The apostle Paul had one. That is, he had something he called a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7). Whatever that thorn was (and I suspect it was a physical ailment), it was a tool of the enemy who surely sought to discourage Paul. God, however, was sovereign over Paul’s life, and He had a purpose for allowing the thorn. Here are some reasons God chooses to leave “thorns” in our lives:
- To keep us humble. That’s clearly the case in 2 Corinthians 12. Paul had been taken into the heavens, but God would not allow him to get arrogant about his experiences. In fact, the text says twicethat God intended to keep Paul humble.
- To make us weak. Paul learned the lesson God intended him to learn: when Paul was at his weakest, God would be his strength—and He’s all the apostle would need. Many of us are simply too strong today for God to use us.
- To make us pray more. We can assume from his writings that Paul had a vibrant prayer life, but he nevertheless prayed multiple times for God to remove his thorn. God did not respond as Paul wanted, but He surely was pleased that the apostle turned to Him in his pain.
- To make us a witness to the world. You see, it’s not when we’re rejoicing on the mountaintop that we’re the strongest witness of God’s love and empowerment; rather, it’s when we still rejoice even when we’re in the deepest valley. The world takes note when our thorn is incredibly painful, yet we sing God’s praises anyway.
- To teach us the power of His grace. We speak often about grace, but that doesn’t mean we really appreciate it. We don’t know how sweet that grace is until it’s all we have left. When God’s grace is all we have, it’s ever-present, always available, and sufficient for all we need.
- To teach others. We’re doing that now. Because of this story in Paul’s life, you and I can learn today to trust God better when we bear our own thorns. When we learn like Paul to rejoice in whatever state we find ourselves, we’ve gone a long way toward breaking the back of the evil one.
What reasons would you add to this list? How might we pray for you if you’re dealing with a thorn?