In the previous chapter, Paul gave quite a list of difficulties he had experienced as a servant of Christ. But, rather than whining about them because God owed him a bed of roses, he seemed to embrace them, even boasting in them. From that chapter, we pointed out that adversity is often part of the will of God for us. We can accept that, knowing that He loves us infinitely.
Still, there was yet one thing that didn’t make Paul’s list in the eleventh chapter. It sees set apart as if it hit deeper, hurt more, and held a different purpose. We cannot be 100% certain of its exact nature. Paul only describes it as a “thorn in the flesh.” It was Satan’s little messenger to him. It harassed him, perhaps causing him relentless discomfort.
About this particularly burdensome malady Paul prayed. There was apparently no response. He prayed a second time. Again, the thorn seemed unchanged and heaven remained silent. Have you ever experienced the silence of heaven? You are calling, but no one is picking up. Perhaps you don’t even sense the reassuring voicemail that promises, “. . . I’ll get back with you, as soon as I can . . .”
And then, Paul prayed a third time. This time, a response came. It wasn’t the one for which Paul had prayed. Nope, the thorn was still there. But, neither was it a hardened, “Quit complaining and deal with it!” Instead, it was a statement that reassured him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Sufficient grace. Perfecting power.
Was that a promise unique to this single thorn of the apostle Paul? Paul certainly didn’t interpret it that way. In the next two verses, he is quick to apply it to every adversity he faced. He was comforted in knowing that, though God’s will may take him down a path other than he would prefer, still, at his greatest point of weakness, there would be divine strength.
And that same strength-giving grace is available to you when God allows you to go down a path you would not plan for yourself.