2 Corinthians 12:7 [ A Thorn in the Flesh ] Because of the surpassing greatness and extraordinary nature of the revelations [which I received from God], for this reason, to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to torment and harass me—to keep me from exalting myself!
Do you ever wonder what Paul struggled with? I have. Scholars don’t agree whether it was a physical affliction, emotional, or spiritual, but we can imagine that if he was “tormented” and “harassed,” it wasn’t a minor issue.
With Paul having lived in the time period he did, it would be easy to accept a physical pain or illness, or an undiagnosed depression or anxiety to have been the source. Paul’s past life as a scourger and murderer of Christians surely could have brought with it guilt, or at the very least, wounding memories and dreams. Given all that the scriptures reveal about him, it seems appropriate to assume that Paul had given whatever it was over the Lord in prayer and repentance, but that he did not receive victory in that area in his lifetime.
Instead, Paul seems to have chosen to accept it as a form of a blessing – to keep himself humble. Useful.
Have you noticed that struggles you have walked through yourself, especially in areas where you have been victorious, oftentimes seem to be the connection most easily found with those around you? Some of my places of deepest wounding have become a launching point for my greatest ministry and care of others. Especially when those wounds produce emotional responses and behaviors that I don’t always like or find valuable.
Our brokenness is the single greatest launching point through which God can extend grace from us to our fellow man.
I think the message we can tend to miss in reading this passage, is that each of us feels weakened in areas, just like Paul. The question is not whether we overcome or find healing, but whether or not God can use us in our damaged state. Are we willing to reposition ourselves in order to continue serving God’s purpose in our lives, or do we choose to wallow and wait for change to come as our purpose dims and eventually fades away to only a distant memory?
God never uses perfect vessels.
If we were perfect, or “had it all together,” our love and service would be human in origin. The problem with this, then, is that our victories would be dependent upon our own strengths and gifts. It is only when others see the power of God working through our lives, in spite of our “thorns,” that they find hope that God can do the same for them. Paul’s daily affliction could have caused him to feel disqualified, and could have kept him from writing some of the most significant scripture in biblical canon.
What is your thorn? What are you choosing to relinquish your will to?
The bottom line is that as Christians, we have endless examples in scripture of sub-par, sinful, broken, even unstable people, still trusting and leading in accordance with what God called them to do. We are given insight into their prayer lives and how the Lord intervenes, yet still often tend to scoff or sometimes laugh at the lack of faith in such biblical accounts; neglecting to seek to recognize the very same lack of faith and proper positioning in our own hearts and lives.
Today, I am praying for courage – to see honestly where I am broken, and to ask the healing power of Jesus to enter in and do some heart surgery. May His grace heal that which is meant to be, and use that which is not.