Painful Purpose


“… a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.”
2 Corinthians 12:7

Why doesn’t God answer my prayer?

Why aren’t my prayers answered the way I prayed for them?

If you have prayed then you have experienced how God’s answers are sometimes dramatically different than your request. This can lead to an incorrect conclusion that God isn’t listening to you or that God is going to do His own thing no matter what. Both assumptions are untrue and are developed from a place of hurt. We have this idea that if God is able to do something then He should do something. The problem is our perspective.

We live in a world that is scarred with pain. Pain is the result of living in a sin-corrupt world. Pain was never God’s plan for us. The Bible does not teach masochism of any form. The idea of hurting yourself to honor God or to get His attention is destructive and demonic. Pain is unavoidable in this life because sin has infected every fiber of this world. Heaven will be a place without pain or problems.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians about a “thorn in the flesh.” Not much is known about this issue. Some suggest it was a physical ailment. Others say it was an emotional issue of regret because of killing and persecuting Christians before he became a Christian. Yet others think it may be a spiritual battle against temptation. One thing we know for certain is that we don’t know for certain what it was.

Can you identify with Paul? Do you have some physical, emotional, or spiritual “thorn” that keeps you praying for God to remove? The word harass carries the meaning of torture. It’s an unending, constant pain. Nothing you do gets rid of it permanently.

If pain is not responded to correctly it can lead you to become angry or resentful towards God. Tormenting pain can cause you to question God and His love for you. The end goal of torment is to break you and extinguish your hope and faith in God.

We learn 4 things from Paul’s pleading with God to remove his thorn and God’s decision not to. I pray that the Holy Spirit will encourage you, restore hope and pour out grace to you no matter the size of the “thorn in your flesh”.

#1 Pain can prevent pride.

The danger of pride is that it feels good. We don’t feel the pain of pride until it is too late. Pride is a silent killer of characters relationships and faith.

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 16:18

“…God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6b

#2 Grace is sufficient.

The word sufficient is in the present tense. God’s grace is available for us right now. There is an ample supply. God’s grace enables us to endure and persevere through pain.

#3 God’s power is perfected in our weakness.

We view weakness as a disqualifying characteristic. We attempt to hide our weaknesses and portray ourselves as being free of weakness. REALITY CHECK: We ALL have it and if we do not accept this truth, it will lead to gross failure. Pain allowed Paul to see very clearly his weaknesses and limitations. It shouted his need for God. We are strongest when we accept our weaknesses and depend on God for strength.

#4 It’s not God’s will.

When God does not answer your prayer the way you hoped He would, this may mean that it is not God’s will. In Matthew 26 Jesus prayed 3 times for the “cup” to be removed from Him but it was not granted. Jesus accepted that God’s will was better than His own. Pain has a way of blinding you to what is better.

Trust in God’s love and know that He has your best interest in mind. God is for you and not against you. Remember His ways and thoughts are infinitely greater than ours. God loves you and is preparing you for eternity and will use every negative circumstance and turn it into something good for you!

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