2 Corinthians 12:5-10 (NLT)
Paul’s Vision and His Thorn in the Flesh
That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Do we know ourselves? Do we want to know ourselves, really? What is our weakness? What is our strength?
Ever since the Apostle Paul wrote about the thorn in his flesh, there have been a thousand and one different definitions, for each differing interpretation, of that phrase. Whether Paul is referring to a physical, spiritual, or emotional affliction—or something else entirely — has never been answered with satisfaction. We can know that it is a metaphor and not a literal thorn in his flesh. Some of the more popular theories of the thorn’s interpretation include a temptation, a chronic eye problem, migraines, an antagonist, or a speech disability.
Though my years of chasing after God, I too have interpreted that pesky phrase in probably just as many differing interpretations. Most predominantly in my early years was my homosexual condition was this thorn from Satan. It was a malady needing to be cured. With the number of times I plead for God to cure me of it, I did feel like God was comforting me in his grace, if that can make any sense.
The more I discovered about God’s grace and mercy, the more I realized that homosexuality is not some disease or thorn that must be cured or pulled out or such.
Most recently, I am ruminating of another interpretation regarding the thorn in my flesh.
With the anti-gay rhetoric in America ever increasing in volume from extreme fundamentalists, more and more people continue to turn away from Christianity because of the cacophony. Following along with a friend’s post on Facebook about the article, “Church Policies About LGBT Christians“, the ensuing discussion started a thought. I began to wonder if this discord could be the “thorn in the flesh” for Christians who are gay.
For the amount of chastisement and judgment that fundamentalists heartily heap upon gays and lesbians, all in the name of their interpretation of Scripture, the recipient can only but turn to God, begging for the dogma, the rhetoric, the stones, the pain inflicted to be removed. I know I have. It all is still there. Even from siblings who have known me these 51 years.
Can it be such discourse is a thorn in the flesh, to keep us from boasting about our salvation in Christ? To keep us humble, and clinging to God, when so many would rather we give up our faith? We definitely take great assurance in God’s promise of, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
Listen to the encouragement in Twila Paris’ song, “The Warrior is a Child”:
They don’t know that
I go running home when I fall down
They don’t know Who picks me
Up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
‘Cause deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child
No, I do not have the answers. I just know that God is with his child warrior. Take courage good friend, as we journey forward renewed in his grace and mercy.