Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. –2 Corinthians 12:7b
The debate has raged for centuries. What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh?
In the passage above, Paul talks about an ailment of some sort, presented by Satan himself, that kept Paul from ever being too elated.
Was it a physical ailment? Some have said Paul had a stutter, or poor eyesight, or epilepsy. I even read someone who suggesting he had terrible B.O.! Or was it more of a mental issue? Could he have been homosexual? (which is also a physical “condition”) Or depressed? Or jumpy? Or perhaps his thorn was a spiritual one: An evil spirit sent by Satan to torment him?
2000 years later, and there is still no consensus. No one has figured out what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was.
Last week, I was searching around on Ebay, and I found it. An ancient artifact wrapped up and stored in an ornate wooden box, complete with full documentation. I bought it for $30 from a lady in Pittsburgh. I have no idea how she ended up with it.
It just came in the mail, and here’s what I discovered: Paul’s “thorn?” It was a thorn.
That’s right. He wasn’t being figurative at all. He was being literal! Paul’s big issue was this ugly red thorn that had been stuck in his side for years and years. Three times he prayed for God to remove it from him, but, like a stubborn sliver, the darn thing wouldn’t budge.
Eventually, he just learned to live with it.
So that’s that. Sorry if it’s a let down. But now that that question is settled, can we move on to the real point Paul is trying to make?
Somehow, God was able to take Paul’s thorn, and put it to use. Incorporate it, even, into the Big Picture. Paul makes it clear that, painful as this thorn is, he has learned that it helps him to stay on track, focussed on the Kingdom. Miraculously, Paul has taken his “issue” and used it in service to God. Amazing!
I don’t know what your “issues” are–maybe some of the same ones people have suspected Paul as having. Some of those thorns are short term, and others will be with you your whole life long. You may have years of wresting ahead of you, just like Paul. That can seem daunting!
Okay, okay, I confess. I didn’t really pick up Paul’s thorn on Ebay. I have no clue what his problem was, but did you notice? Once the mystery of Paul’s ailment was set out of the way, we were able to take a good look at the REAL mystery: That God can use even us, thorns and all.
Life, it turns out, is thorny. But the nature of the thorn isn’t what’s important. What matters is that God can cause new, fragrant life to bloom, even in the most difficult of situations.
God reminds us to take heart, and to have faith, and remember:
Every Thorn Has Its Rose.
Have a great week,