No matter which way you turn, it pokes, distracts, annoys, and causes you pain. You’d like to make it stop, but you can’t. What is it? It’s the thorn in your side. It might be a number of things, or even a person that is causing you so much pain. All of us have at least one. There is an answer to this dilemma, but I warn you; you may not like it.

The source is a conversation between God and Apostle Paul. Many have speculated what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was over the years, but no one knows for sure. I believe God kept him from naming it in scripture so we could each apply the solution God gave him to our own particular situations. 

Paul told the Corinthian believers in a letter, “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me” (2 Cor. 12:7-8, NIV).

God said, “No.” Well, actually His answer was a little longer than that. He said “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (verse 9). The Amplified Bible helps us better understand what God meant by fleshing out each phrase: 

  •  My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy)
  • is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully];
  • for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effectivein [your] weakness.

Paul also reveals why God allowed his thorn to continue:
1.      Paul was an apostle super hero – receiving visions from God, personally invited by the risen Jesus to be His disciple to the Gentiles. In order to keep him from getting big headed, God said no to Paul’s request. “In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” (verse 7).
2.      The other reason is so Paul wouldn’t be tempted to brag about his own accomplishments. With this niggling thorn, he was always aware of his limitations. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (verse 9-10).
There are several possibilities of what Paul’s thorn might have been, and the answer to each possibility is the same, “My love, kindness and mercy is enough to empower you in your weakness even better than if you were untroubled and strong in yourself.”
Tomorrow, in part 2, I will explore several possibilities of what might have caused Paul distress, and how he dealt with them. Most likely, you will discover one of the same barbs that constantly irritate and trouble you.