Thorns on a branchA woman goes on a dream vacation, yet she can’t let go of a work matter that is getting the best of her. A man pays off some debt, but there is still a specific burden that needs attention. A couple resolves some family issues, but a particular situation remains. There is frequently that “one thing” that gets the best of us and won’t go away.

We tend to call these things “thorns.” Thorns are not fun. Ever get a thorn in your finger? It is hard to get it out and it can lead to bruising or bleeding. Thorns can easily bring us down. Thorns include the difficulties just listed. Yet a complete list can include every complication under the sun, including physical ailments, sinful thoughts, and bad habits. There are always matters that push us to the limit.

The Apostle Paul once spoke about a “thorn in the flesh.” Commentators have tried for years to discern the precise nature of the thorn. St. John Chrysostom (347-407 AD) said the thorn represented the “enemies of the gospel.” The thorn could have been a temptation or even an individual like the Alexander the metalworker, who brought Paul “a great deal of harm.” (2 Timothy 4:14, NIV)

Now we may not know much about Paul’s thorn, but the apostle tells us the purpose of the thorn is to keep him humble. In 2 Corinthians 12:7 he writes, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassing great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”

No one likes to endure extra challenges. Paul asked the Lord to remove the source of pain. He probably thought removing the pain would make his ministry better or allow him to reach more people for Christ. Yet it appears the Lord was more concerned with building Paul’s character.

Instead of taking away the issue at hand, God allowed the thorn to remain. Additionally, God gave Paul the strength to handle the situation. Strength is gained from weakness.

This is a lesson for each of us to ponder during this Lenten Season and beyond. Through struggles and temptations, we learn to rely on the Lord.  We need our mighty God. This can make us a better person and disciple!

Blessings to you! Scott