Just an observation: I think most of my Christian Life I have lived mainly in my thoughts. By that I mean, I have ignored my body. There is a tendency I think for Christians to think of our bodies as unimportant, as though they are not spiritual compared with our thoughts. Usually we are a bit ambivalent about emotions as well and tend to get mixed up as to their place or importance in our spiritual walk. However, one of the most wonderful discoveries of being not well has been the discovery of the presence of God in the weakness of my body.
What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh which the Lord did not take away despite Paul asking him three times? Well, I don’t know any more than anyone else. You pay your money and take your choice as to what he was talking about. He could have been using the phrase in the metaphorical sense of people being thorns in his side. This has biblical backing. Certainly he had more than his fair share of detractors and of those who followed him around distorting his message or offering something they claimed was a superior gospel than Paul’s. I guess if you are committed to the idea that God always heals, by necessity you have to say that is what the passage means otherwise your doctrine is in difficulty. I don’t want to get into the “does everyone get healed” debate. However for me, I have to be honest and say I have never found that line of thought remotely convincing. I believe Paul was not speaking metaphorically. I believe his thorn in the flesh to be a physical suffering or bodily ailment beyond normal levels. I believe that too has biblical backing. Personally I think the language shows that is what he was meaning. He was talking about something that felt like a stake being driven into his body. Yet in that experience, He became aware of the grace and strength of God.
I am fortunate in that my illness does not cause pain of the type I believe Paul carried. I don’t want to minimise the struggle some of you may be having with bodily pain. This blog is looked at in many countries in the world to my amazement. Sometimes I get private email responses that speak of struggles with pain. I can’t imagine what that is like. However I want to be honest to my experience. I have observed this: that some of my most memorable experiences of the presence of God drawing near have been precisely at those moments when I have been aware of a bodily weakness and illness that as yet has not been healed. It does not feel good to feel weak, but it has been a lesson in trust and in the faithfulness of God to his children.
Don’t ignore your body. I said something like that about 20 blogs ago, but I felt today it was worth saying again. If you try and deny weakness, illness, then you may miss a wonderful drawing near of the love and strength of God. By all means pursue healing unless you know God has said “No” for one reason or another. But however vigorously you pursue that, don’t deny the thorn in your flesh. Let God draw near, there.
My prayer is that you would know the sweet presence I have experienced at times of weakness, or to use the words of Paul that you would experience God saying to you, “My strength is made perfect in weakness. My grace is sufficient for you.” If you think this is anti-healing you have missed the point. Read it again and be blessed.