And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations a thorn in the flesh was given to me a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest be exalted above measure» (2 Corinthians 12:7)
A stinger is a sharp organ located at the back of animals like the bee, wasp or scorpion. It is connected to a gland that secretes a small dose of venom that produces intense pain in the area where the insect has stung. After the pain comes the itch. The area becomes red and swollen after a few hours. The symptoms last for a few days. If the person is allergic to these stings, the consequences are very serious and can include cough, hives, difficulty breathing, and even loss of consciousness. If it is a bee sting, the bee leaves the stinger in the skin which prolongs and complicates symptoms if it’s not removed.
The apostle Paul expresses the risk of being praised and exalted. That’s why God did not remove that thorn (vv. 7—9). The Bible did not reveal the nature of the sting. Undoubtedly, it must have been a painful experience, long and uncomfortable and of a physical or mental nature.
The example of the stinger is a good one to help us understand Paul’s experience. His background and the environment which he lived in helped him go through the pain in his life. As a Jew, he could claim to be a perfect religious person: circumcised on the eighth day, of Israel descent, from the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee, blameless in terms of the Law and even a persecutor of Christians (Phil. 3:5, 6). As an apostle, he could fairly boast about the «medals» he obtained in the battles of faith: stripes, labours, imprisonments, life-threatening situation in all sorts of places, stoning, shipwreck, days of sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, cold and nakedness, besides the emotional burden produced by the churches. But the apostle did not want to boast in these things; rather he considered them weaknesses and loss in comparison to gaining Christ (2 Cor. 11:21-33).
Paul acknowledges that the Lord did not answer his prayers by freeing him from the sting because the discomfort served as a protection against vanity («so that I would not be exalted»). For King David, the affliction and pain helped him get back on the right track, «Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word» (Ps. 119:67).
Maybe God is allowing pain in your life to correct some character flaw. If this is your case, hold on as Paul and King David did, not of your strength, but through the miraculous influence of the Creator who is within you.