The Thorn In My Side

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. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

This verse – 2 Corinthians 12:7 has always stuck with me. I have often wondered, along with all the Bible scholars, what “thorn” Paul struggled with, agreeing that is likely was something physical. It is a difficult verse for me, because I have this thought that if you ask God to take something from you, He loves you, so why wouldn’t he? Why did Paul have to struggle with something? I know, I know – because when you are weak, then you are strong. But, it is still difficult for me, and I think it is because I relate to it. Well, to an extent – I feel almost silly posting about this, because it is so mild compared to the health struggles of so many other people – other people have diabetes, cancer, or other horrible diseases – it could be so much worse! But for me, it is my teeth. I have always had terrible teeth.

And satan certainly knows my weakness because as soon as I start feeling a new pain, or am (for the third time) told I have 12 more cavities, after having brushed and flossed faithfully for the 6 months since I was last at the dentist, or whatever it may  be, my faith falters. Yes, I am ashamed to admit it, but it is true – I cry out in both anger and fear to God, asking why I have yet another issue with my teeth.

For whatever reason, that is my biggest weak spot in my faith. So, you knew this was coming, I might need a root canal. The dentist won’t know for sure for a couple weeks, but it is quite possible since I have extreme sensitivity and pain in one of my teeth – one that already has a giant filling on it that is almost touching the nerve anyway. And, sure enough, my husband had to hold and comfort me as I became an emotional mess once I heard the possibility of a root canal. I instantly began wondering where God was when I needed him, and why I had to go through all this, and what the point was of taking care of my teeth if it didn’t work anyway, and how I was so close to being done with my invisalign trays and why did it happen now! And, as happens every time, this verse flashes through my head and I have this little fear/thought that this is my thorn in my side – my reminder that God is God, and I am human. That just because God is giving me a perfect life right now doesn’t mean it will always be perfect – there will always be struggles. It continues to be a faith test for me.

Yet, God is so kind – even now, there is the possibility that it is just a stronger than usual reaction to my new invisalign trays – he won’t know for a couple weeks whether i actually need a root canal – and I continue to pray that I don’t – because, really, who wants a root canal? But at the same time, considering the instant distress and anger I went through when my tooth became unbearably painful, I hardly think I deserve such mercy from God. But I am thankful for it anyway. And, again, compared to what other people go through, it is such a minor thing – all things in perspective, right? I think that God occasionally puts my mouth through intense pain just to remind me. And all too often, I think only of the first part of the verse – that Paul had a thorn in his side that God chose not to remove, and I forget the second part. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

So my goal is to remember that part of the verse – no matter what happens with my teeth. And keep things in perspective. As my husband reminded me, I still have all my teeth (assuming crowns count) thanks to amazing modern technology -a hundred years ago, I would have been in dentures by now!

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