“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.”
Yesterday we talked about the reality of thorns in our lives. We saw how we can turn to God for His grace and strength to endure them. Commentator George Guthrie, in his work on 2nd Corinthians, notes 6 facts about Paul’s thorn.
One – It’s purpose was to “keep Paul from becoming conceited.”
Two – The Lord gave Paul this thorn.
Three – It was a thorn “in the flesh.”
Four – It was a messenger of Satan.
Five – It harassed Paul continually.
Six – Paul asked 3 times for the thorn’s removal.
Some of these may apply to the thorns in our lives. Some will not. So we must take great care when looking at Paul’s thorn in 2 Corinthians 12:7 and comparing it to our own thorns. We will work through these six over the next couple of days.
Fact 1 – Paul’s thorn addressed the potential for Paul to be consumed with self-importance. Paul has just revealed that God gave him a surpassingly great vision in heaven. Paul heard “things that cannot be told.” So the thorn would keep him from becoming proud about this revelation.
You and I have not been caught up into the third heaven to receive a great revelation. So we must not automatically conclude our thorn is meant to deal with our pride. Thorns, by their very nature, do humble us. But we must not automatically assume that purpose for our thorns.
Fact 2 – The Lord gave Paul this thorn but ours may have other origins. He writes “A thorn was given in the flesh.” The giver had to be God. Satan would not give Paul something that would keep him from conceit. Satan loves it when we get arrogant and proud. That’s his nature. So God gave Paul this thorn for His greater purposes.
Sometimes God may give us thorns for His purposes. However, thorns may have other sources – the fallenness of the world that includes sickness, disease, injustice and evil; sins of others; our own sin; Satan’s assaults. This touches on the question “why is there suffering?” There are no simple or easy answers to explain suffering. So we must guard against drawing absolute conclusions about our thorns.
We may naturally gravitate to the question “why” with the thorns in our lives. Sometimes God reveals this. Other times we may need to endure the thorns until we meet God face to face. But I think we must not put our lives on hold trying to get the answer to “why.” We need to wait patiently for God to reveal this in His time while receiving His sufficient grace and strength to help us through this weakness.
“Lord, we all experience thorns. We don’t like them. They bother and harass us. Yet they are part of life in this fallen world. Thank you that you have the power to bring good even out of our sharpest thorns. Thank you that your grace is more than enough for us in our weakness.”