In II Corinthians 12:7-10, the apostle Paul talks about his “thorn in the flesh:”
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
In these verses, Paul reveals that he has prayed unto God three times for God to remove whatever his “thorn in the flesh” was. Paul never reveals what exactly this malady was, and various Bible scholars have given their own ideas about what exactly Paul was talking about here. No matter what the situation was, it was serious enough that Paul wanted it removed, because it was causing him a concern in some way.
When we think about our own lives, we may have physical ailments or disabilities that we feel hinder us in some way. We may have physical issues with our sight, hearing, or mobility. People may be having mental issues with depression, bipolar, or other mood disorders that affect the inward being from day to day. These issues may be pressing on us so much that we pray unto God to remove them. If we have been in this situation, we can surely relate to how Paul feels in these verses.
There was no one more faithful to God than the apostle Paul. He had given up his position as a high ranking Pharisee to become one of the people that he once persecuted. He risked death on numerous occasions to preach the Gospel. One would think that God would do as Paul had asked and remove his “thorn in the flesh,” because he was so faithful. This was not the case as we see in these verses.
Instead, God points out how Paul’s weakness makes him stronger. In other words, Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” allowed him to be less focused on this life and more focused on the life hereafter. Paul then chooses to think positively about his issues, and to understand that God is allowing him to suffer in order to glorify Him more!
When it comes to our own “thorn in the flesh,” we can choose to either be bitter about our circumstances in this life, or we can choose to follow the example of Paul and use our issues and ailments to help lead others to Christ. Having issues with our physical or mental health is challenging, and doing our basic daily tasks can be a challenge as well. Becoming depressed about the situation does not help; in fact, it will only make things worse! No matter what problems you may be facing on a daily basis, if you keep your focus on God, then you will not only help yourself go to Heaven, but you will be an inspiration to so many others to follow in your example! God will make a bad situation work out for your good if you are faithful to Him (Romans 8:28).
So, when we think about the issues whether physical, mental, or otherwise, that we face in this life, we can learn from the great example of Paul to rejoice in our infirmities and to focus on serving God and others, instead of ourselves. Keeping a positive attitude will help us feel much better, and it will help others feel good as well! A person who perseveres through great challenges is an inspiration to others. May we work each day to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ” as Paul did! (Philippians 3:14).