Thorn in the Flesh Part 1

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (New International Version)

7To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment (KJV buffet) me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But 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. 10That 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.

 God gave unto Paul a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to buffet him.The thorn was not like a thorn on a rose bush;  it was equivalent to a big hook and was “ physical, painful and humiliating” (Vine’s Expository).  Charles Spurgeon comments that a more apt comparison is that it was not a thumbtack but a tent stake! In addition, since buffet meant to “smite” and was characterized by recurrent action, the pain was exacerbated. Yet it is the word “gave” that has special significance for it means gift. God gave unto Paul a gift. The much talked about “thorn in the flesh” was a gift from God. Did you realize that? Paul did. He did not complain about it nor surmise that it was sent in cruelty. Paul had so clear a view of the benefits which resulted from it that he regarded it as a favor. After all, he had been prepared for this from the very beginning of his walk with the Lord when Ananias was sent to him with this message:

Act 9:15-16 New Kings James Version

15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

None of us can suppose that we will be exempt from suffering. Yet we are absolutely certain that His grace will sustain us and His comfort be with us in whatever trial or suffering He allows. Paul describes the numerous hardships he endured in 2 Corinthians 11: 23 – 29: being imprisoned, beaten with rods and whips, stoned, robbed, cast at sea, etc. At the end of this staggering list of cruelties and pain, he makes the incredible statement in verse 30 that he would rather boast of “ the things that [show] my infirmity [of the things by which I am made weak ] ” (Amplified Bible)! This will be a fitting introduction to chapter twelve


Paul had just been up to the third heaven. He had seen things no man had ever seen. He had already had revelations of Jesus and of the Word of God that very few men would ever have. Yet, if you read the epistles well you realize that Paul was in great danger – because he was a sinner like everybody else – of being overcome by the sin of pride, exactly because he was so extraordinary. Therefore, immediately after he has this unbelievable third-heaven experience, God “gifts” him with a thorn in the flesh – for his own protection. Eventually, Paul, surrendering to the Lord, receives it as it was meant – as a gift. He realizes that God has far greater blessings in mind than simply healing Paul. He wants to conform him to the image of His Son. Is it worth it to Paul to go through all this? He thought so:

I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That 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.

God – as it says in James chapter 1 – has given Paul wisdom to see why he should count it all joy when he goes through times of suffering. How else can the fruits of the Spirit be formed in him?

God has been more than “fair” – He has given Paul so much more than Paul has lost. Yes, he’s lost his health; but, he’s gained God’s power and wisdom. The victor here is Paul: what he’s lost is physical; what he’s gained is spiritual and heavenly.

Paul recognized that the design of this thorn in the flesh was to keep him humble. He knew Who was responsible for it. Though it was a “messenger of Satan” it was not to Satan that he went for its removal – it was to God. (This same principle is seen in Job). Paul was allowed to ask three times for its removal. This three-time asking is reminiscent of Jesus asking the Father three times in the Garden of Gethsemane to let the cup pass away from Him.

We are allowed to ask for the removal of the trial. James 5:16 assures us that “the fervent, effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Yet, Paul’s prayer was not answered as he first wished it would be. When that happens to us, it is essential to remember that the Lord will, instead, grant the grace that is needed to endure. In both cases, after asking, both Jesus and Paul submitted to the will of the Father. Yes, He is the Lord Who heals, but He is also the Lord Who provides grace and provision in time of need. Additionally, His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Romans 4:17 states that God knows the future with as much certainty as if it were already past. You may not be agreeable to what is happening to you at this point in time, but if God knows that these present circumstances will produce fruit and character that He will use for the future then wisdom would decree that you be like Paul and Jesus – “Father, not my will but Yours be done.” Jesus said that “for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). Only the Father knows the future joy that will eventually come from this present suffering.

When he asked for its removal, Paul was given wisdom. He saw how much he needed this thorn in the flesh and actually rejoiced in it because he recognized that his weakness gave room for the Lord’s strength and glory to be made manifest. God turned this hindrance around and made it a great help in Paul’s life.


Have you ever noticed the amount of fruit that comes out of a life surrendered to the Lord, especially in times of difficulty? Use olives as an analogy. Olives need to be put in a press to extract the oil. Pressure is not a pleasant word nor is it something pleasant to endure. Jesus surrendered to the Father’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane. The name Gethsemane itself means oil press. Pressure had to be applied to Jesus so that the final oil that would bless His people through all these generations would be released. Incredible pressure. According to Unger’s Bible Dictionary:

The oil press was the best way to collect the oil. It was loaded with wood or stones…The oil was a fitting symbol of the Spirit or the spiritual principle of life. [The oil] was used for medicinal purposes (ed. In ministering to others in their times of need). The anointing oil was prepared according to Divine instructions.

God’s purposes in His use of the oil press are of the highest order. Notice also the company of those who have been asked to submit to this oil press – Jesus and “the few that would find [the narrow way].”  Ps 16:3 (TLB) states: “The company of the godly men and women in the land; these are the true nobility.”

There’s an old saying – misery loves company. Going through an oil press can be quite miserable. But look at the company we get to be in.

I was talking with two of my grandchildren one day about trials and suffering and decided to use the story of the piece of coal turning into a diamond to illustrate. A piece of coal is dirty and quite ugly and surely is not something we would care to be associated with. Ah, but put that piece of coal under the right amount of pressure and that black, dirty, ugly thing becomes… a diamond! We talked about them becoming diamonds and how there was only one way to do it – they needed to put themselves in the Hands of Someone who would put just the right amount of pressure on them, at just the right times, in just the right places. Trials and suffering are very good pressures. The word “narrow” literally means “compressed, a path of pressure and difficulty.” It’s no wonder few there be that find and stay on the narrow road.

One more interesting thought for you: the moon is dead and lifeless; pitted and scarred, having been bombarded by numerous meteorites and other objects in space. In other words, the moon has been under attack by trials and tribulations. Still it reflects the light of the sun. We are like the moon – scarred, pitted, bombarded by years and years of trials and tribulations with no real life of our own to give. Yet we shine with the light of His reflected glory. It is enough. More than enough.

2 Corinthians 12:7 (New International Version)

7To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment (KJV buffet) me.


To pressure, to buffet. The word buffet means to torment, to maltreat, to smite with the hand. I look at that and remember that the soldiers repeatedly smote Jesus with their hands on His way to be crucified. It hurt, horribly. Many of the Lord’s people go through unrelenting pain. I know the torment He endured comforts them when they are tormented. He has known their pain and is there with them in it. Our times of  pain and trouble are meant to train us to be comforters just as He is

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.

One very important principle I have learned is that trials and suffering are much more bearable if someone (Someone) is holding your hand as you go through these trials. My daughter has taught me that a burden is easier to bear when others bear it with you.

Works Cited: