In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul describes a thorn in his flesh. Have you ever grabbed a rose thinking the thorns had been removed? The result is a pins-and-needles poke followed by a bone-throbbing reminder of your mistake. Yet, he doesn’t describe his pain as a thorn-puncture. Paul describes a thorn that remains in his flesh. Ouch.
Why does Paul risk his reputation to put his personal struggle in permanent ink? Because the thorn causes him to rely on God, and he hopes Corinth will rely on God, too. We tend to gladly accept this part of the passage. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. We envision that God carries us when we’re too weak to walk, and He probably does.
However, it’s the notion of verses, seven, eight, and 10, that promise the most unnerving revelation for our modern minds. These passages indicate that Paul’s thorn—which he also describes as a messenger of Satan—was not a seldom occurrence of weakness but rather a steady companion of pain. Harder still, Paul explains this thorn was given to him as a strategy to poke a hole in his ego. Pain so that God’s work could not be claimed as Paul’s work. In essence, Paul calls his perpetual pain a gift that reveals God’s true comfort for man. In other words, pain reveals God’s “together-strength” that transforms our failure into His perfection.
Who else received thorns as a strategy to unveil God’s good way for humanity? No wonder Paul and James refer to trials as joy and delight. They know they have company in their pain with their Savior.
What are some thorns you need to see for their roses? What can your pain accomplish for others?
God, I’ve been asking You to remove this trial. Today, I ask You to reveal Your power in my trial. Will You show me how Your strength can be seen through my weakness? Jesus, would You let me feel Your company today?