Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 12.7-9
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Reflection: Of Grace and Thorns
By John Tillman

Paul’s thorn in the flesh is one of the great unknowns of scripture. 

There have been a phenomenal number of conjectures, suppositions, and claims about what it might have been. Suggestions vary greatly from the serious (demonic voices or severe scoliosis) to the silly (baldness) to the offensive (a nagging wife). 

Conjecture and biblical guessing games are entertaining for theology nerds and Bible geeks (like me) but they can be a distraction. 

If one holds a high view of the Bible, believing that it is the inspired Word of God, then one can trust that the lessons the Holy Spirit has for us won’t be contained in some neglected detail. If, however, one doubts the scriptures’ inerrancy, then one always thinks the answers are in the cracks. If Paul or (more importantly) the Holy Spirit wanted us to know what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, it would be spelled out in the scriptures. 

What is important about Paul’s thorn is not what it is or how it afflicts him. What is important is the sufficient grace of God that sustains Paul. Paul’s thorn does seem to be connected to something that weakens him. Paul describes his thorn as a  “messenger from Satan.” All we need to take from this is that Satan had a purpose for the suffering Paul experienced. It was intended by Satan for harm and hindrance of Paul’s faith. But God especially delights in turning machinations of evil into miracles of grace.

We should hesitate to imply from this text that believers regularly have “thorns in the flesh.” If a believer is “caught up to the third Heaven” as Paul was, then perhaps, one might worry about it. But we do, with regularity, experience sufferings of this world that are intended by Satan to harm and hinder us. Our comfort in our “light and momentary troubles” is the same comfort that Paul experienced.

Grace sets us free from the sufferings that come to us in this world. Paul shows us how to lean into suffering, knowing that however we are weakened, Christ will be glorified and however, we are delivered Christ will be glorified.

Suffering is evil. Weakness is humbling. In Christ, they both are redeemed and their outcomes overturned. What is intended to harm, will be used for good and what is shameful will be used to bring glory to Christ.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you; I have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, my good above all other.” — Psalm 16.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 18 (Listen – 7:31)
2 Corinthians 11 (Listen – 3:54)

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Read more about Reflection: Honey and Grace
God extracts honey out of the rock—the sweetest springs and pleasures from the hardness of afflictions…whereas the world makes from the fountains of pleasure stones and rocks of torment.

Read more about Grace that Makes Us :: Worldwide Prayer
Through his grace our weakness is made strong.
Through his grace our weakness is made strong.
Through his grace our weakness is made strong.
Through his grace he leads us from doubt on to faith.
Through his grace we can share the gospel with others.