|Photo courtesy RGBStock.com|
TO CHEW ON: "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." 2 Corinthians 12:7
We don't know what Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was. My Bible's commenter describes it as "an intense wearying difficulty or affliction."* It might have been some bodily condition like migraines, epilepsy, an eye disease, even a person ("What was Paul's thorn in the flesh?" - from Got Questions.org).
From this passage, we do know, however that:
1. Paul attributes this negative thing to Satan - "… a messenger of Satan to buffet me."
2. At the same he implies that God has allowed it - "… a thorn in the flesh was given to me." My Bible's notes explain that this is "grammatically a 'divine passive,' indicating God as the unseen agent overseeing the entire process."*
3. Paul prays that this thorn will be removed. But God's answer to Paul has been "No." Instead, Jesus answers Paul: " 'My strength is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' " Even more Paul doesn't have the strength to only tolerate the irritation but to be happy about it because God's grace shining through his life will reflect glory back to God and His ability to bring good things out of bad ("Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.")
This is easy for us to relate to, isn't it?
- We too suffer from "thorns"—irritations, conditions, situations that stick to us like burrs, that let us know, every step of the way, they are still there.
- They too could be said to be messengers of Satan. For every evil thing in life and nature is a consequence of Satan's fingerprints on creation after humankind's fall into sin. As Paul expresses it in another place: "For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now" - Romans 8:22 (the entire passage is relevant - Romans 8:18-28).
- But Satan's intent to do us harm, to bring us down, is still under God's permission. As we draw grace-strength from Him, our thorn hassled lives can do an end-run around Satan's schemes and score goals for God and His glory instead of defeating us.
Of course, like Paul, we probably keep praying that these thorns be removed. But when they aren't, let's not berate ourselves for too little faith, or give Satan credit for too much strength. For God is still in control, working His will in our lives, using even these Satan-conceived thorns to do it.
PRAYER: Dear God, help me to recognize the thorns in my life for what they are to to respond to them by leaning on You and Your grace for strength to not only endure them but to shine through them. Amen.
*Arden Conrad Autry, commentary on 2 Corinthians, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1624.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.