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What was Paul's Thorn?

Updated: Jun 29

Jesus praying

Was Paul’s Thorn Porn?

I like to think so. It gives my struggles a biblical proportion. And if Paul struggled with pornography or sexual temptation, I would not feel like such an outcast today. Plus, the church would have to preach on the subject once in a while and, like the adulterous woman, I would be forgiven by all. Who could hold porn use against me if Paul was addicted too? It would be a legitimate, mainstream, sin. Let’s look directly at the verse which mentions Paul’s thorn:

In 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9, Paul said:

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

No matter our struggle, each of us wants Paul’s thorn in the flesh to be the same as ours. Maybe that is why scripture does not specify what the thorn was. From overeaters to workaholics, from alcoholics to drug users and porn addicts, we can each identify with Paul’s desire for Jesus to remove our thorns. At times, I helplessly ask myself whether it is possible to beat this thing once and for all.

Origin of the Thorn?

Did Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” come from God? “I was given a thorn in my flesh” seems to imply a giver and a recipient. Maybe it came from Satan, since the verse mentions “a messenger of Satan to torment me.” Regardless, someone gave it to Paul, and it tormented him. I can identify with that. The incessant call and lure of pornography in my life is a constant frustration. At times, I don’t think I can go five minutes without an image on my phone, a billboard or my computer calling my name. I want to break free of this craving. If only God would give me a big, red “easy” button to push to stop the desire – I would push it.

Victory Over Pornography First Involves Surrender

Note how Jesus said strength to handle the thorn will come because His “power is made perfect in weakness.” When I come to the point that my reliance is on God to overcome my thorn, then I will have victory over this sin. Weakness implies a sense of humility. Gone is the pride that I can handle it myself. For victory, I need to welcome the infusion of God’s Holy Spirit to take control of my life. I need to surrender control over myself. Wow! This sounds an awful lot like a Lordship talk.

Paul’s Thorn’s Purpose and Ours

Nowhere in these verses is there a promise of overcoming the thorn, or the sin in our case. That is concerning. Aren’t we assured of victory in Jesus? How we define victory may be related to the purpose of the thorn in our life. Remember this verse from above? “In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh.” I excel in a lot of my undertakings, but in one area I struggle to prevail. Pornography brings me to the end of my abilities.

I think God has me right where he wants me: At a point where I know I cannot overcome my sin apart from Him. This keeps me humble. Yet, I am the first to admit that after a prolonged period of success in this sexual battle, I begin to look down on men still struggling – suggesting to myself that they should just get over it. Pride is like toenail fungus – it keeps coming back (Is this too much information?) It waits beneath the surface until we let our guard down or skip a dose of medicine. Ever lurking, pride is a constant threat to my relationship with God and others.

Pride is a constant theme in the Bible. God opposes the proud (James 4:6). Similar to Paul’s situation, porn and pride have an inverse relationship. When pornography is present in my life, I am humbled by my inability to win the battle. During these times, I am quick to give grace to others in their struggles, no matter what they are. When pornography is absent from my life, pride creeps back in. Just like in Paul’s case, the thorn is present to keep us from becoming conceited.

Consider the Good Purpose Which Pornography May Accomplish in You

We all know pornography destroys families and careers. Can there actually be a positive, God-given purpose for pornography or other bad habits in our lives? I encourage you to consider the idea. Once you identify this purpose, you should meditate on it. Consider whether there might be another way to address the problem area underlying your purpose. Once you find an alternative solution for your sexual sin’s purpose in your life, you may be in a position to receive an answer to the prayer Paul prayed - for the “Lord to take it away.”



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