult. And no matter how many times we ask God to take the thorn away it seems that we are stuck with it – much to our dismay.
We don’t know what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was but we do know that it was something that weighed heavily on him. I have written elsewhere what I suspect it was but we will never know for sure. So two questions come to mind:
What purpose might our thorn in the flesh serve? Paul is able to recognize God’s larger purpose which is always helpful. He knows that God is using his thorn to refine his character and transform him more and more into the likeness of Christ. And this is what God wants to do with us as well. So if we can get past the whining and grumbling stage and get to the gratitude and worship stage then the Lord will use whatever thorn we might have to do a good work in and through us.
How do we get to the gratitude and worship stage? 1) Remind yourself daily that God is enough! This is what the Lord means when He says “My grace is sufficient for you.” No matter what we find ourselves going through, God is enough to see us through it and to satisfy our soul while we endure. And make no mistake, sometimes it is a matter of enduring. Taking one day at a time. Putting one foot in front of another. And with each step we say a prayer to God, “Thank you Lord for letting me take another step. Do in my life what You want to do and use me to honor and magnify Your name.”
May the Lord use this brick to help you deal with the thorns in your life and to understand God’s greater purpose when the answer to your oft prayed prayer is “NO.”