(The following is the August 14 devotional from my Next Step Devotions book. Before reading it, I suggest you read 2 Corinthians 12 and pay close attention to verses 1-10.)
Paul doesn’t provide details about what he described as a thorn in his flesh (v. 7). Whatever it was, he pleaded with the Lord three times to remove it (v. 8), but it was God’s will that this issue remain with Paul.
God used Paul’s thorn to keep him humble. Paul had experienced something indescribable, being “caught up to the third heaven” (v. 2). The thorn, however, kept Paul focused on exalting Christ. He described it both as “a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself” (v. 7) and as something “given to me” (v. 7), suggesting the positive presence of a gift rather than a punishment. * Coming to such a realization can be difficult as we endure trials and limitations we’d prefer not to experience if given a choice.
The main lesson Paul learned from the continuing presence of the physical issue was God’s response to his prayers, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness” (v. 9). John Polhill writes, “The significant matter is not what it was but how he came to see that even adversity could be a strength for his ministry, a constant reminder that whatever was accomplished was not through his own human frailty but through God’s empowering grace.” ** How did Paul come to this understanding? The Lord revealed it to him after the thorn in the flesh drove him to his knees in prayer multiple times. Can’t you see him kneeling and crying out to God? Then God seems to answer, “No, I have something better for you.”
“Anything is a blessing that makes us pray.” *** God may or may not remove thorns from us when we ask. Whether he does or not, we must trust that he knows best and gives what is best to his children.
What difficulties or challenges have you asked God to remove from your life? Is it possible God’s answer is “No, I have something better for you”? How is God’s grace sufficient despite any thorns you have?
* CSB Spurgeon Study Bible, ed. Alistair Begg (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1573.
** John B. Polhill, Paul & His Letters, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers), 41.
*** CSB Spurgeon Study Bible, 1573.