We are not told in the Bible what Paul’s thorn is.
(2 Corinthians 12)
Paul only acknowledges that he has a thorn, and that he has asked the Lord three times to remove it from him but the Lord answers him with:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Paul does expound a bit on what he believed to be the purpose of the thorn:
“To keep me from becoming conceited…”
If Paul is right, and I don’t believe his words would have been written down in scripture lest they were truly inspired by the Holy Spirit…Then the purpose of a “thorn’' in the flesh is twofold…To keep us humble, and to perfect the power of God through us.
God certainly tells us in his Word that he will use the foolish or base things in our lives…The flesh is something that regardless of who you are, or whether or not you believe yourself to be in perfect health…it tends to get uncomfortable on a regular basis…temperature affects it, bugs bite it, sharp objects scrape it, hard objects bruise it, and on and on…Even normal hunger and thirst are uncomfortable feelings…Face it…being in the body is not often pleasant!
But, some folks have an extra thorn in their flesh…something that no matter what they do it’s presence is never fully forgotten about.
Paul’s acknowledgement of the thorn was not necessarily complaining, but only asking God to do something that Paul knew he was able to do…and it was God’s unwillingness to do what Paul asked that, I believe is the crux of the message here.
I wonder what would have happened if God did remove Paul's thorn?
Would we still have the New Testament writings from Paul?..or would Paul have been so confident as to be able to say..
"I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation..." (Phil. 4:12)
We know to ask the Lord not to do our will, but to do according to His sovereign will…yet what we really want is to have God agree with our own will…and usually for our own purposes…even if it is just so that our flesh is more comfortable.
At times like those do we even care what God has in mind..After all, there is a purpose to every chapter of our lives. (Thanks Lidia for reminding me).
But the whole story is not written in just that one chapter…the one where you suffered the most, or the one where you had to learn to endure some unpleasant thing in your life.
That one or two chapter(s) does not define who you are in God’s book of life (though it does help mold you).
The definition of who you are is defined in the chapters already written long before you were ever born…the chapters where Jesus suffered for your healing and died for your sins… being raised again as a fulfillment of his claim to be the Son of God who will also raise us from the dead and give us eternal life.
The most important chapters in your life are the ones written in the life of another…Jesus.
Is that what it means when we say:
Christ is my life…In him I live and move and have my being. (Acts 17:28)
Jesus did not just bare a thorn in his flesh like the rest of us during his lifetime…but was given a whole crown of thorns to wear to the cross!
What a small thing for us to have only one or two thorns during our lifetime in comparison to that.
Just as Paul never even gives the thorn in his flesh a name, thereby giving it even less power over him, I believe that we must be careful not to bring too much focus on the thorns in our flesh either…Beyond acknowledging their existence…give them no more glory beyond the fact that God will use them for his divine purpose according to his will for us…and maybe, just maybe the purpose of the thorn in the first place is to glorify him through his power of healing when he miraculously removes it from us.
I wonder if Paul's thorn in the flesh was some kind of physical disability?
If so, then God still used Paul, and in a big way...The thorn did not get in the way of that, instead it maybe helped God to empower him to a higher calling while keeping him humble and weak enough to realize and always remember that he could not depend on his own strength...but only on the strength from the Holy Spirit.
Oftentimes when we try to do something for the Lord with our own strength we just end up getting in God's way. We need the power of the Holy Spirit in order to serve God's kingdom in a truly productive and inspired way.
One of the rules I made for myself while I was going through cancer treatment was that I would NEVER say “my cancer”…I thereby did not accept it as part of my being…my identity. I believe that God allowed the surgeons to remove it from my body…but there are certain thorns that still remain.
It is on those days when the thorns prick my flesh, that I am reminded that I need the Lord to help me to do things. On the days where I feel comfortable in my flesh…I often forget that I need God’s help…I can do it myself..That is my attitude.
I imagine if I were able to “do it myself” consistently…I would have no need to call upon my God for help.
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
(2 Corinthians 12:9)
The thorns in our lives are only meant to bring us into a stronger relationship with the Father…to humble us as we bear witness to things that only angels have seen…and to glorify the King as we experience his awesome power over everything that threatens to destroy our faith while here on planet earth.
And someday when we are in heaven…we can ask Paul “Hey, what WAS that thorn in your flesh anyway?” To which he’ll probably reply:
What thorn?…I don’t remember any thorns except the ones my Lord wore for me.