And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 2 Corinthian 12: 7-10;
You can live with pains and still be happy! That exactly was the experience of Apostle Paul according to the above scripture. So many people often think that living a happy and fulfilled life is living with no pains, distress, reproaches and hurts, but going by the story of Apostle Paul, it is clear that it is possible for God to permit a man to live permanently with what is considered as thorns which continually pierce and distress him, and still be happy in life!
While we may not attempt to figure out what exactly Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, we can however conveniently come to the conclusion that it was something that caused him pains continually and permanently. Paul was such a man with rare grace of God. Through the abundance of divine revelations and unusual deep insights of God’s oracles he possessed, he was so prominent that it became a possibility for him to overshadow all disciples and the aged Apostles who even knew and personally related with the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course this would not be without some serious risks: he could be puffed up beyond measure and consider himself super human if there was nothing to put him under check. In order to prevent him from going overboard, God in love responded by allowing ‘a thorn in his flesh’ which no doubt brought him permanent pains, distress and reproach.
At the initial period, before Paul came to recognize the purpose of the thorn God allowed to remain in his flesh, he probably struggled and also prayed, pleading with the Lord on several occasions to get rid of it; but at the point he realized that God permitted it ultimately for his own good, he gladly accepted and live happily thereafter with the pains. Having established that the presence of the thorns in his flesh was for his own good, Apostle Paul changed his perception about the pains he continually experienced, he gladly accepted to live with the ‘thorn’. It is not on record that thereafter he was at anytime sad, complained against God or displayed an attitude of self pity, rather, he was full of joy and trust in God, relying absolutely on Christ’s grace alone.
When we find situations around us that cause us pains or troubles, it is not wrong for us to pray for change. In fact, as Christians who believe in God’s unfailing power to turn around any unpleasant situation, the normal way we should respond is to pray. However, it is important we recognize that inspite of our prayers and passionate pleas, sometimes, God may decline to remove that particular thing which causes us pains and distress. God does this, not out of wickedness, but great love, since He perfectly knows our frame and what will ultimately work for our good - fulfillment of His purpose.
There could be many things in our lives which appear like thorn that pierces and causes us permanent pain; we may have attempted to get rid of them by praying, and yet it appears God is not in a hurry to take them away. At this juncture, we really need to pause and seek to know what the mind of God is about the situations to enable us respond the way we are expected to. There are many things we see as ‘thorns in the flesh’, but which God sees as great blessings to us. According to Paul, one of the reasons God permitted the thorn in his flesh was to humble him. May be he would have been ruined by pride and arrogance but for the ‘thorn in his flesh’ God purposely permitted to remain with him. The thorn in his flesh was meant to remind him continually that he was still a mortal and that only the Almighty God is infallible.
It is true that all things work together for good for them who are the called according to the purpose of God. God’s greatest interest for us is to fulfill His purpose here on earth, and anything that will make Him achieve that in us, is good for us. Even though we see the thing as ‘thorn’ that is capable of piercing us and causing us pain, God says it is for our good, ultimate good! What God considers good are only those things which help us to achieve His purpose here on earth – even if those things are things that cause us pain! Anything that does not directly or indirectly have relevance to God’s purpose for our lives is never considered good in the perspective of God.
Are there thorns in your way or in your flesh? Don’t despair or be discouraged. In the midst of thorny path, the most important thing is for God to be with you. When God is by your side, flames of fire will lose their powers, rages of the sea will not be a threat. The ‘thorns in your flesh’ may be painful though, but through the grace of God, divine strength will be yours to carry on with the journey and be joyful in the path of life. Never you resort to self pity or bitterness against your heavenly Father, He is beautiful for all situations and sustain you in the paths that seem thorny. DON’T GIVE UP!
(c) May 2011
Read more articles by ezekiel olukolajo or search for articles on the same topic or others.