Perhaps you remember these words of Paul from his second letter to the church at Corinth …
Though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a THORN was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in WEAKNESS.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my WEAKNESSES, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with WEAKNESSES, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:6-10 (ESV)
Four key things I get out of this
- Paul was given a thorn in the flesh … that thorn and the pain inflicted by it reminded Paul of his weakness – we really have no insight into what that thorn or weakness was for Paul.
- Paul pleaded with the Lord three times that is should leave him … I am unclear as to whether Paul was asking for the thorn to be removed, the weakness to be removed or both to be removed.
For the sake of this post I am going with both.
- But the Lord said ‘No’ to Paul. The Lord also added, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
- Paul’s response to the Lord’s answer, he would embrace and boast in his weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon him. For the sake of Christ, he would be content in his weaknesses.
I have spent much contemplation time in this passage of Scripture since my surgery and subsequent cancer diagnosis nearly 15 months ago. I find both guidance and great encouragement in the midst of it.
To me the prick of a thorn would tend to remind me of a weakness I already have within my flesh … the thorn itself does not seem to be the weakness … just a tool of Satan to remind one of their weaknesses. For example, a prick of a thorn might remind you of your low tolerance for pain or perhaps a prick of a thorn might remind you of your queasiness at the sight of blood – of course those examples are taking the thorn-weaknesses example literally. And more than likely, Paul was writing of the two from a symbolic viewpoint.
Also, the weakness may be something you barely think of or are rarely aware of unless the thorn is being used to remind you of it.
So let me take a shot at applying the lessons learned from Paul to my own situation.
For me, the weakness would be cancer. In the last 15 months I have experienced no side effect of cancer that would remind me of its presence. The lone exception to that might be that I now live with a colostomy bag as a result of the surgery … but that is simply a reminder, not a thorn. (For all of you who might be saying I could never live with a colostomy bag, pre-surgery I would have been counted among your ranks. Post-surgery there are no choices … and IN Christ Jesus it has simply become a part of life … a non-issue. Enough said.)
Also for me, the thorn would then be the chemotherapy. Apart from the chemotherapy, it would be real easy for me to forget about the colon cancer. But with a bi-weekly infusion of chemotherapy drugs and the subsequent side effects, I am constantly reminded that I have Stage IV metastatic colon cancer that is incurable (doctor’s prognosis – with God, anything is curable) and I am in a fight of my life.
And yes, we have prayed that the cancer would be totally removed from my body. And while the cancer nodules on my lungs are shrinking and diminishing in density … praise the Lord … the cancer is still present.
Over the last 15 months by His grace the Lord has repeatedly shown that His power IS made perfect in my weakness … through my cancer. And the testimony He gives through me in the midst is so much more powerful than anything I have experienced in the prior 58 years of my life … and absolutely nothing in that testimony is a result of anything I have done or am doing.
It’s all about Jesus – the author and perfector of faith!
ALL PRAISE, HONOR and GLORY to ALMIGHTY GOD!
Thank you Jesus!