Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thorn Theology

"...I was given a thorn in my flesh..." 2 Corinthians 12:7

A thorn. Unidentified, yet not a stranger to many of us. It irritates and causes pain, unwanted and often undiagnosed. I believe the reason God does not specifically define Paul's thorn, is so that we can apply this thorn theology individually. It could be physical. It could be people. It's always personal.

Where did the thorn come from? We see the immediate cause was Satan (vs.7), but the ultimate cause was God.

What to do with a thorn? Pray. Paul makes a request. He gets a response. His life replies.

Paul asked three times for the thorn to be removed. He begged the Lord to take it away. Other translations say he "implored". It was an earnest desire that came from his heart to give God glory.

The answer he receives is "no". When God says 'no', He gives us something else that is better than what we thought we needed. This 'no' ushered in more grace. "He giveth more grace when the burdens get greater." "No" is never the end of the story.

Paul accepts God's answer. God strengthened Paul as Satan tried to destroy him. Paul doesn't just endure his thorn, he embraces it. He receives it with gladness (vs.9). Paul says, "For when I am weak, then I am strong." (vs.10) The "when" moment. At the very second of weakness, God makes us strong.

Paul teaches us here that with burdens come blessings. Each hardship is especially chosen for us by God. Thorns aren't accidental. God brings us exactly what we need to bring us to a point of obedience. "I was given..." The thorn was timed and tailor-made.

Sufficient grace can only come through sufficient faith. Let's confess the sin of self-pity and bitterness and allow God to fill us with His grace. Then, after committing the 'thorn' to God, let it go. Let's change the petition prayer to one of praise, remembering that God's power works best in weakness (vs.9).

If you would like someone to pray with you about your 'thorn', if you share your need in the comments, I will join with you for God's grace to carry you as He allows and uses this burden to change you into the image of His son. Our thorns may not be the same, but our response can be, whether the thorns are removed or remain.

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Zoe Elmore said...

Sweetest Joy, Thank you for these wise and wonderful words. You always seem to know my heart beat. Do you have any idea how much of a vessel you really are?

Marilyn in Mississippi said...

Oh me! I feel like such a complainer! Compared to so many others my "thorns" seem so small. What a "JOY" it is to read your thoughts each day my friend!

Marilyn...in Mississippi

~Grace and Peace said...

Thank you, Joy. Beautiful words. Please pray for my husband's spiritual development. That's all that matters right now. Thank you.

Renee Swope said...

My thorn right now is that I am seeking God's timing and making room in my life for His plans and then something happens and what I thought were His plans get squeezed out. I know He's called me to write but with mom being in the hospital and now in pain still, she can't take care of Aster as planned and I am not sure where I will find time in my day to write. Thanks for praying with me.

Love you friend. Love your writing and your heart!!


On Purpose said...

This is very powerful! Thank you Joy for the reminder to choose to act and not react!

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Great words, Joy, as usual, but this one is particularly "teaching". I needed the reminder. Seems as if my life has been filled with thorns, both from God and from my own willful sin. His grace is sufficient for them both.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Joy. As always God blessess me through your words. Do join me in prayer as God gives me grace to wait on him as he make my marriage one that he will have it to be.

Highly Favored

Colleen said...

Great post. I have a cross I have carried most of my life but I have come to see there are two sides to every coin - the blessing and the curse. These days I try to find the blessings. God bless!