2 Corinthians 12:7 – To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. (NIV)
Years ago, I used to go bramble picking with my brothers, usually during the fall. I think that brambles are called "blackberries" in North America. They look like dark-coloured raspberries, and they grow wild in Scotland. They have a bittersweet taste to them, but can be used to make a delicious jelly, which our mom used to do when we brought them home.
To get to the biggest and sweetest brambles, one has to be willing to fight the way through some really nasty thorns. In order to pick the brambles off the thorns, one cannot use gloves. Inevitably, my brothers and I would all come home with painful thorns stuck in the palms of our hands. So, as well as making jelly and sewing our ripped clothes, Mom had to be our nurse by removing the thorns with tweezers. In the end, it was worth all of the discomfort, trouble, and pain. The jelly she made was delicious, especially on buttered slices of toast.
Paul writes about a "thorn in the flesh" that he experienced in his life. As a preacher, he could easily have become conceited by the power and esteem he was given by his listeners. But God gave him some sort of impediment, which caused him a great deal of discomfort. He does not mention precisely what this thorn was, but it was enough of a problem for Paul to ask God to remove it. God, however, said "No" to Paul's prayer, and he had to learn to live with it.
Sometimes as Christians, we think that we're entitled to live our lives free from worries, stress, or attack. We think that just because we follow Christ, our lives should be free from trouble. The advocates of the heretical prosperity gospel have caused Christians throughout the world to believe that God is a great genie in the sky who supplies all of our wants and removes all of our burdens. But this is not the case. God gives us the ability to cope with our problems and to adapt our lives accordingly. He never promises to remove them; otherwise saints like Paul would never have had to live with their thorns in the flesh.
If any of us is carrying a burden in our heart or mind, and it seems like a thorn in our flesh which is always troubling us, let us take it to God. He may not remove it, but He will give each of us His strength to enable us to cope.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we all have thorns in our sides and troubles in our lives. Sometimes we just want them to go away, so that we can live our lives in peace and prosperity. Remind us that we have faith in You to help us through those times when we struggle. Grant us the courage to face our fears, and enable us to cope with the pressures we experience. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.