Scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Key verses: (7b-9) Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power* is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
Reflection: A thorn in my flesh! An annoyance, a constant irritation, a regular struggle. Did you realize that familiar colloquialism comes from Paul’s writing to the Christians in the city of Corinth? There’s been a lot of speculation about what exactly was Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” Was it a physical disability or ailment that never went away such as arthritis or migraines or epilepsy? Was it a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety?
Paul understood the thorn was given (a gift?) to him to keep him from being too elated. Really?! Too elated is hard for me to imagine but it sounds pretty good to me. In the context of the passage it’s clear that Paul means the thorn keeps him from being too conceited, too “above” everyone else. The thorn was a constant reminder of his humanity, of his solidarity with ordinary folks, and of his weaknesses and his struggles. He asked the Lord to remove the thorn and to bring healing but the Lord never did so. Instead the Lord responded “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I resist appearing weak. I want to be tough and independent. I want to take care of myself. I don’t embrace any weakness as a gift. Perhaps Paul is inviting me to understand that my spiritual value does not depend on my own strength or ability. Perhaps Paul is reminding me that my weaknesses can be gifts because they force me to accept help and to recognize that we are all dependent on one another and on God. Perhaps Paul is offering a way to reframe my struggles so that I can learn more about grace. What thorn in the flesh are you dealing with? And how does it invite you to grow closer to the Lord?
Prayer: O Lord, teach me that I am lovable even when I need help. Show me that your power is perfect in my weakness. Grant me faith to rely on your grace to be sufficient for me. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
Author: Millie Snyder
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].