“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh…” –2 Corinthians 12:7
Paul was a brilliant, zealous man, but he was also a flawed man. Before coming to Christ he had almost single handily snuffed out Christianity in the cradle. After being converted on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9), he eventually wrote three fourths of the new testament. I believe Paul served God to reveal what Jesus would not reveal (John 16:12). Despite his special section by God, and his amazing work he had a “thorn.” He notes that he was given this thorn to keep him humble and depend on God, and he asked to have it removed three times, but God said no all three times. While NOONE knows what the thorn is except Paul and the LORD. I would like to offer an educated guess that he was either blind or going blind. Here is why:
1. His conversion on the Road to Damascus he saw a glorified Jesus Christ. When Moses asked to see God’s face, God told him, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” While a resurrected Jesus may not have had the intensity, to behold him in his Glory would certainly overwhelm the eyes to a point of great damage. While he did regain his sight back, there is reason to think the damage sustained would have had a lifetime of effects.
2. His frequent trips to Ephesus. He goes there in 52 AD and stays a year and a half, and returns on his second trip and stays three and a half years. Ephesus was the eye care center of the ancient world.
3. The interesting reference Paul makes in Galatians 4:15. Paul writes, "What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me." I could be some kind of an ancient saying, but I think it may be linked to him having some kind of eye problems.
4. Paul dictated some of his letters. While a weaker argument than the last two, Paul did dictate to Tertius in Romans 16:2. He would often pen is owl leters like in 1 Corinthians 16:21, Colossians 4:18, and Philemon 19. But if his eyesight was failing, he would need help.
So here is how this impacts you, Paul clearly minister “hurt” throughout his ministry. If that was blindness and eyesight issues don’t you think he thought, “I could be so much more useful if I just didn’t have this!” We do the same thing, let’s thank God not only for our blessings, but for our limitations, because they keep us dependent on God. Our limitations, our thorns are for our good and God’s glory.