Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults,with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2Corinthians 12:7-10, NASB
Scholars have theorized on just what the Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was. Everything possible has been speculated: from spiritual issues, to relationship issues, to physical ailments and challenges. I think out of all the theories I’ve heard about the thorn in the flesh, my favorite revelation came from televangelist Jesse Duplantis: “Some people are a thorn in the flesh and other people are the whole bush.” I personally have my own theory on what his thorn in the flesh was, but I am not going to get into what it was here because it will distract from my purpose at hand (if you really want to know my theory on it, inbox me on it and I will tell you). In their endless debate about the WHAT, I think the scholars tend to miss the WHY. In the Apostle’s mighty confession, he is admitting something to all of us, as well as himself. We see in His words the balance between great spiritual revelation and illumination and still living as a human being. He is being honest as a minister of God to those he worked with and all of us for generations after about something no minister likes to readily admit: he was hurting. To me, as a minister of God who, in my life, has worked mostly with other ministers, it is far more relevant to me that the Apostle had the ability to admit he was hurting than to state what it was he was hurting from. He hurt as a person, not as a minister, but admitted through his ministry about the pains he experienced in his humanity.
The reality is none of us know what his thorn in the flesh was, and apparently we were not meant to know. The specifics of it are,apparently, none of our business. It is one of those Biblical unknowns that is unknown for a purpose: so we will look at ourselves. The Apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh represents all those issues that we have: the problems, emotions,thoughts, pains, feelings, and hurts that we have even though we believe God. They are the things that we may have prayed to go away, believed to go away, and hoped to go away, but they just don’t. When in ministry, the expectation comes that we will stand before everyone totally transformed,healed, and whole, without a problem or care of the world. People want to think our lives, our relationships, our thoughts are perfect. There is the expectation that we are about their lives, their problems and issues, and that we do not have any anymore. As a result of the standard, ministers don’t admit they are hurting as people.
Being in ministry is an amazing walk. I have had incredible encounters with God. I have experienced a grace, mercy, and love from Him that I did not deserve. I have seen things, heard things, known things that took me by surprise and opened me up to new possibilities. I have also dealt with problems, pains,hurts, and difficulties of every sort. Some of them have been so difficult, so painful, I couldn’t even bring myself to speak the words to others for fear of their scrutiny and judgment. I’ve lived with the fear that if I spoke those words as a human being, my ministry as an apostle would never recover. To this day, there are still things I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about to a lot of people about because of that “look” people get when you tell them something you can’t trust them with. You can see that look on their face, you can see it over the phone, now you can see it over the internet. It’s something we discern by the Spirit. Whether I talk about stuff or not, I go through things. Ideal with things, just like every other minister. Just like everyone else. I, and everyone I know, has a “thorn in the flesh.”
As I have gone through the years I am discovering more and more ministers of all sorts who feel the exact same way. We hurt, but we don’t talk about it. Not to anyone, because we don’t feel like we can trust anyone. We’re afraid that our honest seeking and request for prayer will be broadcast via the PGH (Prayer Gossip Hotline). Oh, don’t act all holy, you all know what I am talking about: we ask you to pray for us and we errantly think we can trust you and before we know it you’ve asked twenty-five other people to “pray” for us, telling them every little detail of our issue. Then the whole world knows, nobody has prayed, and they have sought to do nothing but disgrace. It is my personal belief that this is part of the reason WHY the Apostle Paul doesn’t reveal just what the problem is: he knew the Corinthians well enough to know his business would be splashed all over the church in disgrace. Some of us have chronic problems, chronic issues that come up time andtime again and we can never be honest about them. I believe healing of any sort starts with honesty. We admit something is wrong andwe are honest enough before God and ourselves about it. Faith is an honest rendering: it is us recognizing Who God is and, in the process, recognizing we are not God. The thorn in the flesh is a reminder of faith, a reminder that the work we do with God is not doable without Him.
The thorn in the flesh also reminds us that sometimes God brings us to a place of healing through what we go through. It is a process of sanctification in our lives. I wish I could explain why we go through what we go through, but beyond what I have just said, I can’t. In ministry, we stand to help others. As we go through, we understand, we develop, we see that eternal balance between the soul and the Spirit that divides unto power and reality. If we lived with too much of the spiritual, we’d get lost. If we live with too much of the flesh, we also get lost. The process of living and walking out both reminds us of what we are without God (nothing) and who we can be with Him.
Everyday, ministers are hurting. They are hurting because people have violated their trust, they have people around them who do not care or arenot interested in their problems, because they see the worst humanity has to offer and the way in which that worst hurts others. Ministers fear judgment for the problems they have or that those closest to them have, because too often those closest to us don’t get delivered as quickly or easily as we would like. They hurt because they have been taken advantage of, spoken down to, given up so much just to deliver the Word, to be there for their people, and to see souls enter into the Kingdom.
Be there for the ministers in your life. Be there for your leader, for the ministers you know who are friends, and for those who walk this walk, day in and day out. Yes, they have made a choice to follow God and to obey His call on their lives, but that doesn’t make the hurts easier at the end of the day. Reach out in love. Empathize. Instead of only requesting prayer, ask about what you can pray for them,as well. Be sure to pray for your leaders and, when you find things out, don’t be the one there who “runtelldat”to everyone else. Above all, make their job easier. Honor, obey, care about, andbe real with your leaders. Be trustworthy. Be responsible. In the long run, they will love you for allof that a lot more than they will any amount of money you can give to them. (And no, that doesn’t mean you should stop tithing!)
Leaders need support,too, just like you do…just like all of us in the Body do, as well.
© 2014 Lee Ann B.Marino. All rights reserved.