Paul describes the thorn as "an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated" over the revelations he had from God. Obviously then, the thorn in the flesh is not from God. Paul admits that he asked God three times to remove it. But God assured him that he was strong enough to handle it. So Paul accepts it and goes on to say, "I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints . . . ." We can imagine how Paul might respond, in weakness, to insults and persecutions, even heckling, while he is trying to preach. The types of things being said about him are listed by Paul in Acts 25: 7-8, when Paul is defending himself before Festus in Caesarea. "On Paul's arrival in court the Jews from Jerusalem gathered around, hurling many serious accusations which they couldn't prove. Paul denied the charges: 'I am not guilty,' he said. 'I have not opposed Jewish laws or desecrated the Temple or rebelled against the Roman government.'" These are three serious charges. And it is the harassment, heckling, false accusations and being followed from town-to-town that I think comprise Paul's thorn in the flesh.
For Reflection: It may be that we find people hindering us in our work or our ministry. We may have one or more people whom we consider to be our thorn in the flesh. If so, have we asked God to remove them, as Paul did? If not, this may be the next option. But if we have done so, and God has not seen fit to remove them, have we found God's grace to be sufficient?
Let us pray. God, my Father, I thank you whether you remove my thorn in the flesh or not. I know that in all cases your grace is sufficient. Like Paul, I work toward being content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints when they come about through preaching the Good News.