I have a question.
Three times Paul, the “follower of Christ” extraordinaire, prayed that God would remove a “thorn from his flesh.” We don’t know exactly what the “thorn” was, but we know it was painful and it was a part of Paul’s being.
Three times God responded to Paul’s prayers by not healing him. Instead, God told Paul that He was going to give him the grace to live with the thorn in his flesh. He told him that the weakness the thorn would cause in his life would be the very place he would see God’s strength show up. In other words, God told Paul He had a better plan than removing the thorn—He was going use Paul’s limp for something great.
I love this, and I hate it at the same time.
Since I started this post by saying I have a question, you might be wondering what the question is. My question is this:
What if the thorn is not in your flesh, but in your soul?
For instance, when my body (or the physical aspect of my being) gets cut deeply, it leaves a scar. If that scar is large enough or in a certain spot, it can limit mobility or cause a limp of some sort.
So, if my soul (or the mental and emotional aspects of my being) gets cut deeply, does it leave a scar? And if that scar is large enough or in a certain spot, can it limit my mental or emotional abilities? Can it cause me to limp in those areas, making my personality different or more difficult than it was originally designed to be? Or (here is an interesting and possibly troubling thought) since the aging of my body over time brings about physical limitations and limps, does the aging of my soul bring about mental and emotional limitations and limps?
I have seen firsthand how physical disabilities affect a person and the people closest to that person. There are lifestyle adjustments that need to be made to bring about a new version of “fullness of life.”
My daughter's disability has given me a front row seat to see both the needed painful adjustments the thorn of physical disability brings, and also the amazing strength of God that shows up. God has not chosen to heal my “sweet B,” but He has given us a compelling vision of what fullness of life can look like and abundant provision toward that end. Just a couple of quick examples are:
1) Last year I was with Bella as she met the Pope in Rome, and
2) this year I was with Bella as she modeled for Disney in L.A.!
As a pastor I am often asked to pray for people who are physically sick. Because in the same Bible we have stories of God’s complete and immediate healing of people and the story of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” prayers, I have learned to pray for two things. First, I pray for God’s complete and immediate healing because I know God is able all the time and willing at the times He knows healing that way is best. Second, I pray if God knows immediate healing is not the best thing, He would grant the person the strength they need to limp well, and the grace to see God’s strength show up in a big way.
My question is making me think the same prayers should be prayed when our soul is sick. When someone has been cut by the sharp knife of a father’s unfaithfulness, or burned by the fires of abuse, or feels a part of them has been severed by a mother’s betrayal—should I pray the same way?
It seems to me that God would do the same for the mental and emotional aspects of our beings as He does for our physical aspects. To me that means we should pray for God’s complete, miraculous, and instantaneous healing of those wounds. Then we should rejoice and shout and dance if He heals in that way. But when He does not heal in that way, we should rejoice in a quieter way and learn how to limp well, knowing His grace is sufficient and His strength is on the way.
All the best,