I have strengths, and I have weaknesses. Everyone does. We know that the Apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament in the Bible, had a weakness. He called it a “thorn in the flesh.” In II Corinthians 12:7 He writes, “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me.”
What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh? The passage where he wrote about this topic does not say what exactly the thorn was. He said it was “a messenger of Satan” sent to buffet him. Maybe the vagueness was intentional so that we could generalize the concept of “a thorn” to our own individual situations in life. My definition of a thorn in the flesh is anything in your life you have no control over, something you can’t remove yourself, that if God in His Omnipotence wanted to remove, He could, but He doesn’t. Therefore, a thorn could be a difficult person in your life you have to put up with, such as a family member, boss or coworker. It could be a bad habit that you can’t seem to shake. It could be a stronghold in your mind or a way of thinking that doesn’t serve you well. Whatever the case may be, “thorns” are irritating and cause you emotional pain.Those irritants may cause you to question yourself and say, “What’s wrong with me?”
Sometimes I get exasperated with myself over my own “thorns.” Many times I have felt condemned or frustrated because of my weaknesses, and the enemy was able to steal my joy and peace. However, when I read II Corinthians 12:7-10, I realized that Paul had an answer as far as how to deal with weaknesses. Here are a few points to ponder:
- Realize there is a purpose for the thorn. Paul tells us to keep him from being” exalted above measure” (II Corinthians 12:7),God gave him a “thorn in the flesh.” Therefore, whatever you want God to remove that He is not removing is serving a purpose right now. Even if you don’t see how your thorn is benefiting you, God has a reason for it at this time, and He is using it to develop you. He is working it for your good (Romans 8:28). So wait on the Lord and be of good courage (Psalm 27:14). If and when God’s’ ready, He will remove the thorn once it has served its purpose.
- Don’t allow the devil to condemn you. Paul did not allow himself to wallow in condemnation over “the thorn.” Instead, he said, “I delight in my weakness.” He actually boasted about his weaknesses. He writes, “I boast in my weaknesses so that the power of God may rest upon me” (II Corinthians 12:9). The truth is that the more you boast in your weakness, or view them positively, the greater God’s power will manifest in you. Condemnation about weaknesses shuts the power of God down. A positive view of your weaknesses facilitates the release of God’s power. When you boast in your weaknesses, you are truly depending on God at that point. If there is any shame or condemnation associated with your weakness, you need to ask God to help you to see yourself as He sees you. Paul says in Romans 8:1, “There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.”
- Depend fully on the grace of God. Realize while God allows the “thorn in your flesh” to remain, He covers you with His grace. He will enable you to do what you need to do, by His grace. When you factor God’s empowerment into the equation, then your weakness is no longer a limitation because His strength is made perfect in weakness. He still needs you to show up and do your best, however, but He will fill in the gaps and get the job done. His grace is truly sufficient (II Corinthians 12:9).
- Be on the lookout for ways God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness. What is the advantage that this “thorn” affords you? The main advantage of a thorn in the flesh is that it makes you have to depend on God. You will forge a greater bond with Him if you view the situation properly. Some people, however, let thorns drive a wedge between them and God. This is not expedient. When you do that, you are no longer hooked up to the Power Source Who has the ability to help you deal with the thorn effectively. But if you hang in there, keep a good attitude, stay close to God, and look for ways that the thorn can work to your advantage, He can do something spectacular with your life in spite of the limitation that you have.
When it comes to your weaknesses, instead of saying “What’s wrong with me?” or continuously asking God to remove the thorn, and allowing the enemy to use it to make you feel condemned, why not accept yourself right where you are? Paul did. Instead of feeling condemned about your thorn, delight in your weakness and rely on the grace of God. This sounds counter-intuitive, but God’s grace is truly sufficient to see you through any situation. When you have the proper attitude toward the weaknesses in your life, the power of God can flow through you, and He will be glorified in you. Then you can truly say as Paul did, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:10).
How what lessons have you learned about your thorn in the flesh? Please leave a comment below.
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