“My grace is sufficient”, Christ says. Sometimes I repeat this promise over and over to myself. Some days I need it more than others. We find this promise in II Corinthians 12:7-9. The apostle Paul had prayed three times that God would remove a thorn from his flesh. It is never specified what this thorn actually was, whether it was a physical ailment, temptation, opposition from his enemies or anything else. Perhaps it was not specified so that we would feel free to apply the principle to our own thorns. No matter what our trial is, God’s grace is sufficient.
According to Paul, the thorn was a tool of Satan to make him suffer, but in the end God used it for good, just as he had with Joseph. (January 31, 2011) God didn’t answer Paul’s prayer the way he had wanted it answered, but God did answer, and He gave Paul something better. Paul was given the power of Christ, the grace of Christ, to endure whatever struggle he was going through. Just because God doesn’t take our suffering away, doesn’t mean that He doesn’t have the power or that He doesn’t care, or that as some think, He doesn’t exist. Sometimes there is a purpose for our suffering, a greater good, even if we can’t always see it.
In the garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus was facing death on the cross, He also prayed three times for the Father to spare Him from the pain. But He endured death on the cross because He knew that the Father had a greater purpose. He endured it with joy (Hebrews 12:2), not because He wanted to go through such torture, but because He trusted God to do what was best.
In Paul’s case, the constant thorn in his side was a reminder that he couldn’t accomplish his ministry as effectively, if at all, without the power of God working through him. If Paul had been able to do everything in his own strength he would have become arrogant, and I think it’s safe to say that many of the rest of us would as well. Paul’s thorn kept him humble, and it kept him relying on the grace of God. What is God teaching you through your thorns? If you don’t know, ask Him. Instead of complaining about your struggles, ask God what He wants you to learn from them. Ask Him what He will do through you because you have surrendered yourself to Him. By all means, ask Him to take the pain away too, but realize that He might have a reason for leaving you in it.