Are you familiar with the passage from II Corinthians, Chapter 12, verse 7 ? Hmmmmm, let me see…..hmmm…. I’m not sure I remember it. “Wait, is it the passage about Noah getting swallowed by a whale… no, no, …. Jesus feeding the 5,000 people with a couple of fish and a loaf of bread?” Nooooooo. Okay, I give up?
It’s the passage about the “thorn in the flesh”. To be honest , I didn’t remember the exact source and verse either. I do remember it was St. Paul speaking and lamenting about a particular aspect of his life, but I couldn’t give you chapter and verse.
Well, here’s the full quote. “And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought 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.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (II Cor. 12:7-9)
Many have speculated on Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”… what was it? I’ve heard the whole gamut of speculations… maybe he struggled with drink, or maybe it was purity, or maybe it was anger, pride … it’s not clear. What is clear is that the Lord did not take it away even though he kept asking. Yet whatever it was , it didn’t disqualify Paul from his identity as a servant of the Lord…a great servant of the Lord. Those magnificent words, “ Paul, Dave, Jim, Judy …. my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Over my almost 50 years of walking closely with the Lord, I’ve had my share of “thorns in the flesh”…. defects and faults and sin that have clung too closely as described in the book of Hebrews …. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) Happily many of these thorns, the Lord did remove over the years, but not as quickly as I prayed and hoped…and certainly not in “my time”. Yet thru the process, I ended up counting on the Lord’s love and mercy and kindness…learning that he loved me, in spite of my weaknesses. He was proud of me as I continued to fight even when victory wasn’t achieved right away. There’s still a lot of mystery wrapped up in all of this and I sure haven’t figured it all out. Yet what I do know is that Jesus loves me and is committed to me and will not leave me.
The Lord sometimes tends to let the “weeds grow up with the wheat” knowing that he will sort it all out at the time of the harvest. Even for us, some of those nasty weeds will not get fully taken care of until the harvest. (Mt. 13:24-30) But in God’s perfect time, he will take care of it all. All the thorns and weeds and sin will be taken care of and finally removed and what will be left is the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” in all of us who have been trained and disciplined by the Lord. (Heb. 12:11) All will be well with our souls….. and that is very good news.