Why Has God Not Removed My Thorn?
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” —II Corinthians 12:7-9
There are three basic reasons God allows believers to have problems: to overcome sin, to grow spiritually, and to be used of God.
Whenever there is sin in a believer’s life, God convicts by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:8-11) to bring him to repentance and reconciliation. If that does not work, He allows ever increasing consequences. This is not to punish but to chasten, discipline, and correct. God told Israel if they did not drive out the inhabitants of the Promised Land, or if they worshipped their idols, they would become thorns and scourges in Israel’s side (Num. 33:55; Josh. 23:13; Judg. 2:3; Ezek. 28:24).
If an individual has allowed God to search his heart, and He cannot find any sin (Ps. 139:23-24), the question would then be, “What is God trying to teach him?” That does not mean that God is cruel or mean, but as the perfect parent, teacher, and shepherd, He loves each believer too much to leave him where he is. Every test or trial God allows will be used by Satan to attack the believer’s faith and tempt him to sin, but God provides it as an opportunity to respond in faith to Him so the “works of God should be made manifest” (Jn. 9:3) to him and to others. As this is accomplished, God is glorified (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).
The reason that God did not remove Paul’s thorn in the flesh was so that he would not exalt himself above others or become proud. Since God had given him the revelations, he could have thought that he was better than others and did not have to continually depend on God. This would have been catastrophic to his ministry. So, even though Satan took these openings as a way to attack Paul’s faith and to tempt him to sin, they were a blessing from God so the power of Christ would rest on him (II Cor. 12:9) as he kept his faith in the Cross.
It was a constant reminder to Paul of who he was without Christ, and how to receive the benefits of the Cross. He had to continually realize that there was no good thing in his flesh (Rom. 7:18), he could do nothing (Jn. 5:19, 30; 6:53; 9:33; 15:5), he knew nothing (I Cor. 2:14; 4:4; 8:2; I Tim. 6:4), he was nothing (II Cor. 12:11; Gal. 6:3), and he had nothing (Mat. 14:16; Mk. 6:37; Lk. 9:13; Jn. 6:7). So, daily he had to keep his faith in the Cross, deny self, and take up his cross and follow Christ (Lk. 9:23).
Writers of the New Testament were inspired to write that as believers keep their faith in the Cross when going through the problems in their lives, they can be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), and the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) will be produced in their lives.
Paul said: “We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope. And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:2-5).
James said: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4).
Peter said: “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (II Pet. 1:5-7).
So, if a believer has earnestly prayed, and a problem has not been removed, it may be because more can be accomplished through it remaining than if it were removed.