“Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given me so that I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness….” So because of Christ, I am pleased in weakness… for when I am weak, then I am strong.“ 2 Corinthians 12:7-11.
At some point in our lives or another, we deal with pain, suffering, temptation, or weakness. We wonder why we are afflicted with whatever ailments we deal with, and at times, the suffering we experience is enough to drive us mad. Why then, does God allow us to experience pain and suffering from the “thorns in our flesh?”
The apostle Paul wrestled with this same question. We are not told in the Scriptures what his thorn was, but it was something that plagued him throughout his life. He prayed numerous times for God to remove his thorn, yet God did not. In time, Paul began to realize that there are lessons to be learned from our suffering, and we must remember these lessons when we are dealing with our thorns.
1- Our thorns remind us that we are limited, imperfect creatures. Even though mankind is the pinnacle of God’s created world, we are very limited creatures. Suffering was brought into this world through man’s sin and disobedience. The thorns in our flesh serve to humble us, just as Paul mentioned, to remembering the simple fact that we are only human, and that we are completely weak and vulnerable without God.
2-Our thorns remind us that this world is temporary. All pain and suffering is temporary, even in bouts with chronic illness or disease there are brief moments of respite when the pain subsides. Just as we are limited and imperfect creatures, so is this world. The thorns in our flesh remind us that we are meant for another world, a world in which we will not be racked by pain or suffering. In a way, our suffering serves to give us hope.
3- Most importantly, our thorns serve to teach us to rely on God. The following point must be made absolutely clear: God does not place suffering upon us. God did not create suffering or pain. Pain, suffering, temptation, heartache, anguish, grief, death, and all the like were brought into the world by sin. When man sinned in the Garden of Eden, a Pandora’s box of sorts was opened, unleashing upon the world all the terrible emotions, feelings, sensations, and experiences we deal with today. We must remember that, because we often blame God for giving us whatever things we suffer with. God does not give pain or suffering to anyone, man brought that upon himself. But, God does use our pain and suffering to show us how much we need Him. We see how limited we are, and we realize that we need to look outside of ourselves for help and hope. Through our thorns, we learn to be patient, we learn to be humble, we learn to depend on God. It is through our suffering that we learn to trust His grace. He works through our weakness to prove His strength, and in doing so, He makes us stronger as well. That is why, as Paul said, we can take joy in being weak, because it is then that we are truly strong. We are at our strongest when we are suffering, because it is then that we truly rely on God and put all of our trust and faith in Him.
Though we do not like it, suffering is unavoidable in this life. Whatever the thorn in our flesh is, we must bear it. We must remember that the thorns in our flesh are the result of man’s sinfulness, and we must not angrily question God in our moments of weakness. Instead, we must take comfort in the fact that God is with us in our suffering. He will build us up and make us stronger, but sometimes we must hit rock bottom before He does so. No matter what sort of thorn we are dealing with, we must keep our faith and trust in God. We must rely on Him, and we must remember that, though He may not take away our thorn, He will always give us the strength to deal with the thorn in our flesh. Above all else, we must praise Him for the fact that our suffering is temporary, and we must take hope in the fact that one day we will suffer no more.