My Thorn In The Flesh
Posted by Job on May 15, 2009
2 Corinthians 12:7
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
Much has been made of the mystery of the precise nature or identity of Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Theories include bad eyesight, frequent illness, guilt over crimes against the church, and even (according to the depraved mind of one utterly wretched school of thought) repressed homosexual urges. Well, let me share my own.
I have a very vivid imagination, a mind that is prone to wandering, and difficulty concentrating or applying my thoughts to things for any length of time or at any depth, especially if they are good things. As a result, I frequently find my thinking assaulted with a great many vile thoughts including but not limited to images of sin, blasphemies against our Lord Jesus Christ, and attitudes of cynicism, disrespect and rebellion. Almost all of it is the direct result of my memory of all of the wretched abominations that I acquired through my voracious consumption of television, movies, music, magazines, talk radio and the Internet. It is almost as if I have some sort of powerful relational database where practically the instant that my mind conceives of a thought – whether it be neutral, innocent, or holy – it brings to my thinking some blasphemous thought or cynical emotion, and this issue is particularly intense and grievous when I am attempting to read my Bible or pray.
This morning, after enduring yet another episode of this sinful mind activity while driving, I despaired and cried out to God to remove this evil from me. I discerned while praying about the matter that these attacks on my mind would cease when I reached heaven, and until that blessed event occurs, it was actually good for my own sake that they remained because they
A) remind me of my need to rely totally upon the grace of Jesus Christ and His work on the cross for my salvation
B) remind me of the hideously grotesque nature of my sinful former life for the sake of bearing witness and testimony of others, and to prevent me from thinking that I was already a basically good, decent moral person living a productive useful existence that the grace of Jesus Christ only needed to add to
C) give me added incentive to avoid defiling myself with sin by consuming still more “entertainment” – especially that which appears to be merely harmless idle vanities but are actually a deception and a snare – that actually is chock full of rebellion, cynicism, and much careless swearings and casual breaking of the third of the ten commandments (do not take the Name of the Lord in vain) that serves no productive purpose in my life whatsoever but will in the future find itself corrupting my thoughts
D) keeps me from thinking that I am perfect or at least very nearly there, the result of which would be – owing to a most regrettable character flaw and temptation that lurks within – my becoming extremely vain, prideful, self – righteous, self – satisfied, and lazy
E) allows me to identify with, have compassion for, and motivates me with a strong desire to help those that are in bondage to sin and death as I was not so very long ago.
After that word of truth came into my heart and mind, I immediately remembered Paul’s writing about his thorn in the flesh – and as if for the first time in my life – understood, and my despair and guilt turned to joy and victory! So, my prayer went from begging God to deliver me from these thoughts and making them stop to one of asking God to work this within me 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 my behalf:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
Even so, come Lord Jesus Christ! Praise Jesus Christ for everlasting life, life and life more abundantly, His grace and mercy towards the meek, the weak, and wretched sinners, and for the victory over sin and death that comes through His Name, available to us by the emptying Himself of life and glory on the cross and reclaiming them back when He rose from the dead! Praise be to God!