What is a “Thorn in the Flash”?

A “thorn in the flesh” is something given to us by God to keep us from becoming conceited. It can feel uncomfortable, like torment, or a form of torture, but God does not torture his children

Kristi Walker

God helps us! His help can come in the form of discipline and trials, but His purpose is always to strengthen us and conform us into the image of Christ. “We are given thorns that significantly weaken us in order to make us stronger,” Jon Bloom

Paul’s ‘Thorn in the Flesh’ Verses in Scripture

“… in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I [Paul] 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, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, in insults, in difficulties. For when I am week, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Paul’s Many Reasons to Boast

The Apostle Paul had reasons to boast and be conceited. He lists these in 2 Corinthians 11:21-28.

He was a Hebrew, an Israelite, and a descendant of Abraham, plus a servant of Christ. He worked harder that most, was imprisoned more frequently, flogged more severely, exposed to death repeatedly, beaten more harshly, stoned, and shipwrecked on three different occasions. He had faced danger from traveling, from non-Jews, from false believers, in cities, in the country, and at sea. He had gone without rest and seep, known hunger and thirst, and had been cold and naked. He faced daily pressure and concern for all the churches, spiritual weakness, and temptation to sin. He suffered all of this for the sake of Christ.

In addition, he was greatly used of God to change the world and received many visions and revelations from the Lord. He was after all, the great Apostle Paul. He encountered the resurrected Christ, wrote more books in the Bible than anyone else, transversed over 10,000 miles throughput Asia Minor, Greece, and later to Rome, planted and established many churches, and was arguably the greatest and most inspiring missionary of all time.

It would have been quite easy for Paul to become conceited. Consider how easy it is for you and me to become conceited, and we have accomplished a good deal less that Pail.

Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh

We do not know exactly what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, although many theories exist. Some believe it was a disease, an eye condition, a fleshy temptation, singleness, a speech impediment, etc. It could have been any number of the sufferings he listed in 2 Corinthians 12:7.

Based on that description, one logical theory is that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was the issue of the “super-apostles” he referenced in chapter 12.

“There we’re false teachers, claiming to be apostles, who had entered the church,’ “They promoted their own ideas at the same time sought to discredit both the person and the message of the apostle. Second Corinthians was written to defend the authenticity of both his apostleship and his message.”

Since these false apostles were a primary reason for Paul’s writing of the epistle of 2 Corinthians, it seems to be a decent guess. Plus, it would be fitting to refer to them as “messengers of Satan.” Since Paul did not explicitly tel, us, wondering believers will have to ask in eternity.

Why Didn’t God Remove Paul’sThorn in the Flesh’?

The apostle Paul pleaded three times with the Lord to take away his “thorn in the flesh.” We can all relate to this. Is there anything in your life life that you have prayed about repeatedly? Is there any circumstance you have petitioned God to change that Go’s might be allowing the suffering or trial to continue intentionally? That’s how is was for Paul.

God’s answer to Paul’s pleas was “no.” Maybe, in time, God did remove Paul’s thorn, but we don’t know that. Given what we know from the Bible, God denied Paul’s request. Instead, God answered “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Why Did God say ‘My Grace is Sufficient’?

What is Grace? Grace is unmerited or unearned favor, gifts, and blessings. God’s grace was not only enough for Paul but it is also enough for us!

Paul responded to God’s answer, “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 weakness, insults, in hardship, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10)

Have you ever stood on the shore of an ocean or lake and experienced the waves repeatedly lapping against the sand or earth? How often do the waves hit the shore? Depending on the strength of the wind, it could be anywhere from 4 to 15 waves per minute.

Now, have you ever considered how often God’s grace touch’s your life? The answer is constantly, or as John 1:16 says, “from His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.”

We know that God’s grace was enough for Paul. He summed up his entire life’s purpose this way:

“ I consider my,I’ve worth nothing to me/ my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)

Whatever Paul’s thorn was, God’s power was perfect, and God’s grace was sufficient!