A thorn in the flesh . . .
Many theologians have guessed as to what Paul was referring to. Some say it was something physical like a chronic eye problem, migraines, or a speech impediment. Some say Paul was talking about temptations from the devil. Still others say Paul was referring to those “false apostles” who do a “great deal of harm”. Whatever it was, this “thorn” caused Paul a great deal of distress.
Now, compared to Scripture, which told us that Jesus heals people who have faith in him. Scripture tells us that even people who have great faith are not always healed. Paul had great faith, and he begged the Lord to deliver him, but the thorn remained.
Let this sink in for a moment: Paul the miracle worker, a man through whom people were healed just by touching his clothes, was himself not healed. Clearly, healing is a mystery that we cannot fully understand.
But here is what we can understand: God, our heavenly Father, knows us intimately. He knows why Paul was not healed of this thorn. He knows why Francis of Assisi was not healed of his eye disease. He knows why some of our loved ones continue to suffer as well.
God knows all of the thorns in our lives—spiritual, emotional, and physical—and he knows the plans he has for our lives. In many cases, we won’t find the answers to these mysteries until we are united with the Lord in heaven. But that doesn’t mean we should lose our faith. If anything, these mysteries should deepen it! Sometimes, the only answer is to pray for courage, resiliency, and steadfastness. Sometimes, the only answer we have is to trust God and have faith in “what we do not see”.
This is exactly what Paul did. He trusted that God’s grace would be sufficient for him. And it was sufficient—just as it can be for all of us.
word among us