Paul wrote to the Corinthians to tell them about the thorn in his flesh: “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 my from becoming conceited” (2 Cor. 12:7). Paul twice mentions not becoming conceited, or wrapped up in himself. This was why the messenger of Satan was harassing Paul.
Paul response was to beg God to remove this thorn: “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'” (vs. 8, 9). Grace means a gift, or having favor towards someone. It’s a leaning in to someone because you care about them.
We may never know exactly why God didn’t remove this “thorn” from Paul, but we know that God allowed Paul to be harassed by Satan and that God’s favor rested on Paul regardless of this harassment. It’s a reminder of the power of God’s grace in our times of weakness. God’s grace is abundant, and is sufficient!
Paul’s vision and his thorn are a great reminder that there can be a great tension between surpassing greatness and agony. Paul describes a vision he had 14 years prior, though he refers to himself as “a man in Christ.” He’s clearly distancing himself from the vision of heaven, which we doesn’t know whether was “in the body or out of the body” (2 Cor. 12:2,3). Paul was not going to boast of this experience “so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me” (vs. 6).
Then Paul argues, “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” (vs. 7). Three times Paul begged for the thorn to be removed, but God answered, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (vs. 9).
We don’t know for sure what the thorn in the flesh was, but it’s possible it refers to his persecutions. Whatever it was, Paul was willing to boast about his weaknesses because the power of Christ “rests upon me” when Paul is weak. As Christians, we should be equipped to endure weakness. In fact, Paul embraced his weakness as a thing that brings about Christ’s power.