In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul shares about his “thorn in the flesh.” Theologians have tried to determine what that “thorn” was for centuries. Other than what we learn from Scripture, that he felt it was to keep him from pride, we don’t know that much.
We do know that Paul repeatedly asked God to remove this affliction, but God simply reassured him: “My Grace is sufficient.”
I am Paul. I have a thorn too. It’s called anxiety. Now, I am well aware that bi-polar disorder and depression are issues in my family. I get the science. I also know that my childhood was particularly anxiety-triggering, so I get the psychology.
Several years back, I spent about three months on an antidepressant, and twice in my life I’ve had to keep anti-anxiety medication at hand for those times when it got out of control. As a Christian, I hate this. Like Paul, I feel like I should be able to pray the right prayer or quote the right Scripture and it be gone forever, but I’ve learned it doesn’t always work that way.
“My Grace is sufficient,” God said…and still says. The Word also says, in 2 Corinthians 9:8, that God will cause all grace to abound towards me so that I will have every sufficiency for every good work. And this “every good work” may well be the key.
I heard something the other day that struck me: “Good lumber doesn’t come with ease. The stronger the wind the stronger the trees.” Hearing that woke me up, in a sense. It’s the battles that make us stronger. Paul was a mighty man of God, strong and fearless. Why? Because he’d fought many battles – and won many battles. I think that thorn in the flesh, or rather his ongoing war with it, helped keep him spiritually strong.
And I think the same thing is true about me. Like Paul’s thorn, the anxiety is an almost ever-present thing. I’m constantly at war with it, fighting and winning most of my battles, and losing a few. It’s intentionally, purposefully, faithfully fighting those battles that helps me grow stronger spiritually.
Knowing that I deal with this, and must DEAL with it rather than whine about or ignore it, keeps me aware of the importance of not letting my guard down, of staying vigilant and being careful to properly tend to both body and spirit.
Do I like waging a constant battle with it? Not on your life. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. What I do appreciate, however, is the way God uses something that originated in the pits of hell to help me become stronger in so many ways.
God’s grace is sufficient.