“Who needs to be healed?” I half heard the television evangelist as I hunted through the cabinets for a snack. “I know there is someone in the audience who needs some healing. There are some of you watching from your homes that are suffering. Some of you have rheumatoid arthritis. One soul out there has the shingles. You, sitting on your couch, I know about your chronic aches and pain. And there is someone listening to the sound of my voice who is suffering from diabetes.” My rummaging stopped and chills went down my spine as I cautiously walked back to the TV.
How did he know? Surely, that was a good guess. I know about these guys. My twelve-year-old mind was doubtful but curious. I was diagnosed only a few months before, so I had not fully accepted life with a chronic disease. I sat on my knees in front of our television. “Place your hands on the screen and receive healing,” he called to me. I sat not moving an inch, wondering what ifs. What if this was for real? What if I really was healed? What if I did it, and it didn’t work? My desire for freedom outweighed my skepticism, and I reached out. Static crackled on my fingers as I laid my hands flat against the warmth of the set.
I closed my eyes and prayed, God, please take this away from me. Then I waited with my hands still resting on the screen. I wondered if I would know when I was cured? Perhaps I was waiting for a shock, but the only shock I received was when I woke up the next morning the same as the day before.
…there was given me 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.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
Paul would have understood the desire to have my “thorn” removed. Credited as being one of the most successful missionaries of all time, he, too, pleaded with the Lord to take away a prickly area of his life. Paul is recognized for being one of the first to bring the message of Christ to the Gentiles, as well as the Jews. A majority of Biblical scholars agree Paul’s thorn was most likely a physical illness. Didn’t God think His chosen man could be more effective without a thorn in his flesh? Evidently not. God didn’t remove my thorn just as He didn’t remove Paul’s. But nestled in the pages of Acts is what our all-powerful God did do.
In chapter 16 of Acts, the perspective changes. The author changes from referring to Paul and his traveling companions as they to we.
From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. Acts 16:11-13 NIV
That author is none other than Luke, a trusted physician and follower of The Way. Scripture tells us Luke joined Paul’s missionary group as they traveled to Macedonia. The Bible doesn’t tell us why Luke united with the missionaries at this time, but I believe he was there to meet the daily needs required of Paul’s physical ailment – a doctor for the journey.
Paul prayed for God to remove his thorn, not just once but three times. Did God answer? God did not eliminate Paul’s thorn, but He knew every detail of Paul’s infirmity and set the scenario to have every requirement met. The Lord equipped His chosen missionary with exactly what he needed for the journey.
And when we look at Paul’s final days in 2 Timothy, we find him in jail. He has been beaten; he is cold and in heavy chains. Paul knows his time is near as he writes his beloved Timothy. He writes to describe how everyone had deserted him. Their fear of the emperor Nero was greater than their loyalty. But these words bring tears to my eyes. Only Luke is with me. (2 Timothy 4:11 NIV) Luke, who was along for the journey, was there with him in the end. I can imagine Dr. Luke did all he could to make Paul as comfortable as possible, which probably wasn’t very much. But God gave Paul grace through a friend and doctor to be with him until he met Jesus face to face.
When we pray for God to remove undesirable things from our lives, sometimes God chooses to equip us instead. He provides a way to meet our needs, while using that thorn to show His grace is sufficient.
So, what about me? Twenty-three years later, I still have Type 1 diabetes. Have I continued to pray for God to remove it? Yes, from time to time I do. But I can look back and see God’s hand. Through prayer, He led my parents to a wonderful doctor from the start; I am still seeing him after all these years. And through prayer, God guided me through the birth of two healthy children with no complications. I have no ill effects from my disease, and even ran my first 10K last year. God heard my plea, and He has definitely equipped me for the journey.
His grace is sufficient for me.