Friday, May 19, 2017

Thorn of the Flesh

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
Like Paul, so many times I have wrestled and pleaded with God to remove hard and painful things.  It is beyond our human comprehension why we must endure trials.  Especially when we know we love an all-powerful God and He loves us, and it seems we are doing everything right.  He wants the best for us but how could pain and suffering be the best for us? 
In the above passage, Paul speaks of a “thorn in the flesh” that was given to him by God.  What was this thorn? It was some very painful, chronic affliction. Sometimes Paul was totally disabled by it.  The best guesses are that the thorn was epilepsy or migraine headaches or a malarial fever common in the eastern Mediterranean area.  Truthfully, we don't know for sure what Paul’s specific thorn was, but we do know for sure that thorns in life come in many different shapes and sizes.  They are not all physical; some are emotional, psychological, or even someone or something that is not our own personal thorn but has an impact on our life because it is affecting someone we love.  A thorn is whatever causes you pain or frustration or sadness.  A thorn is whatever presses you flat on your back and makes you need God and in this flawed universe, thorns are distributed as indiscriminately as one would deal a hand of cards, to the just and the unjust alike. 
Paul pleaded with God to take his thorn away, but God did not.  This is even harder for us to understand than the fact that we even have the thorn in the first place.  It is pain on top of pain when our prayers seem to go unheard or worse, ignored.  During this time, what we know in our minds is often cancelled out by what we feel in our hearts. Paul learned that whatever the purpose God had in his pain, it was not going away.  He leaned into God and let go of the “why” and focused on “how”.  In verse 9 he speaks of the answer the Lord gave him: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  God gives us the grace and power to endure the thorns in life.  We cannot do it on our own.  He wants us to lean on Him always, but when everything is going great, we get lazy in our faithfulness.  We all do it because we are human.  We know He is there and we pray, go to church, participate in Bible study, but until we get the rug pulled out from under us, we don’t live in His grace like we should.  Tragedies and trials will knock you to your knees before the Lord a lot faster than rolling along with no bumps or potholes.  We are blessed and loved by the King of Kings, and even when we set Him aside, He never leaves us or forsakes us. 
When life hurts you soul-deep, pull hard on the grace of God. Look life right in the eye and say, "You are hurting me badly but I will not turn you lose until this pain yields some good."  It is a tragedy when we have pain that causes no growth, but poisons our life with bitterness, anger, and defeat.  That can happen quickly when we don’t understand why God won’t heal us or a loved one, open the right doors, or fix things for us.  Those who experience abundant life are not people without thorns. They are persons of faith and courage.  Paul was not held back by his thorn, and God does not expect us to be either.  Don’t let Satan steal your hope and cripple you with fear.  Lean on God and trust in Him.

Scripture to Claim:
For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Isaiah 41:13

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