In 2 Corinthians 12:4, Paul gave personal testimony of being caught up into the “3rd heaven” and testifies that “4 he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.“ God had never entrusted anyone with the things he showed him. Paul could easily have become conceited hitting the banqueting tour highlighting his unbelievable experience with God. “Look what happened to ME” with autographs following each speech (being facetious here but hopefully you get my point 😊). God made sure that he dealt with Paul’s ego. Verse 7 states, ““7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!”
“Thorn in the flesh…uh…what’s that?” you may ask. In Paul’s case, the prevailing possibilities were that he had a chronic eye disease (Galatians 5:13-15) or that he was constantly harassed by traveling Jews, “messengers of Satan to harass me.” What a constant pain this was to Paul, and he “implored the Lord three times that it might leave me” (2 Corinthians 12:8). However, God refused to remove the thorn. Why? It “kept Paul from exalting himself.”
Like Paul, you may have a thorn in the flesh that you want removed and have asked God to remove it multiple times. But, He has not. It could be a relationship (spouse, rebellious or lazy child, a tyrant for a boss, a bothersome neighbor that constantly hounds you, a relative that drives you up the wall…). Or, it could be an addiction or illness, maybe an auto immune disease that came out of nowhere, an incurable, chronic disease, a physical ailment that is clumsy and unattractive or chemistry in your emotional system that is out of whack leading to bouts of depression. “Why isn’t God listening to me?” you cry out.
Maybe, God has allowed a “thorn in the flesh” like Paul to keep you humble, grounded and in desperate need of Him. God whispered to Paul the real purpose of a thorn in the flesh, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” Paul discovered that God’s grace is PERFECTED IN WEAKNESS NOT SELF-EMPOWERMENT allowing God’s power to be manifested. Because of the “thorn”, he trusted God at a depth and level as never before experiencing the empowerment of God in his weakness.
Is there something or someone hurtful to you that God has not removed? Have you decided to remove or deal with it yourself? Be careful. God may be using this “thorn” to develop a personal relationship with you sweeter and more powerful than you ever expected, “a peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7). With Jesus, power is produced in weakness.