2 Corinthians 12:7-10, "...Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Two years ago, Chris Downey had just started a promising architectural job at a successful design firm. A few weeks after he took the job, he noticed that there was something wrong with his vision. The doctors told him he had a tumor wrapped around his optic nerve, which required immediate surgery. After the surgery he could see with blurred sight; five days later everything went dark. Downey had become permanently blind.
Downey tried to maintain his architectural work, but he couldn't read the plans or use the design software. Initially, Downey's limitations jeopardized his job, until he found a blind computer scientist who had devised a way to read tactile architectural plans. Much to his surprise Downey discovered that his blindness actually gave him a unique way to "observe" interior spaces—not with his eyes, but with his fingers. As one of the company vice presidents would later say, "At first I thought, Okay, this is going to be a limitation. But then I realized that the way he reads drawings is … the way we experience space."
Downey is now able to use his fingers to "walk" through a space and "view" it from a different (and sometimes a better) perspective. Due to his blindness, he can also envision new possibilities for the creative use of space. As a result, his limitations, or weaknesses, have become gifts and strengths—not only for himself, but also for his community. [Douglas McGray, "Design Within Reach," The Atlantic (October 2010)]
The Apostle Paul says he was given a thorn in his flesh. We don't know what that thorn was. Some of the more popular theories of the thorn’s interpretation include temptation, a chronic eye problem, malaria, migraines, epilepsy, and a speech disability. Some even say that the thorn refers to a person, such as Alexander the coppersmith, who did Paul “a great deal of harm” (2 Timothy 4:14). No one can say for sure what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, but it was a source of real pain in the apostle’s life.
Paul clues us in concerning the thorn’s purpose: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations.” So, God’s goal in allowing the thorn in the flesh was to keep Paul humble. Anyone who had encountered Jesus and was commissioned personally by Him (Acts 9:2-8) would, in his natural state, become “puffed up.” Add to that the fact that Paul was moved by the Holy Spirit to write much of the New Testament, and it is easy to see how Paul could become “haughty” (KJV) or “exalted above measure” (NKJV) or “too proud” (NCV).
But regardless of what the thorn was the result was this: Christ's power rested on Paul. Due to the weakness God's strength was made manifest in Paul. This way Paul's accomplishments can be clearly seen as God's.
God takes our weaknesses and makes them strengths. By his all-sufficent grace God lends us his divine power to compensate for our weakness. So, we can rejoice when we are weak, enduring hardships, brought low, struggling and suffering because this condition is an invitation for God to enter into us with his divine power and show his glory through us.
Just like Paul's thorn, I do not know what your "thorn in the flesh" might be. But I do know the reason for it is to keep you humble, God-dependent, fully in God's all-sufficent grace so that the glory of God might be revealed in you. For it is when you are weak that God can show you what real strength is, his strength. It is when you are weak that you can be strong.
Prayer: Our Father, we rejoice in our weakness because we know it can show us and others how you are working in our lives and what it means to have God given strength. It is by your grace that our weaknesses are made strengths. We know that if there is anything good in us or about us, if we accomplish any great achievement for you, we can only point to you as the Giver and give you praise, glory and honor. May you be seen in our weaknesses today. In Jesus name, amen.