A Thorn in the Flesh

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 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 12:7-10).

Recently I was cleaning house and had to move my little cactus plant. I accidentally touched one of the thorns, which lodged itself in the tip of my finger. I have read the verse many times about Paul’s thorn in the flesh. However, until this incident, I was not actually aware how annoying a real thorn in the flesh could be! For the next two weeks I struggled to remove that tiny little thorn from my finger. I was able to forget it from time to time, but sure enough, when I least expected it, that thorn in the flesh proved quite painful! It would capture my attention at the most inopportune times!

There are several theories about the nature of Paul’s thorn in the flesh. It is speculated to have been any of a wide variety of issues – physical, mental, or emotional. No one really knows for sure. Paul called this thorn ‘a messenger of satan’ and says that God chose not to remove it.

The verse that speaks most to me in this section of Scripture is “My power is made perfect in weakness.” All of us have weaknesses – no one is perfect. (I hope we all know that!) In fact, the Bible says “there is no one perfect, no, not one!” (Romans 3:10). I admit that I have suffered weakness in all of these areas at some point in my life – physical, mental and emotional. I believe at one period in my life I was weak in all these areas at the same time – and my family would likely agree with that!

Paul could honestly delight in weaknesses, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties. What I believe he is saying is that it is easy to appear ‘strong’ when everything is going well. The real test comes when things aren’t going so well! What I also know is that in my life, when I was weak, He was strong. Through all the pain and sorrow, He has been with me to comfort and strengthen me. Through all the trials and tribulations, He has been there to keep me from falling and to teach me His ways. Never once has He left my side.

Things are not going to be perfect in this world – that is reserved for our heavenly abode. None of us know exactly what we will have to endure during this life on earth. What a revelation to know that in our moments of greatest weaknesses the Lord will show His strength through us. Even when we are not able to remove those annoying and painful thorns, it is encouraging to know that He continues to work through us because He is strong!

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