Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Redefining the Thorn

Thorns.  Aside from the ones on roses, this is not a word that brings to mind beauty and comfort.  Rather, when we think on this word, we think of pain and ugliness.  Thorns and thistles represent the bane of every gardener.  They bring about hurt and discomfort and if left too long in the skin, even infection.  No wonder Paul asked for his thorn in his flesh to be removed (2 Corinthians 12:7).   Now, I am almost certain that Paul wasn't asking God to remove an actual sticker from his finger, but I do believe that he used this term intentionally to bring to our minds a mental picture of pain and suffering.

I have heard a number of lessons on this verse that speculate on what Paul is referring to in this verse.  These conjectures have run the gamut from depression to eye trouble to homosexual tendencies.   I will not take the space to elaborate on what this problem might have been.  I instead want to discuss the way that Paul redefined this difficulty in his life.

From the fact that Paul "entreated the Lord three times that it might depart," we can surmise that this thorn wasn't pleasant (2 Corinthians 12:8).  He desperately wanted to get rid of whatever it was.  When Paul realized that the answer to his request was no, he didn't pout and dwell on the problem.  Rather, he chose to look at the issue in his life in a new and different light.

Instead of a painful item to be removed, he decided to view it as weakness to boast about because it gave an opportunity for Christ's grace to be sufficient for him (2 Corinthians 12:9).  In this day and age of pop psychology, we are quick to label problems and then use them as an excuse for not doing what we should do or being what we could be.  I find myself doing this.  I say to myself, "I have a hard time keeping up with my reading because I read so slow and have a difficult time focusing."  While these are two facts of my life, I need to rely on God to help me in these weaknesses instead of using them as an excuse to avoid doing what I need to do.

He has the power to work through my limitations so that His power might be revealed (2 Corinthians 12: 9).  The first step for Paul in redefining this issue in his life was to admit that it was there (verse 7).  He then took in to the Father in prayer (verse 8).  Once he realized that the answer to his removal request was no, he moved on with life and saw this problem as a blessing rather than a curse (verse 9).

If you have a thorn in your flesh that you would like to share in an effort to help yourself redefine it in your life, feel free to share below.  If you have any techniques that have helped you to see your problems from God's eyes, we would love to hear about them as well.  Also, always remember that the Tuesday thread is a place to post thoughts from your personal reading journey throughout the week. 

Next reading: Isaiah 28:14-45:10; Galatians 3:23-Ephesians 2:22; Psalms 62:1-67:7; Proverbs 23:19-35 

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission

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