No one is quite sure what Paul's thorn was. Some say it had to have been a physical malady. Other's insist it was one or more people. Some say it was a temptation. Whatever it was, it didn't go away, despite desperate prayers on Paul's part.
Yet in spite of this thing that gave Paul such frustration, he followed his Jesus and pursued his calling with abandon. He didn't make excuses. We don't read of him saying, "If only I didn't have to deal with (blank), then I could really move forward." Or, "Sorry I didn't get (blank) done, it's that (blank) God sent to frustrate me."
Instead, Paul lived a life of passion grounded in the reality of his life. Instead of grumbling and complaining, he demonstrated for us how to see benefit in the thorns in our lives that aren't going away. Here's how Paul saw his thorn:
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 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. (v. 7b-10)
I know lots of Christians see themselves in the Apostle Peter. They connect with the well-meaning, passionate man who boasted loudly and fell just as publicly. I see myself in Paul. Not in any way in his brilliance or influence. Not at all like that - but in his weakness. Paul was a very proud and confident man. He was sure of himself. Yet, in order to use Paul most effectively, God struck Paul down. First with blindness (which God restored), then with this thorn. Through hardship, God kept this once overly-proud man humble.
It was only in Paul openly admitting he had thorns, that God able to shine through him. Paul's life proved that God's grace was sufficient.
Today I'm writing these words for me. I've got a thorn that isn't going away any time soon. It reveals the worst in me, but not to the world. It's also bringing out the best in me at times. It's something that I know God gave me. And He didn't do it to punish me (although that thought crosses my mind in my weakest moments). I know that's not the truth.
He gave me this thorn for a purpose. Actually multiple purposes. Some I've yet to see. I know I'm supposed to move forward by accepting this thorn is a part of my life - not pretending that it isn't.
So I'm holding on to the promise of the thorn: Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
In my fairy tale dreams, I have the perfect life. Yet God doesn't work through fairy tales. He doesn't even seem to work through "perfect" people. He seems to love taking broken, hurting people - bring them some healing - then set them on a path to obedience. He works in the nitty-gritty of life ... in the midst of physical pain, handicaps, addictions, mistakes and emotional pain. He loves it when people are honest about their weaknesses, but give Him the glory for every good thing.
Yes, I'm more like Paul. I get it when he said, "in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh ..."
Today I'm looking for purpose in my thorns. They stick me sometimes, and cause pain. But they have a purpose.
Question: How have you seen God work through thorns in your life?
In His Love,
P.S. Check back tomorrow. I've got a devotion running on loving well, and I'll share some experiences God has brought through loving difficult people.