Yesterday I introduced Paul’s thorn problem and how God solved it for him. Today, we’re going to explore how God’s solution works in specific illustrations from life. In his and ours.
What was Paul’s thorn?
Was it Physical?
Some theologians believe Paul had eye troubles, based on his statement in Galatians 6:11, “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” This and the fact that he dictated all his letters seem to point to a difficulty. If so, the power of the Holy Spirit which had worked through Paul to heal others, declined to heal him. This was not meanness on God’s part, but a more perfect solution than physical wholeness.
Is your personal thorn a handicap, illness, injury, pain, or physical limitation? Has God chosen not to heal you despite all your prayers and pleading? It could be that He wants to shine through you in your weakness, despite your infirmity as He has so many other great believers in history.
Was it a Person?
Maybe Paul’s thorn was a difficult person, or the lack of a significant person (namely a wife) that caused his pain. He wasn’t the most popular guy. After all, first he went around killing Christians. Then he became one and started inviting Gentiles to follow Christ and be grafted into the family tree! Both sides were a little wary and he often rubbed people the wrong way. There were times of great loneliness for Paul.
If your thorn is a person who seems bent on hurting, insulting, lying about, or in some way making your life miserable, I’m sure you want relief. Perhaps you’re lonely and have desperately pled with God to bring you together with a husband, wife, or friend to share your life. God may relieve you yet, but if you’re doing everything in your power to change your situation and nothing’s happening, could it be that He desires to use this ache in you to deepen your total dependence on Him?
Was it a Temptation?
Like all the rest of us, Paul was human, and he faced temptations of many kinds. Did he struggle with an addiction of some sort? Was he tempted to act on illicit desires or a homosexual relationship? He was a Roman citizen and sexual experimentation was widely accepted and available at every pagan temple. Did Paul long to be released from constantly nagging enticements?
All of us face temptations too. Some urges are so strong that even though we love God and want to please Him, we battle daily to resist the lure of lust, thrills, greed, and escape. We want a break from our flesh to serve God without distraction, yet though we pray fervently, the temptations remain. Is God saying, “My grace is sufficient for you?”
These are only three possibilities. Paul’s thorn could have been any number of frustrating human frailties - a sense of failure, insecurity, anger, doubt, or others. Whatever it was, God assured him that He was enough. Paul would make it through life, even with persistent stabs at his side from this pesky probe. He chose to believe God and lived with weakness and triumph, simultaneously. His example humbles and challenges me to trust God with my thorns. I hope you too will find that God is enough, no matter what.