An archaeologist got lost in the jungle. Knowing the danger, he prayed earnestly for God's protection. Falling from a cliff, clusters of plant thorns painfully pierced his feet cutting one of his toes. He got so upset. Later, a tribal group captured him and decided to make him as a burnt offering. After much ceremonial inspection, they decided to let him go because his body did not passed the tribal requirement of a perfect sacrifice-simply because he is missing one toe!
To keep Paul from pride (because of the magnificence of the revelation he received), he was give a "thorn." Some scholars assumed that it must be a physical illness while other says it's the endless persecution from the Judaizers. Whatever it was, he sought the Lord 3 times to take it away. But God constantly responded, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians12: 9).
Thorns come in many forms: sickness, rejection, financial problem, broken relationship, weakness, or failure (or you can fill in the blank). We tried, we exorcised, and we prayed. Many are loosen, some are solved, but the thorns remain. We ask why. But sometimes, heaven is silent.
I also will not dare give an answer. But one thing I know, thorns are excellent teachers. Embarrassment teaches us humility. Weakness teaches us to ask for help. Failure helps us see a far better strategy. Hurt teaches us to appreciate the healing power of God's grace. And maybe thorns are still there, because the intended lessons are not yet learned...or not yet over.
Or maybe, just maybe, "a missing toe" is God's answer of protecting us from danger (just like in the story).
Can we now say with Paul, "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (12:10).
The Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference