Thorns in our flesh

Sam Petitfils

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).

Gene Getz tells the following story:

“In 1924, two climbers were part of an expedition that set out to conquer Mount Everest. As far as is known, they never reached the summit; and they never returned. Somewhere on that gigantic mountain they were overpowered by the elements and died. After the failure of the expedition, the rest of the party returned home. Addressing a meeting in London, one of those who returned described the ill-fated adventure. He then turned to a huge photograph of Mount Everest, mounted on the wall behind him.

“‘Everest,’ he cried, ‘we tried to conquer you once, but you overpowered us. We tried to conquer you a second time, but again you were too much for us. But, Everest, I want you to know that we are going to conquer you, for you can't grow any bigger, and we can!’ ” 

The climbers discovered a principle that we, as God’s children, apply in a different sense. The trials that God appoints for our lives do not destroy us or make us weaker, they make us stronger. When we are confronted with afflictions of various sorts, God prescribes these for our good. He knows just what to prescribe, much as a good doctor knows what medicine to prescribe. But our heavenly Father does His work with perfection, unlike any doctor. When we go through the flames, we do not get burned, but rather the fire purges away unbelief and other sins that hamper our relationship with Christ.

The Apostle Paul was no doubt used to seeing his prayers answered. When he was faced with this “thorn,” whatever it was, he simple prayed and probably expected a quick positive response. In fact, God did answer him, but not quite like he expected. God provided His grace to bear up under the burden of the trial, and taught him lessons he otherwise would not have learned. So instead of removing the thorn, God gave Paul strength to endure it.

Whenever we face the onslaught of fiery afflictions, we immediately ask God to remove them. Such a prayer seems appropriate and even Christ-honoring: we know who to go to and who can answer our prayers. It is perfectly legitimate to ask God to remove the various “thorns” in our flesh. Yet we should also append the following to our prayers: “…if Lord, it is your will.” It is not always God’s will to remove our afflictions from us, nor can we expect a bed of roses in this life. The “thorns” God sends carry purpose and meaning to our lives. They teach us what otherwise could not be known. They teach us patience, the virtue of waiting, and the blessing of trusting God. In addition, they remind who knows best what we need.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that no chastening seems to be joyful, but difficult to bear and even painful (Hebrews 12:11). But “later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Peter encourages his readers to “rejoice” in the midst of trials because they prove the genuineness of faith (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Keep your eyes on the glorious prize of knowing Christ and learning about Him each time you experience difficult times. Paul longed to know more about the glories of the resurrection, but also of the cross (Philippians 3:10). And when we see Him face to face, perhaps we will recall the little song, “It Will Be Worth It All.”

It Will be Worth it All 

Sometimes the day seems long, Our trials hard to bear.
We´re tempted to complain, to murmur and despair.
But Christ will soon appear to catch his bride away!
All tears forever over in God’s eternal day!

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ.
One glimpse of his dear face, all sorrow will erase.
So, bravely run the race till we see Christ.

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