(2 Cor 12:7) 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, lest I be exalted above measure.
There’s nothing like getting a thorn in your flesh. The smallest prickle can cause the worst discomfort imaginable. A beautiful hike can end in the greatest annoyance. You are brought to a standstill until you extract every single thorn from your flesh and socks. But one thing it caused you to do is to stand still and smell the wildflowers and to drink in of that pleasant aroma and fresh air. Paul had a thorn in the flesh. No, it wasn’t some kind of thistle he was referring to. It was something painful in his life that he had to live with that kept him humble and reliant on the Lord.
The question that has perplexed many for ages is what was Paul’s thorn in the flesh? It never really says, but as you look into the epistle to the Galatians, Paul speaks of his eye problems. (Gal 4:13-15) You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject . . . For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. (Gal 6:11) See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand! These verses lead us to believe Paul was troubled with some kind of an Asian eye disease he picked up on his first missionary journey and that perhaps he never fully recovered from. Add to this his frequent sufferings and persecutions and he truly was weak in his bodily appearance, as his detractors described him (2 Cor 10:10).
I’m glad it never really says what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was because it could be something different for each of us. It could be a difficult person in our lives (Num 33:55; Pro 27:17), a physical infirmity (Mal 4:2), finances (Gen 22:14; Phil 4:19); adverse circumstances (James 1:2-4); or anything else that keeps us turning to the Lord and frees us from self-reliance (Psa 34:19).
Is it okay to ask the Lord to take that thorn out of our flesh? Of course it is. Paul prayed three times to be free from his thorn, but the Lord’s answer was no. But Paul accepted God’s choice for him and he never complained. He adjusted to his adversity and then learned that the grace of God was sufficient for him and where he was weak he was strong through Christ. He was the apostle that took three missionary journeys, planted many churches, and wrote almost half of the New Testament books. And all with a thorn in the flesh! Nothing stopped this man. What a great example for those who are struggling with something that is constantly buffeting them.
May the thorn in your flesh cause you to slow down and turn to the One who wore that crown of thorns for your sins. Then watch what the Lord will do seven days a weak!