“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. 2 Cor. 12:7-10
Weakness is the inability to fight. A lack of confidence. A sickness of illness that limits you from accomplishing what you want to do. The end result of prolonged suffering, calamity, or frailty.
Weakness is in opposition to our flesh.
We don’t like the way it feels.
But in the case of Paul, as well as in our own lil’ worlds, we can’t always change our unfortunate circumstances or pesky people. There are some things in life that are outside of our control, and yet, difficult to bear on our own. Things like sickness, insults, rejection, hardship, and persecution come to mind. The thorns in our lives are constant reminders of the tension we live in as a result of a broken world.
What is Paul’s thorn?
We never get an answer to what is the cause of Paul’s thorn. We know he asked for it to be removed three times (v. 8). We know Satan delivered the calamity (v. 7). And we know God, the giver, permitted the thorn to exist (v. 7, 9). But why?
You see, Satan intended evil. His desire was to see Paul fall…curse God, doubt, and turn-away. But God gave the thorn to Paul to perfect his holiness, and to aid in preventing the welling up of pride. It would have been so easy for Paul to boast in the incredible, supernatural revelations that he experienced in the preceding verses. He could have easily seen himself as “better than thou.” So God permitted the thorn to foster humility in man.
Satan desires to wreak havoc; wheras God desires good. God permits Satan to afflict his faithful servant in order to work all things together for good. God is always in control. Satan cannot touch a hair on our head unless it has been sifted through the hands of God. For this reason, when we walk through suffering…we can trust that God is at work. Rather than focus our attention on the thorn, we can focus our attention on the purpose.
How do we suffer well?
Following the example of Paul, it is okay to PRAY for the thorn to be removed. Pain is not a good thing in and of itself. God does not delight in your pain. He simply uses it to get our attention.
“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis
Secondly, BECOME more like Jesus. No other man endured suffering like Jesus. Our thorn pales in comparison. Work to reset your mind on Jesus and the work performed on the cross. As your perspective shifts, you will be able to see your reliance on God’s grace. Clearly our humility is more important to God than our comfort. God’s perspective is much different than ours. He is molding and shaping us to look more like Him and in doing so, proves that “His grace is sufficient for us.”
Finally, give God the GLORY. If God does not remove the weakness but rather, allows it to persist…then He must have greater purpose. Trust God that He knows what is best. When we finally yield to the will of God, we see the beauty of His power and peace prevail. When we move past the pain and suffering, we enter into the promise and blessings that only God can provide.
“Power is made perfect in weakness. When we are weak, He is strong.”
How has God’s grace been sufficient for you? How is His power made perfect in weakness?