Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh – An Interactive Discussion
by Dina Sleiman
Well, The Message Version of the Bible has done it again. It’s made me look at a scripture with whole new eyes. It’s brought new light to something I thought I understood, and made me realize how much I’d missed. This time it's II Corinthians 12:7-10. Most of you will know this passage as the famous one about Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” Paul had pride, so he was given some sort of thorn in the flesh. Okay, I guess that makes sense, kind of.
But the Message Version drives it to a new level that sort of blows my mind. “I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations.” That makes more sense to me than a "thorn in the flesh."And I had never thought of a handicap as a “gift.” That sort of flies in the face of the theology I was taught growing up. Who is this gift from? We know that God only gives good and perfect gifts, so there must be something I’m not understanding here.
But wait!!! Now it says here that “Satan’s angels did their best to get me down.” So is this handicap a gift, or a curse from Satan. Now I’m really confused?
But what this thing--this handicap, gift or not--ended up accomplishing was certainly good. “What he in fact did was push me to my knees.” Maybe what I need to do is stop trying to figure out where this thing came from. It seems like whether it’s good or bad, blessing or curse, has more to do with the response of the recipient. In Paul’s case, it drove him to his knees, brought him closer to God, which is a good thing. “No danger then of walking around high and mighty!” So it caused him to be humble and rely on God, which is also good.
Paul goes on to say at first he didn’t see it as a gift (no wonder I’m confused), and he asked three times for God to take it away from him. Boy do I relate. I have things I’ve asked God to remove from me. You’d think he’d want to do that. It would make my life easier, and make it easier for me to be good and keep his commands and accomplish things for his kingdom. But God’s ways aren’t always my ways. Instead he says, “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”
Then Paul continues, “Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”
That leaves me with a number of questions:
That leaves me with a number of questions:
-Why does God do this?
-What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh?-Was it a physical handicap or something more spiritual or emotional?
-At the end of the day, is it a gift from God, or is he just turning something bad for his good?
-What am I supposed to be learning in all of this?
-I understand that I can’t do much about accidents and bad breaks, but what about abuse? In Paul’s society he was being abused by the government, but what about my society in which abuse is illegal? In which I have rights and recourses against opposition?
I’d love to chat with you throughout the day. Take a look at this scripture and let me know what you think ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, won an honorable mention in the 2012 Selah Awards. Her latest novel, Love in Three-Quarter Time, is the launch title for the new Zondervan First imprint. Dina is a contributing author at Inkwell Inspirations, Colonial Quills, iflourishonline.com, a part-time acquistions editor for WhiteFire Publishing, and she is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her athttp://dinasleiman.com/