Posted by: pmarkrobb | September 30, 2015

the thorn is not the thing

There is one question (or curiosity) I hear time and time again when discussions center on the Apostle Paul … what was his thorn?  I would so love to know.  It would likely be the first thing I would ask Paul if I had the chance in this life (I’m pretty sure I won’t care in the next — I’ll be too consumed with Jesus).  I wonder if I share Paul’s thorn.  I wonder if he could tell the story of it, whether it would translate into change in my own journey.

As my mind began walking that path, I paused to re-read the full passage of scripture where Paul mentions his thorn.  And as so often happens when I read the words of Scripture, I saw something different from “the thing” my mind was focused on.  In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul tells the story of the vision he had during his miraculous conversion and his deliberate decision not to boast about it or what he saw.  But rather than the thorn I was fixed on, I saw a far more important truth.  Let’s read together…

This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell. That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:1-10 (NLT)

The thorn is not “the thing”.  The thorn is not the thing. (repeated for emphasis)

My curiosity about the thorn all at once seemed insignificant.  It was as if the Spirit was behind me, placing a hand on each side of my head, pointing my gaze to the word which was the real point.  “Weakness” not “thorn” is the life-changing truth.  I read this sentence again:

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

Paul pleads three different times for the thorn to be removed.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

How many times have I wished I knew Paul’s thorn?  How many times have I missed the life-changing truth?  God knows our nature.  He knows that victorious living so often leads to our taking ownership of the victories.  But even truer is that our thorns and our suffering produce something of eternal value in our lives.  God does not allow thorns, insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles to teach us that life is hard; He allows and uses them so that His power can be enjoyed and displayed through us.  If success was all that you experienced in this life, would you be mindful of Him every moment of the day?  Would you grow to know Him more?  How could you possibly know the first thing of Christ’s suffering if you did not also share in it?  I can assure you that Paul knew.  He knew because he experienced intense trouble and suffering in his life.  Read the list he recounts in 2 Corinthians 11:24-33 if you’re curious or need a refresher.

Weakness is the thing — our weakness is the thing – not Paul’s or my, or your thorn.  Thank Him for your thorn, and stop wishing and pleading for it to be removed.  Thank Him for the grace, and watch His power work best in your weakness.



  1. We must come weak and helpless. Because we will never understand that He is all we need until we know at our core that He is we really have. Prayer only makes sense if we understand this.

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