To keep me from becoming conceited . . . there was given me a thorn in my flesh.
2 Corinthians 12:7
The apostle Paul had a serious problem. There was something wrong in his body, and he suffered because of it. We have no idea what this physical problem was. Maybe he had to grapple with crippling pain, bad eyesight, severe arthritis, terrible digestive trouble, seizures, or heart disease. Maybe what vexed him was something completely different. All we know is that this physical problem was serious and the burden on him was profound. Paul simply described it as “a thorn in my flesh.”
It should come as no surprise that Paul prayed about this physical problem. Paul asked the Lord to remove his thorn in the flesh. And, in love, the Lord answered Paul’s prayer.
His answer was “No.”
In his perfect wisdom, the Lord knew that this debilitating physical problem was necessary for Paul and his ministry. It gave Paul perspective. It reminded Paul that, on his own, he was frail and weak. As a result, he never forgot that his real strength was in the Lord and in his gospel. With that thought in mind, Paul later concluded, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
What is the thorn in your life? Perhaps it is chronic illness, chronic pain, a lifelong struggle with depression, or a deep emotional scar from an old wound. Perhaps it is a thorn only you and your Lord understand.
For the time being, if the Lord has chosen to leave that thorn in you, just remember—he does this in love. It may be to give you perspective or to nurture your compassion for others. It may be to keep your eyes fixed on the One who has washed your sins away at the cross, and who lives to fulfill his every promise to you. Whatever the reason, never forget that there is love in that thorn—God’s love for you in Jesus Christ.
Lord, when you choose to let a painful thorn remain, remind me that even that thorn overflows with your love. Amen.