Bible Society of South Africa
3 April 2024Xanthe Hancox

Focus your faith on Him – Day 11

A thorn in the flesh

Bible text(s)

7But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan's messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. 8Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. 9But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ's power over me.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9GNBOpen in Bible reader

We don’t know what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, but it gave him serious, chronic problems. Paul says that he asked God thrice to heal him. In biblical language, the number three may well mean that Paul prayed and prayed till he felt he could pray no more. At some point, Paul understood that this trial would be his for the rest of his life.

We do know that what Paul is talking about here is not sin. He is not talking about a kind of behaviour or bad choices that we make. He is not saying the power of Christ is perfected in his bad choices or that he will gladly boast of his bad choices. Weaknesses, here, are not imperfect behaviours. They are circumstances, situations, experiences and wounds that make us look weak, things we would probably get rid of if we had the human strength. So then, where do they come from?

Just like it was with Job, God permitted Satan to afflict his righteous servant and turned the affliction for his good purposes. Whether the thorn in your flesh is health problems, financial difficulties, or family and relationship struggles, all these make daily life challenging. As pain and anger grow heavy within us, we feel ourselves sinking into a pit of despair and bitterness. We cry out to God for relief, for healing, for wellness. And when God says, “No,” we feel abandoned.

But with God’s assurance, Paul came to a new understanding. After pouring out his heart to God, Paul learned that God was going to allow him to go on living with his “thorn” indefinitely. What would happen next? God led Paul to a deeper spirituality, a greater insight into life’s meaning than he would have had without the thorn. Paul learned that grace is greater than healing, greater than relief, greater than getting what he wanted.

God took Paul’s weakness and used it to make him strong in the battle against sin and evil. God still works that way today. His grace is still sufficient.

Bible Society of South Africav.4.21.9
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