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. –2 Corinthians 12:7 A thorn in the flesh is not the same for every person. But if you are a Christian worth your salt, you probably have a thorn in the flesh. What may be your may not be mine. What may be mine may not be yours. For some it is a handicap or disability. For some it could be unhappy employment–or even lack of employment. It could be an enemy. It could be coping with unhappy living conditions. It could be a sexual misgiving. The list is endless.
The “thorn” may be recognizable to you but unseen by others. God may afflict you with some sort of impediment–by which you may feel He has stripped you of all self-esteem–but this could be utterly unrecognizable to anybody else. Why? Because this “thorn” is for you more than it is for them. Or it may be for them indirectly. It may be so embarrassing and humbling to you that it will make you a different person, such that others will not have an inflated opinion of you. But it is mainly for you–to keep you humble. Certainly it may end up being for others in the sense that they unwittingly do not extol you as they might otherwise have done. This is why Paul’s thorn kept him from being conceited; it kept others from exalting him beyond that which was warranted. But Paul’s thorn was mainly for him, and yours is mainly for you.
It is one that is not likely to go away very soon, if ever. You will ask, “Do I have to bear this forever?” Maybe not, but you could. You are probably, though, going to have it for a while. Paul said, “I prayed three times that it might go away.” It’s like a prison sentence. It may be a life sentence, or it may be a short period of time. Paul’s thorn apparently remained. In other words, it will stay with you as long as you need it.
Excerpted from The Thorn in the Flesh (Charisma House, 2004).