So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, 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, ESV)
God allows bad things to happen to good people. He doesn’t cause them, but He doesn’t always prevent them either.
God let the apostle Paul suffer a “thorn . . . in the flesh.” He explained that God allowed “a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Paul understood that God consented to this pain in his life for a reason. He permitted a demon “to harass” or “buffet” (NKJV) His servant—but God had a purpose: to keep the apostle from becoming proud.
Looking back over an extended season of harassment, Paul mentioned twice his understanding of the specific danger God was preventing by allowing the apostle to experience hardship: “to keep me from becoming conceited.”
There were privileges Paul had been given (a personal interview with Jesus on the road to Damascus, a call to take the gospel to the Gentiles, numerous miraculous events in his life, etc.) that could have fostered a prideful and arrogant attitude in him. The “thorn” made it almost impossible for Paul to feel self-important. His example contains significant lessons for us.
The world is on its course, and God doesn’t often step in and alter the ways the effects of sin visit themselves randomly upon creation. God allows trials in the lives of Christians just as He lets them happen to pagans—so the superiority of the life lived in God can be demonstrated. The majority of the world is choosing not to worship God, but a few of us, by His grace, can draw upon His promised resources to get us through.
God did not cause the horrible events in your life, but you need to embrace the fact that He allowed them. He could not make a world in which we are free and at the same time guarantee everyone would choose Him. So the world is broken and bad things happen. But God promises He will be with those who love Him. He will bring us through the fire, and we will come forth as gold.
God is always sovereign. He is so much in control that even when Satan tries to ruin our lives, God takes the weapon Satan wants to use to destroy us and turns it into a good thing. He says, in essence, If you will lean hard on Me in the midst of this difficult time, I’ll take that thorn and make it for your good.
We all have a thorn—something the Lord has allowed into our lives that Satan meant for our destruction, but God has turned around or wants to turn around to help us grow and change.
Ask the Lord today for the confidence to choose to trust Him with whatever tool He is using in your life. You can make that choice with His help, and reap the benefits as He brings good out of the bad.
Lord, let me make that closing prayer above my default thought: God, help me again today to trust You with whatever tool You have chosen to use in my life. Keep before me the thought that You do not allow anything to happen that You cannot use for my ultimate good. And allow me to rest in my awareness of Your great faithfulness. In Jesus’ powerful name, amen.