Twice here Paul states the purpose of his thorn: “to keep me from becoming conceited” (v.7, ESV). Granted, the affliction also came from Satan to harass and torment, but even that harassment proved a gift to pierce his pride.
A decade of living with lupus has acquainted me with weakness and feeling harassed. Few days pass now without the slow hiss of punctured pride. I hear it every time it pains me to say, “I can’t do this. Will you please help me?” My private tantrums over unattainable desires, petty or substantial, reveal my addictions to control and comfort. My discombobulation at God’s refusals exposes the areas of life where I still want my kingdom, not His.
Every life experiences thorns, none of which are easy or pleasant. Paul’s threefold prayer for the removal of Satan’s tormenting angel indicates his realistic assessment of the pain. This passage challenges our perspective on suffering because Paul does not stop at pleading for relief but opens himself to receive the blessings in the thorn:
· Purging the pride that sets us in opposition to God (v.7; James 4:6).
· Staging the perfect display of God’s sufficient grace (v.9).
· Opening the way through weakness for Christ’s power to reside in him (v.9).
Paul so esteems these blessings that he boasts for Christ’s sake about the tough stuff of life rather than in his heavenly vision.
Lord, thank You for the gift of thorns. We don’t like them and will be pleased for You to remove them as soon as they have accomplished Your work in us. Until then, they are a gift from You, our loving Father. By faith, we thank You and ask that Your grace and power would shine all the more because of them. Amen.
Prayer note: The physical therapist diagnosed the knee pain (i.e., not my imagination) and believes both that and the ongoing back pain are "manageable." The less pleasant news (see paragraph 2 above) is that managing the issues requires 9 appointments (plus homework exercises) over 4 weeks. This will stretch my stamina and require some tough decisions about what to do and what to leave undone. My sincere thanksgiving goes out to you who pray for me! You are a grace.
Sharing with the Faith Jam about "vulnerable" today: