What Did Paul Do With His “Thorn?”

I think a good passage for us to read when our sins and failings confront us is where Saint Paul speaks of the thorn in his side that he three times prayed to be removed. God’s response was merely: “my grace is sufficient.” Suppose for a second that these few words don’t necessarily mean that God’s grace is sufficient to keep us from falling into sin, but rather that God’s grace is sufficient to be there for us when we repent after inevitably sinning. After all, God is merely saying that His grace is sufficient for us. One way or another, it is enough.

I’m sure we all have those “favored” sins, ones that we seem to fall into time and time again. Likewise, some of us probably find particular sins to be unproblematic. Maybe some of us feel no temptation toward drunkenness, lust, or the purchase of a Malaysian automobile.

Lord, have mercy

There are some sins that are simply unattractive to some people. Incidentally I was recently reading a section on “salvation” in a theological encyclopedia that I think has some relevance here:

“Anabaptists have a unique approach to original sin, an approach that supports their understanding of salvation. They affirm the historical reality of original sin, but deny that its power over the individual is final and absolute. That is, they hold that evil has entered the world through the first human parents and that all people are sinners because of the ongoing effects of that act. Yet the effect is not understood as total and debilitating. Something of the image of God, given with creation, remains. This provides a point of entrance for the Spirit of God.”

I think the fact that many of us have no attraction to some particular sins perhaps has something to do with the fact that the power of sin is not final, absolute, and debilitating. Something of the image of God remains. Nevertheless, some people find themselves falling into the same temptations because they may have a particular “thorn.”

Struggling with one particular issue can be disheartening. We can easily feel like we have experienced no growth, or worse. We can start to doubt God and our salvation. Such feelings are understandable, but owe more to our emotional state than to any accurate theology. It can be very difficult. Especially if society tells us there is nothing wrong with what we call sins. Especially if society even encourages us to indulge because it’s “healthy” or “natural.”

So why would we sacrifice our own desires when to simply indulge is easier and may even be perfectly acceptable by society? Well, first of all, does society have the final word on morality? I likely don’t have to list all the historical examples disproving society’s claim to morality. In the end, if you claim to be a Christian, then you take your morality from the unique singularity that is God’s revelation in human history as portrayed in the Bible and lived in the Church.

Maybe this makes me, and every other one of us, neurotic by society’s standards. But then again, maybe we should be neurotic by those standards. Maybe it’s society that breeds neurosis. Why should we expect to be healthy when our lives are both sickness and health? So is it any surprise that we all experience “thorns?” Even persistent ones that may not always be able to resist? But don’t worry, simply repent and keep going. “My grace is sufficient.”


~ by crossingthebosporus on September 12, 2012.

One Response to “What Did Paul Do With His “Thorn?””

  1. I like that – yes, His Grace is sufficient – and overflowingly so 🙂

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