Our Thorns in the Flesh

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV

“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. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 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.”

When we are walking closely with the Lord Jesus, in close intimate fellowship with him, and when we are being led by the Spirit of God and by the teachings of Jesus and of his New Testament apostles, and the Lord is directing our steps, and the Holy Spirit is speaking truth into our hearts, and so we are sharing what we are hearing and learning from the Spirit and from the Word of God, there could possibly be a chance that it might go to our heads, if our minds and our hearts are not guarded against such as this.

And so the Lord may send us some particular trials and tribulations to keep us humble and to keep us from becoming conceited, and they may feel to us like a thorn in the flesh. And it may indeed be that the Lord is allowing a messenger of Satan to inflict us or to taunt us or to persecute us in some way, again to keep us humble and to keep us from thinking too much of ourselves. For the Lord knows what we need in order for us to remain humble and submissive to him and to keep us from becoming proud.

Now I have heard some people declare that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was some kind of signature sin in his life, but that just isn’t biblical. If Jesus came to the earth to die on that cross to put our sin to death with him so that we would die with him to sin, then he is not going to allow us to be under the control of some sin. And Satan can do nothing to us but what God allows it. And if we are under the control of any sin, that would never be used of God in order to keep us humble, for sin does not come from God.

And only God is concerned about us not becoming conceited and us being humble, instead. So we can only conclude here that this thorn in the flesh was nothing opposed to God and to his word and to his holiness and righteousness by Paul’s actions, but that Paul continued to live a godly and holy and pure life, as he stated that he did. So this was some kind of mental harassment of the enemy and/or it was a physical ailment of some kind, like his poor eyesight. And God does allow such things in our lives to keep us humble and so we learn to depend on him and not on ourselves.

For he promised us that we would go through trials and tribulations, and that we would be hated and persecuted, but that these trials are for our good to teach us reliance on the Lord and not on ourselves, and to teach us perseverance, and to build within us godly character, etc. So they are definitely used of God in our lives to keep us humble, and so we will keep things in the proper perspective, and so that we do not run ahead of God or lag behind him, but so we remain on course following him with our lives.

Now these ailments usually are painful and troubling, and they can make life more difficult and challenging for us. And so we may plead with the Lord in prayer to please remove them from our lives. And he does heal, but sometimes not when the greater good is accomplished by us having these hindrances (ailments, thorns in the flesh). And the first person who comes to my mind is Joni Eareckson Tada who has done so much good in helping so many people who are handicapped for she is handicapped herself.

And the Lord Jesus allowed me to get sick from mice about a year and a half ago and then to end up with permanent nerve damage in one of my legs. And my vision is really getting bad this year, and so is my hearing, and now my hair is falling out, too. And I was very ill for 6 weeks in January through the first week of February of this year. But God was and has been with me through all these difficulties and ailments every step of the way, and it is humbling, and it does make life a little more difficult, but all is well!

So, when trials and tribulations come into our lives, or when we experience sickness or even failed body functions and parts (speaking of our physical bodies here), we can definitely pray for healing and for deliverance. And God is still in the miracle working business, and he does still heal. But if he says to us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” then we need to accept that as his answer to our prayers, and then we need to rest in him and just keep following his lead.

For, although most of us get no pleasure out of pain and suffering, it is good when we can have the attitude that we are content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when we are weak, then are we strong in the power of God and of his might and wisdom. For God can work so many other kinds of miracles of his grace in our lives, which have much greater impact on our lives and on other people’s lives, when we willingly surrender to his will and when we accept from him not only good but bad times, too. For when we are weak, we can be strong in the Lord Jesus.

The Prayer

Written by David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager,
Alberto Testa and Tony Renis

I pray you’ll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don’t know

I pray we’ll find your light
And hold it in our hearts
When the stars go out each night
Remind us where you are.

Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe.

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