Could it be, that the very thing you are pleading with the Lord to remove is the very thing that was meant to bless you… the very thing that was meant to keep you grounded?
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.
ESV 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
What was the thorn in Paul’s flesh? This question has been for a long time the subject of debate and speculation. The following is a list of what scholars and preachers think the thorn in Paul’s flesh is:
- Tertullian thought it was a headache
- Klausner believed it was epilepsy
- Ramsay identified it as recurrent malarial fever
- Chrysostom said it was ‘all the adversaries of the Word
- John Calvin made it ‘fleshly temptation
- Martin Luther considered it ‘spiritual temptation
- John Knox decided it was ‘infirmities of the mind
- Catholic commentators generally say ‘lustful thoughts
- McGarvey: ‘acute, disfiguring ophthalmia
- Macknight spoke of some who believed it was ‘the false teachers
- Lightfoot suggested ‘blasphemous thoughts of the devil
- Alexander was sure it was ‘Malta fever’
I believe Paul’s ‘thorn’ was an acute disfiguring ophthalmia. Gal. 4:15 sounds like a great verse to prove my point (“I am sure you would have taken out your own eyes and given them to me if it had been possible”), but I am not going to waste your time arguing that. Because that is not the purpose of the story.
The real treasure in this story actually lies in the meaning of the word ‘thorn’ and the purpose for which the ‘thorn’ was given in the first place. The word thorn is rendered ‘stick’ as in the sticks used to anchor tents in the ground so that they are stable.
I don’t think Paul is using the word lightly, because as a tent maker, he was more than familiar with building tents and making them secure and stable. Furthermore, this ‘thorn’ had a purpose. The purpose was to keep Paul grounded and rooted, from becoming conceited and proud because of all the glorious revelations he was receiving.
Before he understood the purpose of this – thorn, Paul apparently didn’t like what was happening to him and asked God to take it away. He was actually asking God to take away the very thing that was meant to keep him grounded. But when he understood what God was up to, he welcomed the purpose.
Sometimes, when we go through difficult trials and tribulations, we fail to realize that those trails and tribulations are meant to make us stronger, better, wiser. stable and humble. It’s like being put through the fire. It is not comfortable, but like gold, we come out refined and ready for the master’s glory.
Sometimes trials have a purpose – so, don’t fight it – let it have its way, it will do you good.