What’s Your Thorn in the Flesh?

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Default image

Failure comes in many forms—some easier to deal with than others. You take on a challenge at work that turns out to be too much for you to handle. Though your business plan looks good, things do not work out as you expected. Failures of this sort are disappointing and stressful. They result from circumstances beyond our control. But we learn from experience and move on. Often we learn to recognize the hand of God in these discouraging circumstances.

Other kinds of failure are more difficult to handle. Often our own mistakes cause us to fail. Sometimes failure becomes familiar to us. We fail at work in the same way that we fail in a marriage. Patterns of failure can reveal habits that we do not like to admit to ourselves.

We often think that no one understands these weaknesses. We look around and see our friends sailing through life. Their marriages always seem to work, their kids turn out well, and they always get the promotion. No one else seems to have the difficulties and struggles that we have!

But apparently the Apostle Paul would understand these feelings very well. He even reached the point of saying, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom. 7:15). Sound familiar? In 1 Corinthians 12:7, Paul explains that his struggle is like a thorn in the flesh. He does not give us any details. But perhaps this is a good thing—we can read Paul’s struggle in terms of our own particular temptations, our repeated weaknesses.

For Paul the important thing is not our weakness, but our response to weakness. The proper response is not denial, but realism and faith. Paul knows himself: “With my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin” (Rom. 7:25).

But that is not the end of the matter.

For the next chapter explains the secret of liberation from the weaknesses of sin. Paul says, there is no condemnation for those who believe in Christ. “For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” (8:2). Christ frees us from the sinful law that works in our bodies.

And he sets us free in two ways. First, God gives us the Spirit who works and prays for us and will eventually liberate us from these besetting failures: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness” (8:26). Second, being in Christ means nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (8:39). Neither anything we do nor anything that happens to us. This was Paul’s response to failure.

It can be ours as well.