Maybe you have heard the reference “thorn in my flesh.” I would say most people have. I want to use this post to put an end to a few lies concerning this reference. If this post impacts you, I would encourage you to pass it along. We have to spread the truth and crush the lies.
In many circles this passage about Paul has been used as an excuse to blame God for our circumstance. The religious will declare that “God gave them a disease or brought some calamity into their lives” to “keep them humble” or “to teach them a lesson.” Even your most basic understanding of the goodness of God should keep you from believing such a lie.
As an example of how ridiculous this lie is Joseph Prince once asked a provocative question in a daily devotional. He said “would a father run over his child with a car to teach him how dangerous it was to go into the street?” “Would he crush the legs of his only child to demonstrate how important it was to obey his father when he told the child to not go into the street?” If your answer is yes, I feel sorry for you. I can’t imagine how difficult your life has been to believe such behavior is acceptable. For the rest of us, we see instantly the insanity of such a proposition.
When you say “God gave me AIDS so I would learn a lesson” or “God made me an alcoholic so I would stay humble” or “God took my child to punish me for being a bad father” you are expressing the very same insanity as running over your own child. Jesus died to prove God’s love for you. Even while we were sinners…meaning when we couldn’t stand the thought of God and would curse His name in anger…He died for us. When we step into the biggest messes, hurt people, hurt ourselves, live in offense, steal, kill and destroy like the ruler of this world the devil…He died for us. You must see this truth. You must seek His wisdom in this truth. You must be desperate to know how much your Papa, your Abba, your Father really loves you. Please ask Him to show you.
But what about “God lets stuff happen” or “God lets satan do stuff to us” or “God uses the enemy to teach us lessons.” NONSENSE! Why would God strike up a deal with the devil for anything. On this side of the cross the devil has been defeated. Jesus came to defeat the devil and all his stuff. Jesus came to set us free from all the works of the devil. Jesus died to claim victory over the devil in every aspect. Not only are we free from the power of the devil while living on Earth, we are free from his death. We are living an eternal life. We have dominion and power and authority over any of his little imps and their stupid lies. We are victorious. JESUS IS KING! How dare we imply that God makes deals with that jerk. How dare we minimize what Jesus died to accomplish. It should infuriate you to hear someone claim that God uses the ENEMY to carry out His purposes. That is akin to saying Jesus on the cross was worthless. Want to tell God that?
“OK, what about the thorn? Didn’t God give it to Paul? Wasn’t it to teach him humility?”
Nope, nada, no way, absolutely not. It isn’t even in the Bible. Let me show you. Here is the verse:
2 Cor 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. (KJV)
Do you see God mentioned in the verse anywhere? Look close. Don’t believe me? Maybe it is a translation error? Here is the Greek. Do you see the word Theos?
kai th uperbolh twn apokaluyewn ina mh uperairwmai edoqh moi skoloy th sarki aggeloV satan ina me kolafizh ina mh uperairwmai
So let me ask you again, did God give Paul the thorn? Check out this translation:
2 Cor 12:7 And lest the greatness of the revelations should exalt me, there was given me a sting of my flesh, an angel of Satan, to buffet me. (Douay Rheims)
What is exalting Paul? The revelations. Where did the revelations come from? God. Earlier in the chapter Paul is talking about his trip to Heaven and what He saw. As he shared these revelations he was exalted or more specifically God was exalted and Paul was along for the ride. Paul wasn’t arrogant about receiving the revelations, he was exalted because of the content of the information. The devil did not want Paul to be successful. He was out to get him. The word for “buffet” is “to punch” or “to beat.” This messenger was sent to beat Paul up. Guess what? In the previous chapter (2 Cor 11) Paul is talking about all his beatings.
“But didn’t God allow the thorn to happen and said “no” to taking it away?”
Nope, nada, no way, absolutely not. It isn’t even in the Bible. Here is what Paul asked God and what God said back to Paul:
2 Cor 12:8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (NKJV)
God said, not Lance, not Matt Henry, not pastor Smith, God said…”Whatever you ask for in my name I will give to you.” God said, He said it…”by His wounds we are healed.” Jesus was beaten to near death for our healing. Tell me that God said no to Paul. Where does it say that? It doesn’t. He answered His prayer. Grace was the answer. Grace isn’t the power to “suck it up.” It is the power to win! Paul just finished a long list of examples to prove that “God’s Grace is sufficient” in 2 Cor 11. This demon was out to beat Paul to death and he failed miserably. God won. Jesus, in Paul, is King. Paul needed to hear that from his Father. Paul needed to know that the power of God in him and God’s love for Him would protect Him. That was His divine intervention. That was His answer to prayer. Paul even says in many places that all that stuff the devil did to him was of no account.
Religion has taken one of the most beautiful passages of God’s grace for us and turned it into an excuse to blame God. It is a lie! I say we flush it down the toilet. I don’t care what pastor so and so says. He is wrong. Blaming God for our circumstance is the enemy’s greatest success. If you want to blame God for what the devil is doing to you, you are making an alliance with the devil. Jesus died to set us free from all that stuff including the desire to blame God. The curses are gone. The lies are gone. Redemption is here. We are reconciled and it is actually against God’s promises to bring calamity into our lives.
He put us into this world to be like Jesus. He put us here to have authority like Jesus. He put us here to defeat the works of the devil like Jesus. We are God’s representatives on this planet. The Holy Spirit in us and through us is God’s plan for planet Earth. God is sovereign and he put us here to be in control. Want to blame someone for the school shooter? Blame the devil. Want a solution for the school shooter? Look in the mirror. You should see Jesus looking back. One encounter with Jesus and the school shooter is a Jesus follower. He is that good. He is that irresistible. God does not and can not torture His kids. His Grace is sufficient for you. His power in you is your success. Your situation is about to change. You only need to believe. GOD DID NOT GIVE YOU A THORN! And He didn’t give Paul one either.
2 thoughts on “The Infamous Thorn”
Mind blown. YES!!! I have been battling with that passage over the last few weeks. .asking God what it really means.. confused about what I’ve been told that it means because it runs contrary to what I am beginning to understand is the character of God. I am worshiping God in my heart right now. .oh.. He is so beautiful! Thank you for this post!
I agree. This has been a “thorn” for many people. Some have used it from the pulpit to blame stuff on God or on the people. God is way better than that. I hadn’t seen the truth of Paul’s story until just recently. God says if you ask for wisdom He gives it to us. I wonder if we can be listening to the wrong station when it is tuned to “religion?” Just a thought. Thanks for your comments. You are awesome!