«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 I be exalted above measure» (2 Corinthians 12:7).
CORINTH WAS a commercial city with two ports. It had eight hundred thousands in habitants and was cosmopolitan and wealthy. It was a stopping point, a place which through everything and everyone passed. It was the New York of that time. There was religious diversity and syncretism in Corinth. Temples abounded for dozens of gods, including Dionysus, Diana, Jupiter, Zeus, and Aphrodite or Venus, the goddess of love.
God planted a church in this promiscuous and immoral city. It was supposed to go out to the world, but the world was encroaching upon it, and grievous sins were finding their way inside. Paul wanted to bring the church completely to Christ and His Word.
He told them about an extraordinary experience: he had been carried up to the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2—4). Then he descended back to the earth having no arrogance, only humility.
He still had a thorn in his flesh—a stabbing, piercing splinter that he attributed to a messenger of Satan. The enemy’s purpose was to annoy him and hinder his work Christ purpose in allowing the affliction was to protect him from pride (vv. 5—11). The apostle spoke about sublime things and about heaven, but sometimes we want to know what the thorn in his flesh was.
What was the apostle’s thorn? Problems with his eyes? Myopia, astigmatism… perhaps something more serious, like glaucoma? We do not exactly, but the fact is that he cried out for healing, and the Lord said, «My grace is sufficient for you» (v. 9).
That painful and bothersome thorn was not going to prevent him from preaching Paul continued to prepare souls for heaven. Many overlook their own thorns and delight in seeing those of others and exposing them to everyone, including on social media. Instead of evangelizing with heaven, they spread worldliness with the thorns.
Paul cried out for a cure, but God knew that the best remedy was to leave the thorn in him because that would make him stronger and more dependent. There was place for Paul to criticize; he had to preach. There was no room for murmuring; had to worship. The Lord did not take out his thorn, but He filled him with His grace And that was more than enough.
In 1986, a large wave capsized Edward Shiflett’s vessel in the Gulf of Mexico. In spite of that, he managed to hold onto a floating seat cushion that helped with buoyancy. Two days later he was saved by a man boating with his family. He was calm, with his torso lying on the cushion and one of his legs resting on the other… a wooden orthopedic leg. He had lost his leg in a car accident some years before and always referred to artificial leg as «a bad leg,» but now it had become his life raft.