…therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 2 Corinthians 2:7b
We’ve all met people who are conceited. They think they know everything in life. Having a discussion with them is not really having a discussion at all. It can be hard to get a word in edge wise, and the minute you finally do then you can be sorry you ever did as what follows is a barrage of invalidation.
The hard part of about this is, we all can be that person. With influence and some degree of success comes pride. There is a difference between wanting to do a good job and thinking that you are the bee’s knees. However, one can lead to the other dangerously fast.
In thinking about the thorn in Paul’s side, I always thought it was solely a message of the sufficiency of God’s grace. It is indeed that. God tells Paul that His grace is sufficient for His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). This always encouraged me when I was struggling. In some of my most lonely times, I would come back to that verse. However, I missed the beginning –
… To keep from becoming conceited…
By God’s grace, the thorn was turned from a messenger of Satan into a messenger of grace. It put Paul in a place of dependence.
We don’t know what the thorn was for Paul. Many think it was a physical ailment. However, we all have our own thorns. We have those things in our lives that gnaw at our confidence. If the thorn was a messenger from Satan to Paul, he may have heard things like –
“You can’t do this.”
“If you had enough faith, you wouldn’t be struggling like this.”
“You’re weak and pathetic.”
To some degree, I think we have all heard these things. It might not be a thorn in the flesh, but maybe it’s a failed relationship. Maybe you aren’t where you thought you’d be in life right now. Our thorns can show up as addictions, insecurities, health issues, etc. When you hear the voice about your lack of faith or weakness know this – that voice isn’t from God.
The key is where we turn when we hear that voice. Do we believe it, or do we turn to God with our thorns? Do we slump down in defeat, our do we plead with God like Paul did? Paul pleaded three times, and as far as we know God didn’t take away the thorn.
Like with Paul, God probably won’t take away the thorn, at least not right away. However, the time with our thorns can be used to grow our trust and dependence on Him. It can be used to stop relying on ourselves to push through the pain, and instead trust that God’s going to refine is through the pain. Our thorns can keep us from becoming conceited and relying on ourselves too much.
What’s your thorn? What are you doing with it?