I’m just naturally inquisitive and so when I first read this scripture, many years ago, I wanted to know what that thorn was. I guess I am not alone in wondering about that. However, as I read on, I had an idea about what it could be. Now, my husband says I have a theory for everything (I think he’s sceptical of some of them), but surely you have to think about it and for me, maybe because something occurred to me from my own personal experience, I formed an idea. Today, I’m putting forward my suggestion for your consideration. Of course I may be quite wrong!
I noticed that at the end of many of Paul’s epistles he makes a point of saying that he has written a greeting in, or with, his own hand. Now Paul was a highly educated man and presumably well able to write his own letters, and although he may have had a scribe working for him, somehow I felt he seemed to want the recipients to take note of this point. Surely they would expect him to be able to write for himself so why draw attention to this bit of personal work.
Then I found Galations 6:11, where, Paul says ‘see with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand?’ The word used for letters means the actual characters used to write the words. Some have suggested that his hands were weak from the difficulties of his life, but why would he write in large (the word can also mean shapeless) letters? The answer seemed obvious to me, because he struggled to see clearly to write. Could this be Paul’s thorn? Could it be that his eyes were failing him in his later years?
There is no doubt this would be a real challenge for Paul, who spent much of his time communicating by letter to his beloved churches. His ability to write, as and when he wanted, was a vital part of his ministry, even from prison. Added to this, his increasing need of support in many ways, if he had deteriorating eyesight, would indeed be an ongoing humbling experience, as Paul suggests was God’s intention for the ‘thorn’.
Just to add a little more weight to my ‘theory’, we could look at Galations 4:13-15.
‘You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me’.
Is Paul just using this as a figure of speech to illustrate their generosity, or did he say this because good eyes were his real need? We may never know what Paul’s ‘thorn’ really was, but maybe my idea could be right. I rest the case for my theory, now you can decide for yourself.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are so blessed to have such rich teaching in every part of the Scriptures. We thank You for Paul, who, despite his many terrible trials, continued to bless and encourage the early Church through epistles that speak to us today. Paul’s ‘thorn’ is an apt reminder for each of us that whatever gifting You have bestowed on us, what You desire above all, is that we stay humbly surrendered to Your Lordship. Amen.
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