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Why You Should Keep the Thorn in Your Flesh

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.



Paul actually boasted about his spirituality because some leaders in the Corinthian church were doing the same thing. They were boasting about their skills and capabilities, and bragging about their experiences.

Paul joined the conversation and did the same thing the other leaders were doing. He boasted that he had plenty of spiritual experiences he could share. Even though Paul was boasting, he was doing it to show how foolish such boasting really is in the life of a mature Christian.

Explanation of 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

Paul talked about the thorn in his flesh in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. He indicated that he prayed three times for God to remove it. Instead of removing it, God gave him some advice that he wasn't expecting. Perhaps we can use that same advice.

So, what was the thorn in Paul's flesh? The Bible doesn't say. Perhaps readers are not told what the infirmity was so people won't think they if they have an earache, headache, or back pain their afflictions are like Paul's thorn. Just knowing it was something that was uncomfortable is enough to get the point across. However, we know that the expression was used as a metaphor to describe a chronic infirmity, annoyance, or trouble that bothered Paul so much that he wanted it to be gone.

Paul tells his story this way.

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. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:17-9)

Even though most people know the metaphor Paul used, there are other places in the Bible where the expression is used. Joshua 23:13 speaks about the metaphor as being thorns in the eyes. Ezekiel 28:24 also mentions thorn as a metaphor of pain and discomfort.

Paul Explains His Thorn

We learn a lot about Paul's thorn in his flesh from what he said. First, he said he should be exalted above measure through the revelations he had. Instead, the messenger of Satan gave him a thorn in the flesh to buffet him so he would not be exalted above measure. Notice "exalted above measure" was used twice to show how much Paul thought he deserved the exaltation.

The word "buffet" means to "harass, torment, torture and to be made to feel uncomfortable." In other words, the thorn was given to Paul to keep him humble and on level ground. With a thorn in his flesh, Paul would not think he was or should be more important than others.

Since the thorn came from the messenger of Satan, some think the thorn in Paul's flesh was put there to hinder his work for the Lord. If Satan gave Paul the thorn in his flesh to hinder his work, God allowed Paul to keep it to enhance his work for the Kingdom of God.

Paul continued by calling the thorn in his flesh "this thing." He said he talked to the Lord three times about "this thing." He prayed that it would depart from him. God answered Paul's prayer but not in the way Paul thought God would. God did not remove the thorn. Instead, God gave Paul something greater.


Meaning of "My Grace is Sufficient"

Some people quote, "My grace is sufficient" without having a clue about what it means or why God said it to Paul. Besides, merely quoting the first few words of the scripture takes away the meaning of the entire verse.

God did not do what Paul wanted, but God gave him what he needed the most. God said, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Paul understood exactly why God wanted him to keep his thorn. God's grace would help him serve God better even in his weakness. Too often we think God wants the strongest and near-perfect servants. On the contrary, God wants weak servants because His strength is made perfect in weakness.

Paul concluded that he would rather not only keep his thorn but he would also glory in his infirmities in order for the power of Christ to rest upon him and remain with him.

In other words, Paul agreed to keep his thorn. He never prayed for its removal again. We should want to keep our own thorn also like Paul.

Benefits of Keeping Your Thorn

Paul thought if God removed the thorn, he could serve God on a deeper level. At the time, he was constantly been attacked by enemies everywhere he went. He was stoned, beaten, thrown into prison, and faced other hardships. Paul probably thought surely God would remove the thorn from such a faithful servant.

With God's grace, Paul understood that it was not a matter of getting rid of his enemies and hardships. It was a matter of handling his enemies God's way because of His grace.

Paul was made humble by keeping his thorn. He no longer felt the need to be exalted. He was more useful with his thorn than without it. The thorn in his flesh was a reminder of God's grace. Paul realized that through this weakness he was made strong. We should keep our thorn for the same reason Paul kept his.

Good Advice: Keep Your Thorn

It is human nature to want to get rid of uncomfortable things. Most people want burdens, afflictions, trouble, and suffering to leave them alone. To be useful to God and to serve Him the way He wants to be served, it is much better to keep your thorn. His grace will show greater through your troubles.


Roslyn de Cordova on July 09, 2020:

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Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on September 19, 2019:

Antonio50S, thank you for your contribution to my article about thorns.

Antonio50S on September 18, 2019:

Reading the "words" of ( 2 Corinthians 12:9 ) I doubt it would have mattered in knowing what that thorn was.

The emphasis was on the word "Grace" itself. A word that's never really explained by any church to my knowledge.

The word itself means ( "UNMERITED Favour" or "UNDERSERVED Kindness" )

No matter how many good works we think we may have done, or how different we think we are from other "institutions" In Gods eyes, NOBODY deserves that grace anyway. That's why salvation is a Free gift that no one can boast about. ( Ephesians 2:8-9 ) That's also a reason why Jesus said NOT TO JUDGE OTHERS. Something i noticed we all keep doing again and again. But then, that's why Jesus said not to do it, or else we will be judged in return.

We could go into details about other peoples issues and faults, but then that only exposes our own "while doing so"

Thorns can teach a lot to all of us.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on September 17, 2019:

Betty A F, thanks for your comments. They are so appropriate, and they add a lot to my article about thorns. I did intend to stick to the one subject. Perhaps I will write another article focusing on the broad topic about thorns sometimes in the future.

I enjoyed doing a deep study about Paul's thorn in the flesh. It has helped me deal with my own thorn.

Betty A F from Florida on September 17, 2019:

Good article Margaret,

You did a very nice job of keeping it focused on one subject. "Thorns,' cover a whole array of things in the bible. Sometimes I start an article on a particular subject, and then it goes into a completely different direction than I intended, so I have to change the title half way through.

I've also wondered about the ailment that afflicted Paul. He didn't complain about it, but saw the benefit of God using it for a purpose.

Your article made me think of Joni Eareckson Tada, and how she struggled with being paralyzed until she realized that God had a purpose in it.

I enjoyed reading this.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on September 16, 2019:

Charlie, Charlie, Charlie! First of all, it is good hearing from you. I have been wonderful about you since I hadn't heard from you in a very long time. I hope things are going well with you.

I had often wondered about Paul's thorn in the flesh. After God revealed to me what it really means, I decided to "keep my thorn!"

charlie from From Kingdom of God living on Planet earth in between the oceans on September 16, 2019:

good one Margaret--- i have lived with mine for over 50- years and it has caused me to receive many blessings. Actually I have more than two and the last on 3 yrs ago (wheelchair) is what made me seethe commission to write is from Christ, the Lord of this age. Thank you Lord

Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on September 16, 2019:

Never looked at it that way.

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