A ‘Thorn in the flesh’ can disable your walk both physically and spiritually, but it can also be a place of growth as it keeps you in humility. Could your thorn change you?
As a child, I used to walk the fields of our farm in bare feet. One of the hazards of doing this was getting prickles in my feet.
Sometimes I couldn’t find it, and I had to either get someone to help me or wait until it worked its way to the surface.
Thorn’s are a right pain in the butt, especially if you get them there! They disable you, they cripple and slow down you down.
The greater the thorn, the greater the scar.
The Apostle Paul talks in 2 Corinthians 12:6-10 about having a thorn in the flesh, something that crippled him, and held him back.
Many suggestions have been made about what this could have been, ranging from eyesight problems, epilepsy, temptations, and even some say his marriage. It’s a wide-open topic people have sweated and argued over for centuries.
I am going to offer my suggestion.
I believe Paul’s thorn in the flesh was the memories of his past. Paul was a man with an incredibly shameful past.
If a ‘This is your life’ show was made about Paul, it would include some very dark and evil moments of him murdering and persecuting Christians.
Check it out here Acts 7:54 – 8:3
Such was his past that he renamed himself from Saul to Paul. He wanted to leave the name of ‘Saul’ and all it’s connotations behind.
This past shadows his life and how he views himself. Listen to these words.
For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 1 Corinthians 15:9
Paul was forgiven, yes, but he was left with memory scars, reminders that kept him from being too elated.
We all have thorns in the flesh
We all have them.
Memories, some good, some bad. Incidents in the past that have shaped and crafted who we have become today.
Recently I have been reading the memoirs of Brennan Manning. ‘All is Grace’, according to Jeff Goins, is ‘a “ragamuffin memoir” — tattered and frayed in a million, dirty, clumpy pieces.’
Manning has many thorns in his side, and he doesn’t hold back in bringing them to the surface for all to see.
He describes shame in this way
The sense of being completely insufficient as a person, the nagging feeling that you’re defective and unworthy. Brennan Manning
I wonder what Paul felt when his life was exposed by God for all to see.
Shame, guilt, love, mercy, forgiveness, hope?
All mingled around in his thoughts and feelings.
The fruit of a thorn
Paul’s thorny load of memories kept him close to Jesus.
Shame will either cage you in behind iron bars of self-protection or keep you humble and dependent as you move forward.
Our memories, good and bad, can be an incredible springboard for God’s use in helping others. This was certainly the case for Paul, and it can be for us also.
Those who have been there, done that, got the tear-stained T-Shirt to have a deeper personal experience of suffering than those who may only have academic knowledge.
I think one of my finest moments as a Pastor was when I helped some of those really struggling with life to write their own sermons.
We wrestled together through experiences such as hearing psychotic voices, struggling with gambling, stigmas, etc.
Paul’s thorny load of memories transformed lives.
Your memories can be too.
Image: Agustín Ruiz Flicker (Creative Commons)