What are we to do with our life challenges and pain when, despite our pleading, God wonít remove it? He knows weíre hurting but maybe initially does nothing to remove it. How can He be a God of love yet not come to our aid?

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 gives us intimate insight into a very painful event in Paulís life. We donít know exactly what the ďthorn in the fleshĒ was, but his account of what he learned through that experience is an amazing example of what God wants to teach us through adversity.

First of all, God is sovereign over the situation. Ultimately, He is the one who allowed the thorn and the one with the power to remove it. There is absolutely nothing that happens in the universe that is outside of Godís influence and authority. "God created all things and holds all things together, both in heaven and on earth, both visible and invisible" (Colossians 1:16).

Second, God prioritizes the spiritual. Paul wanted physical relief, but the Lord was working for his spiritual good. The thorn was a protection against pride, which would have seriously hindered Paulís ministry and corrupted his character. Whatever God allows to afflict believers is designed to protect them from sin, produce holiness, and equip them for faithful service to Christ.

Take an honest look at your current priorities. Reflect on your life right now to consider what factors most determine how you choose to live. Where are you investing most of your time, money, and energy? Which relationships and activities do you devote yourself to every day? Where do you currently place God on your list of priorities? If your relationship with God isnít your top priority right now, what specific changes do you need to make in your life to devote yourself to God first?

Third, Godís grace is sufficient. The Lord didnít remove the pain but gave Paul both the grace to endure it and strength in his weakness. If God doesnít provide a way out, He will provide a way through. This thorn in the flesh is said to be a messenger of Satan which he sent for evil; but God designed it, and overruled it for good. Prayer is a salve for every sore, a remedy for every malady; and when we are afflicted with thorns in the flesh, we should give ourselves to prayer.

Once we understand the Lordís sovereignty, priorities, and sufficiency, we can respond to our afflictions as Paul didówith gladness. When Christís strength is perfected in us, we can be content in whatever difficulties God allows in our life. The Lordís unwillingness to give us relief is not neglect. Rather, it is evidence of His surpassing love, which seeks our eternal good.