“A thorn in the flesh was given me….” (II Corinthians 12:7).
For two thousand years people have speculated on the nature of Paul’s thorn. But their efforts come to nothing. The Lord clearly did not intend for us to know what Paul’s handicap was. For good reason…
“Well, Paul had this same problem too, so if he did you surely can’t expect me to conquer it.” You can just hear some husband justifying his failures (and unwillingness to deal with them) to his wife in those words.
“At least I don’t have Paul’s weaknesses. His were awful and yet God used him.” Just so easily we would excuse our problems and cling to them.
We can be glad we do not have a clue what his problems were.
I recall a rather bold Baptist preacher telling an audience that he struggles with sexual thoughts. “A beautiful girl goes by and all the signals go off inside me,” he said. “I’m so tempted to watch her walk away and assess her lovely body parts.”
Many in that room never forgave him. Women–who, truth be known, had not caused a man to lust in a generation or more–immediately thought that preacher was looking at them as sexual objects and heard nothing else he said. And the men–who, again, truth be known, struggle with the identical temptations–were not used to preachers being much like themselves and admitting it, and so marked this guy off their list as unworthy to occupy their pulpit.
I wonder sometimes how we would react if Paul’s problem was sexual lust. In Romans 7:24, he says, “O wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?”
The men among us–I’m raising my hand; I’m one–know that feeling. And I’ll tell you something, friend.
Just because a man gets older does not automatically make him godly enough and mature enough and disciplined enough that he no longer has a lust problem. In fact, in a hundred respects he is the same person he was when he was 15 or 25. He’s just being housed in an older body.
What some people refer to as “a dirty old man” is simply the same fellow he has always been, except now he’s getting old. A half century ago, he was cool, a swinger, a dude. Now, he is disgusting. But he is still who he has always been.
I for one am delighted not to know what Paul was dealing with. There is such a thing as too much information, and we do not need to know this. Furthermore….
Since we are left with the subject open-ended, the principles he gave–the Lord’s power is made perfect in our weakness; His grace is sufficient–work for anything we are dealing with.