I have no physical thorns in my flesh. I didn't fall into a bush. No thorn is hidden underneath my skin causing me pain, disfiguration or discomfort. But like Paul, I have found myself with metaphorical thorns in my flesh from time to time. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:7 "So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud." I have read a lot commentary about this scripture, trying to figure out what exactly this "thorn" is referring to in Paul's life. It does seem clear that it is metaphorical, but what isn't clear is whether this was a physical, emotional or a spiritual "thorn". Whatever it was, it was sent to keep him from becoming proud. Paul goes on to say in verses 8-9 "Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." Paul asked God three times to take this "thorn" away, yet God did not. And God reminded Paul that the power of Christ works best in us in our weakness.
There is a "thorn" in my life that I am determined to remove from my "flesh". Even when God clearly tells me no, I will try for awhile to remove the "thorn" on my own. I somehow convince myself that I can and will remove this "thorn". I fight and claw at the "thorn". I convince myself it's gone. Yet sooner than later it rears it's ugly head, irritating my "flesh" and reminding me that it is still there.
Earlier this week I was boasting to some dear friends about how well I was doing in this area and that the "thorn" was gone. The very next day it was back. A full blown infection had taken over and I was devastated. Like any mature woman, I threw a tantrum. I cried. I begged God to take it away. A few days passed and I took a walk with God. I asked Him why? Why was He not removing something that caused such pain in my life? I know He is loving. I know He is good. I know that He has my best interests at heart. But how could that be true AND I be suffering. I had faith. I knew He could take it from me. But He hadn't. As I walked, and listened, and talked, and listened some more it became clear to me. God was telling me what He had told Paul. "My grace is all you need Melissa. My power works best in your weakness". And with that, He reminded me of how He was using my own struggles to help others. He showed me that apart from this, I might not rely on His strength. The "thorn" in my "flesh" was the very thing that drew me to God over and over.
Truth be told, I do not like thorns. Actual or metaphorical. Unlike the thorn in my sister's eye, most are painful. They are sharp, they are a nuisance and they cause pain. When I get past the pain of the metaphorical thorns and rest in God's grace and love, I realize that it really is the best thing in my life. It is what draws me near to God. It is what takes me out of my "self" and forces me to rely on His strength. And by His amazing grace, He uses this "thorn" and my obedience to be an encouragement to others and point them to Him. I don't know what your thorn is. The "what" isn't as important as how you respond to it. I won't stop asking for it to be taken. I am human. And you shouldn't either. But if God says "no" or "not now", I pray that you can rest in the knowledge that He isn't leaving you alone. He is wanting to draw near to you . He is wanting to work through you. And His power works best in your weakness.