We all have had a splinter or briar in our hand at some point. Sometimes it is even so small we can barely see it. But oh how it can hurt. And if it is not removed, the area begins to swell and turn red with infection. Sometimes when we finally get it out we are amazed at how small it is. Yes, that little thing can cause great pain!
From childhood, I remember the story of the lion with a splinter in his paw. The little mouse came along and made a great friend of the beast by removing the source of his pain.
The Bible speaks of a thorn in the flesh. In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul said a thorn in the flesh had been given him.
There has been much speculation as to Paul’s thorn in the flesh. I have personally read at least 12 different opinions as to what that thorn really was. Some of these include headaches, epilepsy, fever, faulty eyesight, and even false teachers.
Since the Scriptures do not identify it, it remains just a topic of speculation. We should spend very little time trying to identify what the thorn in the flesh was for Paul.
Instead of trying to speculate as to what the thorn in the flesh was, let us consider what purpose it served. Paul says it was given to him to buffet him and prevent him from becoming exalted. It was a constant reminder of his mortality.
It was given him to keep him humble. It is important to note this immediately follows Paul recounting his being privy to seeing scenes of heaven and hearing things he could not utter. At least I think Paul was speaking of himself in verses 1 through 4. Of such a privilege, Paul knew not to boast. And in this context, to keep him from being exalted, the thorn was given Paul.
The Scriptures say that he sought relief but was told by the Lord, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” And just as Christ did in the garden, Paul prayed three times. His prayer was answered. But it was not answered in the way he wanted. The thorn was not removed. The thorn was given him for a purpose.
Herein lies a thought for us to consider. We all have our thorns in the flesh. We all have issues in life that cause us concern and pain. If life were all peaks and no valleys why would we need a loving Savior to comfort us?
I have a thorn in the flesh. And I like Paul know that the grace of my Lord and Savior is sufficient for me.
Life is not all a bed of roses. There are thorns. And they sometimes have a purpose.
Paul said he took pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. He realized that strength comes from adversity. Lord, help me to realize the same and to lean on You.