2 Corinthians 12:7-10 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.
We’ve all heard the expression “like a thorn in my flesh.” I’ve removed quite a few thorns in my life. I’ve removed thorns or splinters from many patients, my children, and most recently I had to get Jeff to help me pull a few splinters out of my hands and feet after pressure washing and staining the deck. Thorns hurt! At first, they are just a little aggravating, but if left in place they become sore and begin to fester up until the thorn becomes a constant aggravation.
Paul is speaking metaphorically here of a thorn in his flesh. We know that he is not talking about a literal thorn, but we do not know for sure what his ailment is. He uses the phrase as a metaphor for something that he is having to endure and suffer through. Many biblical scholars have guessed at what the thorn may be, but the fact is, Paul didn’t tell us. If he did, we couldn’t as easily relate to the scripture when going through our many times of thorns in the flesh. Whatever it was that Paul was enduring was significantly hard enough that Paul begged God THREE times to remove the thorn. He wanted God to take away the pain. He knew that God could take it away, but God chose not to.
Many times we pray about a situation we are in the midst of enduring, and we see God answer those prayers. Cancers disappear. Loved ones are healed. Strength is restored. But other times, we don’t get the answer we are asking for. Do you think it’s because God isn’t listening? Absolutely not! God hears us.
So why then does God let us continue to endure the thorns in our flesh? I believe that one reason is because the thorn helps us to grow in God. We gain godly character and maturity. The thorns also humble us. We can’t go around boasting and bragging about ourselves when we have a big old thorn in the flesh. Also, the thorns keep us running back to God. We call on Him. We lean on Him. We gather strength to continue living through Him.
God didn’t remove Paul’s thorn because He wanted Paul to recognize that His grace was sufficient and His power was perfected in Paul’s weakness. Sometimes God doesn’t remove our thorns for the same reason. He can remove the thorn, but this pales in comparison to seeing God meet our needs day to day. We have to realize that His grace is sufficient. He is all we need. The power of God is perfect. God is all powerful. We are so weak, but God makes us strong. When we recognize how weak we are, we realize how abundantly God pours out His grace on us. Don’t let the thorns get you down. God’s grace is sufficient to help you through the suffering. Just trust in Him!