I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me... 2 Corinthians 12:8-9a
As soon as I saw this particular patient lying on his bed I knew that the agony of the thorn was going to start all over again.
The young man had presented with pyrexia of unknown origin, and I was sent to see him. At eighteen, good-looking, well built and intelligent, he fitted well into what may be described as the 'Greek God' category. And as I carefully examined him -- felt the smooth enlarged glands in his neck, palpated his abdomen methodically for any liver or splenic enlargement and looked into his bright steel-blue eyes -- I wondered if he had any idea at all of the way I felt about him.
Did he know the waves of emotion he was firing in me? Was he conscious of the quickening of my pulse and the slight tremor of my hands? I doubt it. This was not the first time I had had to cope with such an internal crisis, and God, over the years, has given me more than adequate grace to come through these trials without anyone being aware of the struggle within.
I have been conscious of a homosexual trait since I was at secondary school. Though it has waxed and waned throughout my life, and many times I have pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me -- and perhaps one day he will -- so far it remains as the most persistent and painful 'thorn' I have ever known.
My reason for writing this is not to elicit pity, however, It is because I believe that every Christian who means business with God encounters some kind of thorn in his life, which usually comes, as in Paul's case (2 Cor 12:7), to counteract the even more serious problem of spiritual conceit.
God has given me a keen mind -- and scholarships, prizes and (so far at least) a fulfilling and successful series of good jobs have come to me with relative ease. If it were not for this hardship in another area of life, I often wonder if my ambition would have caused me to abandon the road of discipleship long ago.
The blind George Matheson once wrote 'My God, I have never thanked thee for my thorns... I have been looking to a world where I shall get compensation for my cross; but I have never thought of my cross as itself a present glory. Teach me the glory of my cross: teach me the value of my thorn'.
I thank God that I have come to that place of thankfulness and contentment in spite of pain, and I rest at peace in the fact that God keeps us weak that the power of Christ may be seen in us, and may not be obscured by our own self-sufficiency.
Further reading: 2 Cor 12:1-10. 1 Cor 1:21-31. 2 Cor 4:1-5:10.