Thorns in the flesh

Have you ever encountered someone who has a sickness or physical impairment, and who thinks that God gave it to them to teach them something? There’s a passage of scripture in 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul refers to a “thorn in his flesh” that was given to him to keep him humble. Some people have taken this verse to mean that God sometimes puts a sickness on us to teach us a lesson. Just recently, I met a lady who was wearing hearing aids and she asked me to pray for her ears. She was advanced in years, so most people would just assume the hearing loss was a result of her age. But she told me that she believed God was punishing her for something, and that’s why she lost part of her hearing. I didn’t let her go any further, and led her through a quick prayer of renouncing the lie she had believed. Eighty percent of here hearing was restored after she renounced the lie. God wasn’t trying to punish her, and as soon as she stopped believing that, she received most of here hearing back!

I never really agreed with this “God made me sick” theology because the idea of God making someone sick to teach them a lesson stands in stark contrast with all the other scripture that talks about God being our healer. Something clicked for me when I came across this verse again this past week. Holy Spirit reminded me about the times an evil spirit was sent by God to Ahab and Saul in the Old Testament (you can read those stories in 1 Kings 22 and 1 Samuel 19) in order to bring about a specific result. Evil spirits are subject to God’s commands just like any other created being. Just because they rebelled against God doesn’t mean they get to ignore him. God maintains the authority to use them to bring about his purposes.

In Paul’s case, I have come to believe that there was an evil spirit constantly reminding him of his past. Here’s a guy who was used by God to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, and perform many miracles. And yet, he had a past that most people would think disqualified him from ever being used by God. If any of us spend enough time thinking about our past mistakes, I am sure we can all make a list of reasons why God should never use us. And I imagine Paul probably thought about this as well. But then, there was this “thorn” which I don’t think was a physical ailment, but an actual spirit coming to remind him of his past failures. Paul refers to this thorn as a “messenger of satan” that was sent to torment him. Did God send this spirit to perform this action? We don’t know, but in Paul’s case, these reminders served the purpose to keep him humble.
If you have been battling a sickness, don’t believe the lie that God gave it to you. Trust in him to bring the healing you need.

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