June 16 I Wednesday
“Therefore, 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.” —2 Corinthians 12:7-8
Is there something that we believe “if only” it is removed, and then our life would be better? Some of us may wish, if only we had a better job, if only we earned more money, if only our spouse would change, if only our pain could be taken away or if only COVID-19 is gone forever, then our life would be better.
The apostle Paul experienced his “if only” in 2 Corinthians 12:7 as he shared, “I was given a thorn in my flesh…” Paul did not reveal exactly what that “thorn in my flesh” was, but over the years, people speculated on what it might have been. Some believed it was something physical and suggested it was Paul’s poor eyesight, because when he wrote to the Galatians, he talked about the fact that some of them would gouge their eyes out and give them to him if they could have. But maybe it was moral? Paul used the word “flesh” to describe the old nature and the old nature’s tendency to sin. Would Paul be referring to his struggle with some temptation that he was constantly battling with or a recurring sin? That was a possibility, as Paul, like us, was not exempt from sin. Or the “thorn in my flesh” could have been something circumstantial. Some believed that Paul may have been married, because a Pharisee would normally be married, but when Paul became a Christian, his wife may have left him. Hence, when he wrote for the sake of Christ that he lost all things, maybe he lost his wife and children too.
Regardless of the possibilities, the truth is, we do not know what the “thorn in my flesh” is, and it is a good thing, because one size fits all. In other words, what Paul talked about is applicable in any situation that we face, where we would claim, “if only that one thing could be taken out of my life, I would be a better person.”
What is our “if only God would take away and life would be better?” What if God placed it there for a purpose? Do we trust what Hebrews 12:7 tells us, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children?”
The word “discipline” is related to the word “disciple.” “Disciple” means “to be a student of” and “discipline” involves mental, moral or physical training. A disciple is discipled by being subject to discipline. The hardship in our life is a discipline that makes us disciples because it drives us back to God. May we endure hardship as discipline, recognizing that we are being refined as children of God.
Prayer: Lord God, thank You, for disciplining me as Your child. Though I may not understand why “if only” situations are placed in my life, use the “thorn in my flesh” to drive me closer to You. Amen!