The Gift of the Thorn

By on September 22, 2015
Apostle Paul by Rembrandt 1657

By Katherine Swarts –

Of late, my life verse has become 2 Corinthians 12:9: “But [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 

As with most Scriptural verses, this one should be read in context (2 Corinthians 12:1-10) to fully appreciate it. In verse 7, Paul says he was “given” a “thorn in my flesh,” and although commentators have speculated endlessly on the possible nature of that “thorn” (physical disability? spiritual warfare? mental-health issue? human abuse?), all agree that the use of “given” is not to be taken casually. 
Image: Apostle Paul by Rembrandt 1657

Paul saw his “thorn,” the source of so much misery to him, as coming straight from the same God who is regularly praised in Scripture for His giving nature.

Implication: what appears to be an attack straight from the devil may well be a direct blessing from God, and every believer can learn to rejoice even in the most miserable circumstances by seeing God’s hand in them.

So, speaking now for all who live with a “thorn in the flesh” related to an emotionally sensitive heart: how can we see God’s grace and strength in our proneness to despair, our deep-running pain over the sufferings in the world, our feelings of being “different from” and misunderstood by the majority population?

Let us first count the blessings of emotional sensitivity:

  1. Christ Himself was a “Man of Sorrows” whose heart broke for the pains of the world; hence, the emotionally sensitive soul already has a head start in the responsibility to be made like Christ.
  2. Sensitive people rarely suffer from delusions of total self-reliance; they are naturally aware of their deep-running imperfections, and quicker to put aside their pride and turn to God for help.
  3. A sensitive heart is a creative heart, with enormous potential to shine God’s light in the world by speaking to the hearts of others. Many great writers, musicians, and artists, who continue to influence the world for God long after their earthly lives have ended, have struggled with deep pain and emotional sensitivity.
  4. The one who can grieve deeply can also love deeply and rejoice intensely.
  5. “Deep” people can build more fulfilling and lasting relationships, with God and with other humans. Many “emotionally normal” people are satisfied with shallow popularity and never know the full joy of deep commitment.
  6. “Deep” people are quicker to empathize with the pain of others and to deliver Christ’s compassion where most needed. They are often more patient with others’ weaknesses, and rarely commit the “Job’s comforters” error of telling hurting people to “quit whining and follow these simple steps and everything will be fine.”
  7. People who are sensitive enough to be aware of their own weaknesses, are quicker to surrender them to God and allow Him to empower them–and quicker to give Him the glory for “their” achievements.

Thank God for any of the above you already appreciate in your life, and ask Him to guide you in developing the others. Then, don’t wait to “feel better” before you start giving of yourself to others; go forward in God’s strength to spread His blessings.

Just remember to take advantage of your natural spiritual sensitivity by returning to Him daily for strength and refreshment.

(For a useful, though secular, list of additional insights and tips for living with a “highly sensitive” nature, read this article, “10 Life-Changing Tips for Highly Sensitive People.”)


About Katherine Swarts

Katherine Swarts is a poet and inspirational writer from Houston, Texas. Her self-published poetry book Where Light Dawns: Christian Poems of Hope for Hurting Hearts (the first volume in a planned series) was “written for naturally gloomy types like myself who are tired of ‘cheer up’ talk and need the comfort of ‘God does love you’ encouragement.” The poems in the book come from Katherine’s blog at; contact Katherine at [email protected] for ordering information.

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The Gift of the Thorn