The thorn in the flesh is the handbrake that protects
Paul enjoyed special supernatural experiences with God. Special enough to make anyone brag. But Paul also had a thorn in his flesh. Some allege it was his poor sight. From the Bible we can deduce that Paul couldn’t see well and that this was a problem for him. We can only speculate what the thorn in his flesh was, but it certainly had a real impact on Paul.
The Greek word that Paul uses here refers to knuckles and it was as if the thorn just under his skin repeatedly hit him with the fist or knuckles. 7… I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees.
Paul had to put up a constant fight against evil and he pleaded with God to take it away. 8At first I didn’t think of it as a gift and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that … It was a big problem for him and Paul couldn’t take it anymore. Therefore he pleaded with God to take it away.
But God didn’t, because God knew that if He took it away chances were that Paul would become arrogant and start going his own way. Therefore God gave Paul insight into the bigger picture so that he could understand why he had to endure the devil’s attacks: 7Because of the extravagance of those revelations and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees.
The thorn in the flesh, the struggles and weaknesses more or less acted like a handbrake on Paul’s life – if he went too fast he could run out of control, his wheels would come off and he would probably smash himself against a wall. You see, Paul had had such a wonderful experience with God that it could easily have made him arrogant. Arrogance makes you full of yourself and immediately distances you from the common man in the street. As a result Paul would have had no platform for preaching the Gospel. On the contrary, people would’ve found him conceited and they wouldn’t have given him a chance to open his mouth.
That was the reason for his thorn. A handbrake to protect him. A handbrake to prevent him from going off the road.
Often in life we also experience a thorn in our flesh – a thorn in the foot preventing us from running too fast. A handbrake that keeps us from running out of control. Yes, we often sit at God’s feet crying out to Him to loosen the handbrake. And then when God doesn’t do it, we immediately become angry.
But maybe our bit of hardship is just like Paul’s. It’s the thorn protecting us from running too fast. Maybe our vehicle has not been built to drive that fast and it is the thorn in the flesh that protects us from falling apart and turning our backs on God. Pain, hurt, hardship, thorns and handbrakes keep us humble. It keeps us close to God. Without it we might forget about God. Who knows?
What is the thorn in your flesh?
Can you make peace with it?
Can you see God’s hand in it?
Lord, I have to admit it’s not easy to see that the thorns in my flesh are there to protect me. What I actually want is for You to remove it so that I can have an easier life. Please help me to understand that hardship in a way helps me to stay closer to You. Please also show me a piece of the bigger picture. Amen