I am going to attempt to convince you of the need to thank God for those things in our lives that make us struggle. Not just our mild difficulties but the thing that makes us personally struggle the most. Our ‘ thorn in the flesh ’ that always reminds us of its presence in our lives. And when I say we need to thank God for our ‘thorn,’ I don’t just mean accepting or enduring in this area, but truly giving thanks to God for it.
Thorn in the Flesh
Many throughout the ages have attempted to figure out what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. Some say it was a tormenting individual who just wouldn’t leave him alone, some say it was a physical infirmity, others say it was a fleshly temptation, still others say it was the guilt of his murdering Stephen and other Christians. I think all the conjecture of what it could have been is because of its importance in all of our lives. We each have a personal thorn and it is our blessing.
How can I call the most tormenting “thing” in my life a blessing rather than a curse? Oh, I feel like I have an answer from the Spirit and this sheds such a light on my soul and my life.
Our temptation when facing a thorn in the flesh is to complain or resist. Statements like, “This isn’t fair! I don’t deserve this! Come on, God, fix it!” come to my mind immediately. Quite frankly, I can feel put upon rather than blessed. Whether the thorn is a result of my choices or circumstances orchestrated specifically by God, blessing isn’t how I would typically describe it. How could something that impedes my walking with God be a blessing? Oh, the answer’s so amazing!
The Blessing of a Thorn in the Flesh
The thorn in the flesh is valuable and a blessing because it impedes my walk with Jesus. So wait a minute, before you call me crazy, how could an impeding force in my walk and relationship with Jesus be beneficial, or more, a blessing? It’s because the thorn in the flesh causes me to utterly depend on Christ, on His Life, and not on mine.
The successes that I achieve on my own only propel me away from God not nearer. It bolsters my independence and self-sufficiency. Yet it’s not in my strength that I find God and achieve my destiny, rather it is in my weakness and frailty where I truly come to know Him. This is counter to every voice in the world, but this is the very way Christ revealed Himself to Paul. Paul celebrated his weakness because he knew that where he was weak, Christ’s life truly was revealed.
…for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10 NASB
Here’s a catcher, it is only in our weakness that our destiny is made manifest. There’s a ‘whoa’ statement! With millions boasting of their prowess and success, God appears in our utter weakness. God pierces us with a thorn in the flesh so we’ll live in the original pre-fallen state of total reliance and complete dependence. Yes, that position where we have to look to Him to be everything in our lives. The Christian life is not about the endurance I can muster as I run my personal marathon; it’s about revealing Christ alone—or my life is absolutely worthless.
Plague or Tether
In the Garden-state-of-man (not New Jersey!), we were child-like in dependence and had complete trust in our Father. When we separated ourselves, preferring to do it on our own, He shackled us by grace to a thorn. Just imagine if we could make everything we needed and had no Achilles heel of dependence! We would run roughshod through our lives, straight to hell, fully capable and totally independent of God. More’s the pity! This makes my plaguing thorn a huge tether rather than a damnable flaw or failing.
As I gaze at my personal thorn in the flesh, I see the blessing of how it calls me always back. Our thorn can be humbling, humiliating, painful, and relentless. But the thorn always reminds us, we can’t do this without the Life of Christ. Jesus doesn’t support our independence from Him; rather He assures us that His Life is the only life.
We only have victory in weakness. It’s when our thorn is greater than our ability to manage. Whether the thorn is an enemy at your gate who always tries to thwart you, a weakness in your physical frame, or a shameful enigma in your soul…Christ’s Life is the victory. My thorn is a continual reminder that I must ever rely on His Life rather than my own. And so is yours. The blessing is, without the desperate need the thorn makes, I would leave Him and think I was fine. My thorn is a blessing, a cross I get to bear, as He – not me – lives my life.
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthian 12:7-10 NKJV