A thorn sticking into one’s flesh is a might uncomfortable. I just imagine in my childhood exploring days on my Grandparent’s farm that I encountered enough thorns that I learned to be wary of thornbushes. There are thorns on bushes and then there are thorns we encounter in our lives. Apostle Paul knew a lot about thorns. He had one according to 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:
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.
Paul didn’t say what the thorn was and so no one knows for sure the name of it. The important thing isn’t what it was but how Paul chose to cope with it. First off, he prayed about it. Then, he continued praying about that thorn until an answer came. The answer wasn’t what he had hoped himself. The Lord did not remove it. Paul accepted the answer without throwing a tantrum or cutting back on his mission trips to spread the Gospel.
Instead of removing whatever the thorn was, the Lord granted Paul the grace and strength to live with it. Paul has a positive attitude by seeing this thorn in a different light. Instead of seeing it as a roadblock; he saw it as something that humbled him and helped to make him a better Apostle than he might otherwise be. In other words, it helped him from getting a swelled head over the talents the Lord did bless him with.
This thought of a thorn being a humbler makes me think of one of my country’s presidents. He wasn’t one of those born in a log cabin. Quite the contrary! He was born into wealth and privilege. Even early in his career, he had his eyes on the presidency. But on his road to the White House, he encountered a thorn in his flesh that would remain with him for the remainder of his life. Its name was polio.
An unforgettable day for Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was when he couldn’t get out of bed on his own two feet. From then on, his legs would be useless to him. I don’t think FDR would have been the president he was if he hadn’t been humbled by this thorn in his flesh. I think his battle with polio inspired him to say one of his most familiar and quoted lines: There is nothing to fear but fear itself. FDR knew about fear; he knew about thorns.
He led a country through a depression and a world war. He served in the Oval Office longer than his president before or after him. But although the leader of the free world, he still had to have someone to put him to bed every night and help him up the next morning.
We all have thorns to deal with on any given day. I discovered near the end of 2016, at the age of 58, the name of the thorn I had unknowingly lived with all my life: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Some call it Autism, others call it mild Autism, or highly functional Autism, or Asperger’s Syndrome. My trying to figure out which of the names suits me best is as useful as trying to figure out what Paul’s thorn was.
I perceive the negatives of ASD are the actual thorns. I say that because there are positives to my constant companion. I source my passion for writing as an ASD trait. I appreciate the compliments I received from my God-given talent of writing. But I know that if I ever were to leave the Lord out of my writing, my words would fall on deaf ears. I often think of myself as merely taking dictation. The Lord gives me the words.
I don’t pray for the Lord to remove my thorn. I’m thankful that at the right time, place, and way I received the knowledge of what this thorn was called. I cope with it better now that I am no longer in the dark about it. My thorn gives me empathy on my job as a substitute teacher’s assistant working with children who have similar thorns.
If it wasn’t for my thorns, I reckon I’d need many servings of humble pie.