Let’s look at this passage of scripture together.
7 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. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
What was Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh?First of all, it is important to point out that the “thorn in the flesh” Paul was referring to was not a physical illness. This was a phrase that was used to describe something that was a constant irritation and annoyance. Other scriptures verify this interpretation of the phrase “thorn in the flesh” (Numbers 33:55, Joshua 23:13, Ezekiel 28:24). Many Bible teachers believe Paul was referring to the persecution he experienced as a result of his ministry.
It doesn’t make much sense to assume that Paul was referring to having a physical illness. Read this account of Paul being stoned in Acts 14:19-22:
19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
After Paul was stoned (we believe he probably was stoned to death), he received prayer and was completely healed! We know this because it says that the next day he went on to Derbe, which was sixty miles away! A man who was dealing with the aftermath of a stoning would not have been able to walk, let alone walk 60 miles to the next place of ministry.
Did God Ignore Paul’s Prayers?Concerning Paul’s thorn in the flesh, he pleaded with God three times to take it from him. Did God just ignore the fact that Paul was crying out to him for help? No, God in fact did answer Paul. He said, ““My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
God wasn’t ignoring Paul’s pleas for help; He was telling Paul, “I’ve already given you everything you need to come out victoriously from this situation. My grace is My power given to you in the middle of your weakness. When you are weak on your own, I am strong in you! So, stop whining, stand up and use the weapons and power I have provided to you!”
It was at this point that Paul’s attitude changed. He no longer complained to God about his situation. Paul realized that when trials came his way, they were simply an opportunity for God’s power to be strong in his life! He learned to boast in his own weaknesses with the realization that even in the weakness of his flesh, the grace-supplied power of God on the inside of him enabled him to live in peace, joy, and victory.
See, without the grace of God, we are unable to live victoriously in this life. However, we are not without His grace! His grace is what enables us to overcome any obstacle we may face. We have already been given everything we need to live in victory! It doesn’t matter what may come against us, we are more than conquerors.
Romans 8:37 – “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”