Paul is one of the leaders of the first generation of Christians. He was an Apostle. He was trained as a tentmaker, and as a Pharisee he persecuted Christians. But Christ changed him on the “Road to Damascus” (1 Corinthians 9:1). Paul went from helping to persecute Christians to becoming one of the greatest leaders of the early Church.
So, Paul had a lot of reasons to become conceited or proud. Why? Because he was blessed with visions from God. Because he did great things for God. But, Paul mentions having a thorn in the flesh. From this we can assume it was physical. Whatever it was, Satan was allowed by God to cause Paul a physical problem. Paul called it a thorn. Perhaps it was painful like a thorn. Many people guess it may have something to do with his eyes, but we don’t know. Paul does not say more, but he confesses it keeps him humble.
My point is that many of us have physical problems of one kind or another. Maybe God also allowed Satan to give us physical problems? Maybe it’s a crippling disease. Perhaps a diagnosis of cancer. Whatever the physical thorn, God allowed it. I am confident I know God as my creator and Savior. But I confess I also have a tendency to be over confident in and of myself. God foresaw this problem in my life.
Now, I am least confident when it involves face-to-face communication. Why? Because I am deaf. I use the lowercase ‘d’ and not the capital ‘D” because my parents raised me to be hearing. All life’s usual challenges were made more difficult because I did not have normal hearing. From second grade onward, I always had a hearing aid. Without it I am deaf, but with a hearing aid I am hearing impaired. At no time did I ever have normal hearing. Communicating with the Hearing or Deaf is a humbling, challenging part of my life. I am never comfortable communicating face-to-face by talking with Hearing people or signing with Deaf people. I just have to try harder to do my best. Thorns in the flesh are not something to be proud of so my deafness helps to keep me humbled. God knew what He was doing.
2 Corinthians 12:7 “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” (ESV)