“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. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (ESV)
It is a question that has been discussed and debated and argued for eons: what exactly was the thorn in Paul’s side? I’ve heard many explanations – some plausible, some ludicrous. In the end, the answer is simply that we do not know.
And maybe – just maybe – that is the point. Maybe it is supposed to vague, for now. I love how the absolute truth and reality of the situation is presented without the details about the thorn. In doing so, Paul has made this passage of Scripture very widely applicable (as verse 10 shows us it should be). After all, the thorn isn’t the object of the lesson.
The grace and power of Jesus Christ is the lesson.
Everybody has a weakness. Indeed, if we were totally honest, we’d probably confess to more than one. And, right now, it would be easy to sit here and tell all of you about the pain that’s been keeping up at night. But the pain isn’t the point. The illness (or astheneia, which the ESV renders as “weakness,” is more literally translated as sickness or disease) that has befallen us isn’t the point. Nor are the slings and arrows we suffer for the sake of Christ (yes, “slings and arrows” is Shakespeare, not KJV Bible). Likewise, the difficulties of life, the troubles and tragedies every human faces and one point or another, are not the point.
The point is that we have Jesus (or, more to the point, Christ has us). No matter what we are dealing with, He is there. God is keenly aware of what each of us is going through and He is ever present in the lives of His children. Everything has it’s season. There are situations God puts us in and situations we bring on ourselves. Sometimes God is teaching and preparing us through our hardships. Sometime we are an example to someone else. What is important is to remember that we are to focus on the grace and power of our Loving Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Who provides just what we need, just when we need it. However choppy the waters you are sailing, no matter how deep and painful the thorn, the Lord will see you through it. Rely on His strength, not your own. Even when it makes no sense. Especially when you want to give up. Rest in the grace and power of God through Jesus Christ!
(Jesus said) “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:27-30 (ESV)