So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given to 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 your 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.
This is one of the prime “Christiany” verses that people know. It is quoted on social media. It is tattooed on our bodies. It is featured in at least five sermons per year and likely even more. Yet the easiest time to lean on this verse is when everything seems to be going well; however, the only time it can be lived is during hardship.
Paul’s “thorn in my side” is unknown. The only insight we have is that it is something in the flesh. It could have been a temptation or a loss or even a perpetual sin of which he was not ridding himself. Either way, we know there was a point when life got pretty tough.
Here is what I know: if you are reading this you are either walking out of a hardship, you’re in the middle of one, or you are about to enter one. We are in a severely broken world, and calamity is around every corner. The absolute worst thing we can do is try to overcome those hardships on our own. Ephesians 6 tells us that our battles are not between flesh and blood but rather the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
How exactly do you about fighting a spiritual force of evil? Here’s a hint. We don’t. He does.
That is the sentiment Paul is giving in this passage. He does not have the power to rid himself of his thorn, but he knows that Christ does! And here is the crazy part. God does not always choose to take away our thorn if we ask. Sometimes He allows us to suffer for a little while because it is exactly what we need. Paul’s thorn was meant to show him that he was weak. Yes, he was given incredible revelations and abilities, but without God, he was simply a man.
He was a man who was in full need of recognizing that, at all times, his arms are to be stretched open toward the King. Instead of reaching down and trying to pull his own thorn out of his side, he should be reaching for Jesus and allowing him to do the work.
Over the next few weeks I will be posting stories of real life women, the thorns in their sides, and how God dealt with them through that. We will be looking at the need for our arms to be wide open toward Jesus in those times. Begin praying about how His power can be made perfect in your weaknesses right now and in your walk to come.