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.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
We sometimes hear about deathbed conversions, but in my experience, people die the way they live. How are certain people able to end life so powerfully? Perhaps it’s because long ago they learned to use their weakness, hurts, and disappointments to make room for the power of God—a power that allowed the Savior to use every wound to gain strength and a more powerful soul.
This is what Paul means when he says that he gives thanks to God for the thorn stuck in his flesh. Three times he asked God to remove the thorn, but God left it there even though it was rooted in something evil. We do not know what this thorn was. It may have been a physical limitation, a painful memory from his past, or an unfulfilled yearning. It is good that we do not know the nature of Paul’s thorn because that creates a blank that you can fill in with your own thorn.
You know what your thorn in the flesh is, don’t you? It may not be a big thing – thorns are pretty small, but they hurt all of the time. Maybe your thorn in the flesh is a problem in a relationship, a problem with your health, a job that is not going well, or a hurt from the past that just keeps hurting. You have prayed about this thing, but the thorn remains.
So why should we join Paul in giving thanks, even for the thorn? It’s only because eventually we discover what Paul discovered. After begging God repeatedly to remove the thorn, he said that the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you. For power is made perfect in weakness.”
Grace does not give us what we want. Grace gives us God, and that is always what we most need. Paul isn’t saying that the Savior will be powerful in spite of our weakness. He’s saying the Savior will be powerful through our weakness, and that’s why he, and we, can be grateful even for the thorns.
The place where the power of God will be revealed in your life is precisely the place you’ve judged to be inadequate. This is the place that reminds you that you are not a god. It’s the place where you are most ready to let Jesus be the Savior. Every thorn is an invitation to discover more of the grace of God. Not only is grace always sufficient, it’s also always a means of giving you the power of God and no one understands power without bearing a thorn.