A Thorn in The Flesh

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Several of the writers from Holy Hen House, together with other local women, meet together weekly in each others’ homes for Bible study. Lately, we have been going through Apostle Paul’s letters that he wrote to early Christians. I find Paul to be a pretty fascinating guy and an exceptionally inspiring Christian. Once a Christ HATER, Paul, in his early years called Saul, went so far as to oversee the deaths of early Christians. Then he underwent an incredible conversion during which he was blinded by a vision of God for three days. Following his conversation, Paul became one of the most inspirational Christians of all time, and eventually wrote several letters that became books of the Bible. Pretty incredible.

For those of you who have read Paul’s story, do you ever wonder what his “thorn” was? In 2 Corinthians 12: 7 Paul writes:

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me 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. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Paul never writes what his “thorn” actually is, although many people have theorized that it was anything from malaria, to epilepsy, to a disease of the eyes. What we do know is that Paul’s thorn was a chronic and debilitating problem, that he had repeatedly asked God to take it away from him, and that God said NO. In fact, God further said that His “power is made perfect in weakness.” He had a plan; Paul’s thorn would show Paul and others God’s power.

I would love to go back in time and see how this actually played out. Crippled by his thorn, Paul could not boast of his own strength. All glory and power went to God instead of to Paul. Without his thorn, Paul may have been tempted to attribute his power to do miracles to his own strength or ability. He may have gathered a following that wanted to worship him instead of God. Or worse, he may have lost all credibility. I can only imagine that Paul’s humility and trust in God despite his thorn inspired people and encouraged them to learn more about the God that Paul worshipped. Paul’s thorn kept him humble and likely moved others to glorify God.

God’s power is still made perfect in our weaknesses today. I think of some of the most inspiring Christians I know and almost all of them have lived through some terrible hardship. Anyone who has a great and easy life can say they love Jesus, but it’s only through hardship that this love is put to the test. Those who endure a “thorn in their flesh” and still proclaim the power and love and glory of Christ are endlessly inspiring to myself and to other Christians. God’s power is made all the more evident through them.

Are you suffering from a thorn in your flesh this morning? Have you asked God to remove a chronic and debilitating problem from you, and he keeps saying NO? It could be God is allowing the thorn to remain in your flesh in order to draw you and others closer to Him. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Have you seen this play out in your life? I would love to hear your stories!



My family likes to play a game called “Rook.”

It’s a partner game with a blind, trump, etc. After each hand is dealt everyone bids on how many points they think they can get with the help of their partner. You have to get at least as many points as you bid, otherwise you get set and lose the amount that you bid despite how many points you earned.


It’s a great game to observe personality types. I have a sister who will always win the bid if she has the “Rook” (highest card, guaranteed to win). However, she never leads with trump. My mom always leads her highest trump card when she wins the bid, and she’ll always play it first if her partner won and is leading trump so they don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the game.

It has always struck me how differently each person plays and how different partner combinations affect each of the players style. Of course it’s the most fun to win the bid, see and exchange with the blind, and lead the game. However, if you won every bid you would get set very quickly and have no chance of winning the game at all. It gets really interesting when your partner also thinks they have a good hand and you are forced to decide whether to let your partner win or bid against them.


People have different strategies for life, the same way they do in playing cards. Of course, the same general rules are followed. Throughout the game you’ll be dealt great cards and terrible ones. You’ll win some, you’ll lose some.

Each relationship you have is like playing with a different partner. You don’t know what they’ve been dealt, but you’re working together to “win.” When you only consider yourself and your own cards, you’re not playing the game the way it is intended. Some partners are more helpful or easy to understand than others, but you’re much better off working with them and for them than going about the whole game alone. One strategy is to adapt to your partner’s style and understand as much as you can about what they’ve been dealt, reading into each card they play. Paul used this strategy.

1 Cor 9:19-23

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone,to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Paul didn’t disregard his partner’s bids, impatiently chastise them for not playing the card he would have played, or blame his partner for lost tricks. Paul used the cards that he had been dealt to help his partner win. Paul had an advantage though. It’s the same advantage that we have in this life. We’ve already won. Our seat at the victors table is secure, no matter how many losing hands we are dealt.

John 14:1-4

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

We are certainly called to “be all the more eager to make our calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10), but by focusing on bringing our “partners” to heaven and directing them to Christ we are bringing ourselves closer to Him.

It is, of course, Christ’s death that ensures salvation, not our clever strategies or skill. The game is won, and keeping our eyes only on Christ, doing all we can to point others to Him means all the more souls realizing that victory over sin, death, and the devil is theirs.