Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12, "Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."
I am not sure I understand this passage, but I do understand having a thorn in the flesh that I cannot remove. And God allows for that in His goodness. Despite the pain. Despite the confusion and struggle against its presence.
My thorn in the flesh is mental illness. During the first seven years of my marriage (including the early years of my children's lives), I was clinically depressed. It was awful. I am still dealing with the consequences of that struggle. But God brought about healing, thanks to Bible study, scripturally-based counseling, and medicine. I have not been depressed in many years, and I am grateful. Praise God!
The thorn still stuck in me is obsessive-compulsive disorder. I have dealt with OCD since childhood; I just didn't know it. I am one of the most organized people you could meet. I rarely forget things. I think of and take care of details very well. But in recent years I have realized that the degree to which I do these things is not healthy. My mind was constantly "on." I would check and re-check paperwork. I poured myself into ministry compulsively, intensely, with abandon - and often neglect of my family. My attempt to be in control left me exhausted. But it's what I knew AND it's what I was often commended for. Can something be a gift and a curse at the same time? If so, that's what obsessive-compulsive disorder has been for me.
These days I am doing better. I continue to go to counseling, and I refuse to feel ashamed about that, as some people might. I even started medicine. It makes me incredibly tired, which I don't like. But I am a LOT calmer. I can let things go. My energy is increasingly spent on relationships, not tasks. I'm organized, but not obsessively so. I feel lighter. This side of heaven, I may be stuck with this thorn. But God's grace is sufficient. And I'm looking forward to Heaven where, "we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2) I will be perfect in Christ. Even now He is perfecting me.
What's the thorn in your flesh? How do you handle it? Where do you find encouragement despite the anguish? How has God shown Himself to be your healer and ever-present help? I'd love to know!