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. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 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.”
This passage has been on my mind for the last few days as I’ve heard a number of people talk about seeking out what their “thorn” may be. I’ve even had the thoughts myself and wondered if I should be spending more time trying to figure out what the Lord may have inflicted me with, but the whole thought process just hasn’t sat right with me so this morning I went to the passage to see exactly what it said.
I hear people talk about this passage as if it is a rule for all believers. We all have a thorn in our flesh, something that we simply must live with until we die. But the issue with this belief is, first of all, that the Bible doesn’t say that we all have the kind of thorn Paul is talking about, and second, if we decide what our “thorn” is, that then gives us permission to keep walking in whatever that thing may be without attempting to overcome it.
I’m no theologian, and I don’t know the original Greek or Hebrew, but I want to look at this passage a little deeper just from a basic point of view.
The verses before the ones I quoted above talk about Paul’s experience seeing heaven. He says that God allowed him to be inflicted so that his pride wouldn’t be boosted based on that supernatural experience. This issue was about keeping Paul humble. He was constantly in need of God’s healing power in this area.
He calls it a thorn in his flesh. So this speaks to me of some kind of disease or physical affliction as opposed to a condition of his spirit/heart. It was something he was unable to overcome on his own. He couldn’t fix himself. It wasn’t a heart issue, or even a sin issue, because both of those things could be redeemed under the sacrifice Jesus made.
Then he calls it a “messenger of Satan,” so this says that this is not something God has done to Paul, but something God has allowed to be done to him, and it’s something that God chooses not to take care of, for his own good. This keeps in line with Romans 8:28 which says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Paul even confirms this by saying that his weakness allows Christ to be strong in him. The strength of the Father manifesting in our lives will always be for or good and the good of His Kingdom, and the belief that God won’t let us suffer is blown out of the water here. There are going to be times when we go through hardships because they’re good for us.
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses. . .” Instead of boasting in the things that would give him clout, reverence and
respect, Paul chooses to boast in his weaknesses. He levels the playing field and makes himself relate-able to the rest of the human race. He is not out of reach, but yet as he struggles with his humanity and physical body, he is also impacting the entire world for the cause of Christ. He did not allow his weakness and affliction to deter him from the call on his life. He could have easily allowed his affliction and demonic torment to rule him. He could have said, “I’m sick, someone else can do it.” But no, he pressed on toward his goal and allowed God’s strength to be His prize.
My quick and non-intellectual yet thoughtful takeaways for you are these:
- If you think God has allowed a thorn in your flesh, it will be something that you can not overcome on your own, and it is something that will be present in your life until the Lord chooses to heal it, if He ever does.
- It is not a Biblical fact that all believers are subjected to having a thorn in their flesh.Clinging to the idea that we all have a thorn in our flesh is dangerous grounds for us to permit behavior that we can in fact control, change and be saved from
- Suffering is a fact of life. It’s not necessarily from God, it is allowed by Him in order to serve a greater purpose in your life and in His Kingdom. Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
- Whatever our weaknesses may be, whether permanent or not, we need to embrace them, boast about them, even, so that the power of God may be made strong in us. We boast about Him rather than ourselves.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Do you have a deeper understanding of these verses? Do you believe you have a thorn, or have you believed it and now are questioning it based on this post? I’m looking forward to some discussion in the comments!