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It is believed that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was bodily, not spiritual or mental. It was apparently something prominent, which caused him considerable discomfort and inconvenience. It was evidently some affliction that affected his eyes as seen from his words: “Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me” (Gal. 4:13–15).
Another reference that may point to Paul‘s thorn in the eyes is found in Galatians “Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand” (Galatians 6:11). Some have suggested that his poor penmanship was because of his poor vision. The affliction was of Satan, but permitted by God. Thus, it was with Job (Job 1:6–12; 2:7; Luke 13:16). It is of Satan’s nature and work to inflict bodily suffering and disease.
On three particular occasions Paul had pleaded with God to remove this distressing thorn. But when the answer was denied, he accepted it as the will of God for him. The Lord did not remove the thorn of Paul, but He did provide him with grace to endure it. Paul doubtless appealed for deliverance from his thorn on the basis that it was a hindrance to his ministry. Christ more than meets his need with an abundant provision of grace.
The Lord has never promised to alter circumstances or release men from trouble. To Him, bodily infirmities and difficult circumstances are matters of secondary concern. Inward strength to endure is a far higher manifestation of the divine grace than mastery of the outward difficulties of life. Outwardly a man may be torn, worn, wearied, and almost broken, yet inwardly it is his privilege—in Christ—to enjoy perfect peace (Isa. 26:3, 4).
In His service,