The Apostle Paul had a mysterious affliction that caused him great discomfort. He called it a thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7). And although it made him miserable, the Lord allowed the torment to continue. He didn’t remove it, even though Paul begged Him for relief.
Eventually, Paul surrendered to the Lord’s will and relied on God’s strength to endure. He knew that God had a purpose in the thorn. In fact, he said it kept him from becoming prideful about who he was in Christ.
I was in prison for over three decades. It was a thorn that I thought would never be removed. I prayed for God to free me from captivity, and I promised Him that, if He set me free, I would live out my life doing His will.
God had a reason for letting me stay locked up. I had much to learn about my need for Christ and what it means to follow Him. Today I can say that living with the grace of God through my trials and weaknesses is much greater than being delivered from them.
In prison, I learned to lean on God for supernatural strength. He never failed to help me endure the hardships and difficulties of prison life.
It wasn’t easy, but I turned my focus from having my prayers answered to seeking ways to do God’s will and be effective behind prison fences. I started using my talent for writing and my gift of encouragement to help others learn about the Lord.
Embracing my situation as an opportunity to serve helped take my mind off myself and my problems. It gave me purpose.
For 31 years, I continually reminded myself, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV). Like Paul, I chose to boast about my weaknesses and how God’s strength helped me overcome.
The Lord used my thorn to mold me into the man I am today and to lead others to Him. My time in prison developed my character and deepened my worship. I had to humble myself before the Lord and admit my sins and weaknesses, but when I did, His strength was magnified (2 Corinthians 12:9).
I knew it was unlikely that I would ever be a free man, but through Christ, I found contentment being in prison. Today, I appreciate my freedom more because of the thorn I suffered for so long.
Maybe there are painful thorns in your life too, and you’ve been begging God to take them away. Maybe you don’t understand why He hasn’t removed them from you yet. Please don’t lose hope.
Continue to seek God’s will with your whole heart. Trust His presence to comfort you through this season of suffering.
The Lord never wastes a thorn. Just like He did for me, He will use every thorny experience to reveal His love, faithfulness, and power and to prepare you for what’s ahead.
Ask God to give you an attitude of thankfulness and a teachable spirit that will help you endure despite your trials. Your praise will bring God’s presence and power into your situation and strengthen you. And it will be a testimony to an onlooking world of the goodness of God.
Roy A. Borges served 31 years in the Florida Department of Corrections, where he realized his need for a Savior. While incarcerated, Roy ministered to others through his writings, over 300 of which have been published. He now lives in Tampa, Florida, and is a member of the Victorious Living writing team.