2 Corinthians 12:8-9
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Whatever it was, it was something that Paul wanted to be rid of. It hurt him somehow, this thorn of the flesh. It hindered him or limited him or got in the way somehow. But it was not God’s will to take it from him, but to enable him to live with it, to show Paul His abundant and sufficient grace through that thing he would have rather been rid of. So it was not to hurt Paul, then, but it was an opportunity for God to be glorified through it, for His strength to be upon Paul, and for Paul to understand God in a different way than he had before.
And we have this to look back on to draw strength and encouragement for ourselves that the Lord’s words to Paul apply to our thorns, too. It helps us to understand that there may be things that we want God to take away from us, but in His wisdom, He leaves them there to fulfill a better purpose in our lives. We experience God’s grace on a personal level. We are strengthened through our weakness by His power upon us. God is magnified and glorified through it all. And in the end, we come to understand the sufficiency of God and then can be examples to others of God’s grace at work.
So in a way, Paul’s struggle benefits us, too, and that seems like something he would have appreciated, giving his all as he did for the benefit of believers. It is in line with his desire to help others know Christ better and have a deepening relationship with Him. And isn’t it true that the lessons we learn from those most painful and most undesirable things in our lives can often be a huge benefit and blessing not just to us, but to those around us, too?
There is coming a day where the earth will be thornless, where all that resulted from the curse and sin will be no more. But in a way that only God can do, even those things that hurt can have a benefit and serve His purposes. Any struggle reveals our need for God, invites His grace, and then glorifies Him as He supplies our need. Those experiences offer profound evidence of the ways God will work in our lives to help us and others understand more about Him. And they encourage us to continue to look to Him each time a new thorn comes along.