I woke up in the middle of the night, crying out to my Lord and Savior for help. You see, I have a “thorn in my flesh”; just as Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, I too, get beat up, buffeted if you will, with the same nightmare, over and over again, week after week, year after year. It has not gone away, no matter how much I cry and plead and beg the Lord to take it from me. As I prayed again this morning for Him to take this thorn from me, He reminded me of what He told Paul.
“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. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
No one really knows what Paul was referring to when he wrote about his thorn, just as I will not expound on my thorn to you all, because it is personal, something between me and my God. And because it is something I have to learn to allow God’s grace to cover, just as Paul did. I am not Paul, I have not been given great revelations or great and mighty works to be done, but I am a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, and as I seek to serve Him with every aspect of my life, I too will be given a thorn to keep me humble.
As I looked up the word thorn, there were a few definitions, but the one that stuck out at me was the one that referred to the thorn as a tent-stake. In the desert the tents needed to be fastened down deep into the sand to keep the tents from blowing away in the ripping winds. These tent stakes were long and sharp and could be used as swords and weapons. That is what my thorn feels like. There are nights where the pain from the thorn brings me out of bed in such a way that I cannot get back to sleep, all I can do is cry out to my Lord and Savior, cry out for His grace to give me peace to go back to sleep. I cry out to Him, some nights, literally crying.
Our thorns can come in many different forms. Which is one of the reasons why I believe the Lord God did not lead Paul to expound on the one he was given. They can be physical pain, emotional pain, memories we would much rather soon forget, these thorns are a source of pain for those of us who have them. They bring us to our knees before the cross of Jesus Christ, they bring us to Him; which is the purpose behind the thorn.
“Like Paul, we ask for help from the Lord. As far as our Father is concerned, however, the purpose of prayer is not that He might give help to us, but that He might give Himself to us. The Father says, ‘You want me to take away the pain, to solve the problem, to get you out of the situation-but that’s not what you need. You need Me. And the very problem you’re seeking to get away from, the very situation you desire to get out of is the very one that is causing you to talk to Me, to spend time with Me, and depend on Me. You’ll be stronger when you’re weak because you’ll have no other choice than to draw strength from Me. You’ll do better when you’re weak because you’ll have to rely on Me.’” (Jon Courson, New Testament Commentary Series)
As I read the above commentary, I knew the Lord God was speaking directly to me. I need Him to get me through these attacks that come. I need Him to get through every moment of my day. But these attacks don’t always come in the middle of the night, sometimes they come in random waves throughout the day, but nevertheless, they come. Every time they come, I do exactly what He said I need to do- I run to Him, I cry out to Him. I call upon my God and my Savior to help me get through the boxing match that is sent to humble me. And it does keep me humble. I know that nothing I do is because of me, all I am, all I have, all that is within me is of Christ and not of my own working. When I start to “feel good” about myself, that is when the buffeting starts, that is when I begin to feel the deep sharp pains of the thorn I have been given. And it causes me to run to my Jesus, He alone gives me the strength to face the attack and the grace to bring me through it.
It is only through the grace and mercy of God that I am who I am. “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace towards me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was in me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10) His grace towards me through the thorn in my flesh drives me to labor abundantly, He is the reason I am what I am. It is through His grace that I see His compassion, His acceptance of me, His generous and sincere love for me- a sinner. It is through His grace that I can boast and say, “In my weaknesses, You are strong.”
Paul praises God for the thorn in his flesh in verse 10, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10) When the messenger of Satan comes and beats me up, I can rejoice in knowing that God, my God, my Lord Jesus Christ is calling me to draw closer to Him because He wants to give me more of Him. He wants to spend time with me, to love me, to show Himself great towards me. It is in these times that I too can say with Paul, “For when I am weak, then I am strong. All because of Jesus Christ and His grace towards me.”
We all have thorns, we all have those times when we cry out to the Lord to take from us the pain that debilitates us, but our God, in His grace says, “No, just come to Me and draw close to Me, I will give you grace.” And what a wonderful grace we have been given. All the glory is to God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen and Amen. May the thorns we have humble us and bring us to the feet of our God, for His mercy endures forever. Amen and Amen.