The Apostle Paul (in 2 Corinthians 12:1-6) writes of an amazing, spiritual experience he had during which he learned “…inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.” It was a high privilege indeed to see and hear what he did. Father God Who anticipates so well all our needs knew that Paul would need some added balance in his life following this experience. He “gave” Paul something. It was a gift Paul would never have willingly chosen. The gift was described by Paul as “a thorn in my flesh.”
Paul assigns a reason for the giving of this gift. He said it was given to him to keep him from becoming conceited over the exceptional revelations he had received in the “third heaven.” And the gift, though looked at from one angle as “a messenger from Satan,” was actually from God! The purpose behind it was to provide balance for Paul.
It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of balance in life. Perhaps many of us have had the experience of driving a vehicle with a tire that was out of balance. It adversely affects one’s go-power. God made the light to balance the dark. As the Oak Ridge Boys sang, “Where the sun always shines, there’s a desert below. It takes a little rain to make things grow.” We wouldn’t so much appreciate rest without work. If our inner ear doesn’t function normally we find it difficult to walk. If our diet isn’t balanced our energy suffers. On and on go the illustrations.
We learn from the Bible that if we want to be patient people, we must endure suffering/trial. If we want maturity, we must hold still for discipline. If we want to know, we must sit still for the learning and the application. And so God worked to keep His apostle, Paul, humble, amidst the great revelations, the exciting successes and the esteem in which he was held by many Christians who owed him so much.
We do not know what form Paul’s thorn took? But we know it bothered him a great deal…enough that he pleaded three times for the Lord to take it away. Our Lord doesn’t make pets of His people. Paul’s requests were denied but his needs were fulfilled. The Lord poured out sufficient grace on him as he continued his kingdom work, now with a thorn in his flesh as a constant companion. But there was Another Companion, the Lord Himself Who always stood by Paul enabling him to lean on Him and keep his balance spiritually. Will we trust Him to do the same for us?