The Gift of a Thorn

The Gift of a Thorn


Pain. The very thought of it is something we try to avoid. Pain arrives in many different forms. In this fallen world, an individual can experience multiple types of pain in the same day. We are all accustomed to facing physical, emotional, mental, and relational pain every day of our lives in varying degrees. As much as we try to avoid it, the harsh realization is we will never escape pain until we make it to our Heavenly home (Revelation 21:4). Until that precious moment with the Lord, pain is the reality we must all come to terms with. 

Have you ever considered that pain is good? Yes, you read that correctly. Can pain be a good thing for our lives? Before you scoff and answer with a quick no, really consider the question. Is it not a good thing that our bodies experience pain? When you are a child and touch that glowing red circle from which your mother magically produces scrambled eggs, is it not a good thing that the pain you feel from that teaches you something? If you did not experience pain the moment you touched the eye of that stove, what would happen to your hand? Pain teaches us something… every single time we feel it. The question is, are we learning the lesson it is trying to teach?

The Apostle Paul was acquainted with pain in ways I am not sure we can understand or appreciate. Aside from everything he lists in 2 Corinthians 11:16-28, many students of God’s Word are familiar with what he called his “thorn in the flesh.” Many have pontificated and theorized what Paul was referring to in this metaphor. However, the lesson we learn from Paul’s thorn in the flesh is far more valuable to our walk with Christ than the “thorn” itself. 

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

We do not know what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, but we do know that it plagued his life. It bothered him. It hurt him. He pleaded many times that the Lord would take it away. But instead of removing the pain, the Lord taught Paul a valuable lesson. Christ was able to accomplish more through Paul’s weaknesses than Paul was able to accomplish through his own strengths. It is the same with you and me. Christ accomplishes more through our pain and valleys than we do through our victories and mountaintops.

Often, the only time we reach out to the Lord is when we are experiencing pain or are in the valleys of life. It is in the middle of that pain and valley that we realize we need Someone greater than ourselves. At that moment, when we reach out to Jesus to relieve our pain, we understand what Christianity is all about. It is not about being stronger, more faithful, or more perfect than everyone else. It is about leaning on, depending on, and becoming more like the One who is. 

I don’t know who needs this today. I don’t know what kind of pain you are experiencing in your life. I don’t know your story. But I do know that the power of Christ can be revealed to you through that pain. Do not run from your pain. Embrace it. Because through that pain, you will gain a valuable lesson and, more importantly, a better appreciation for Heaven. It might be odd to say, but a “thorn in the flesh” is a gift when you allow it to be. I’m so thankful that my Lord did not run from pain when He was on Earth; instead, He conquered death through it. “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10.   

  1. Read Revelation 21:1-4 aloud together as a family. Talk about what stands out to you about this passage. What does dwelling with God mean to you? What would you be willing to suffer through to reach this eternal dwelling place?
  2. As a family, talk about things you have suffered, the pain you have experienced, and the valleys you have crossed. How did you make it through? How does Jesus’ willingness to suffer help us in our sufferings?
  3. As a family, talk about people you know who are hurting and in pain. Lift them up by name in thoughtful, intentional, and fervent prayer to the throne of God. 

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