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. 2 Cor. 12:7 (NKJV)
Paul was experiencing a lot of revelations and encounters with the Lord, and he had a very fruitful ministry. We too have times when everything is going well, our prayers are being answered, our lives are fruitful, and it seems we “have life by the tail.” In those times it can be easy to lose sight of humility and start to think we are pretty good! The ironic result of thinking too highly of ourselves, based on our dynamic relationship with God, is that pride will cause the very thing we are proud of to come crashing down. I think this is why Paul only boasted in his weakness (2 Cor. 12:5). It was life’s challenges that caused him to lean into God’s faithfulness to get him through, that kept him relying on God.
Thorns are challenges that are like resistance training to strengthen our spiritual muscles. They also allow God to test our character under pressure, and help us see our own weakness and recognize our need for God. They are a common part of life and they are a big part of what helps us to stay humble, reliant on God, and fruitful. Boast in, rejoice in your thorns – God is working out good things in us.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecution, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:11 NKJV)