The Thorn in My Side: Making Christ’s Power Evident Through My Weaknesses

WomanPraisingSo to keep me (Paul) from becoming conceited….,a thorn was given mein the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited….But he (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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ 2 Cor. 12:7; 9-10

Paul was given a thorn in his side because of the great revelations he was being given by God, so he would not become conceited. Believers are sometimes given thorns, not because of anything good in them, but so that God’s power can be shown and be made perfect in our human weaknesses. I pray, as you read this post, you don’t come away feeling sorry for me or thinking that there is anything wonderful in me because there is nothing good in me apart from Christ (Jn.15:5; Rom.7:18). Instead I pray, you see Christ’s power, grace, and mercy and how He provides a way to a life of peace, even in sinful weaknesses.

My thorn began as a splinter at the age of 7. I was in a dance class and much bigger than the other girls. For 2 years, they made sure I knew it too. Fast forward 8 years and one comparison to King Kong and my splinter had become a small thorn. I had become obsessed with achieving the “perfect” figure. I started with a diet at 13 that left me 20 pounds thinner but wasn’t enough to make me happy. I then tried weight loss aids that I bought at a grocery store, but those didn’t work either. All through high school I wondered, “Why don’t I look like the rest of the girls or the girls in all the magazines?” At 17, I entered college to play tennis for a multi-national championship team. The coach’s standards were extremely high and even required monthly weigh-ins. They were humiliating and I dreaded them every month. A few months in, I was called in by the coach. He told me I was too heavy and there would be consequences if I didn’t lose quite a bit weight. Right then and there he confirmed all my thoughts that I wasn’t good enough. He repeatedly reminded me of my “overweight” figure, so I dedicated even more of myself to winning the approval of everyone who saw me.

I was insecure and vain all at once. I wanted to be recognized. I wanted to be “good enough” so I took the necessary measures. If I was to win the approval and a spot on the team, I would need to do what it takes. I tried the starvation route but that lasted all of 2 days because I loved food too much. The only other way I knew of losing weight was to binge and then purge but that didn’t make sense in my head. “Why would I eat thousands of calories? That won’t help me lose weight.” But what if I was able to have normal meals, enjoy the food, but without the fatty consequences? So if I felt too full after a meal or knew I shouldn’t have had that extra dessert, I would just go take care of it. This was genius!

After a few years of doing this, it had spiraled out of control. Instead of throwing up every other dinner, it would be dinner and lunch every day. It had turned into a stress reliever and a way of feeling “in control” of my life. I had become obsessed with food, calorie counting, and body comparison. It was my WHOLE life. Literally, a minute wouldn’t go by without me worrying about my body. Then physical health consequences started to set in. I genuinely thought I would be exempt from those. I was a college athlete and took care of myself. I wouldn’t have to worry about those, right? Sometimes I couldn’t breathe, I was always exhausted, my teeth were getting more brittle, and the excruciating stomach pains began. I still have to face these consequences of my sin to this day. I started to realize that trying to control my own life, achieve the perfect body, and gain some sort of happiness on my own was making me miserable. My heart was dark. That was when God broke me. I realized I could no longer do it on my own. I NEEDED Him. His approval was the only one that mattered now. God brought me back around with open arms but the wounds from the thorn had to heal and it was going to be a long and painful process.

Even as I recount those events, the looks, the words said to me, I could cry. The scars of those wounds are still there. But praise God for His constant love and strength which help heal the wounds and persevere towards peace in Him. Without His power, I would still be a broken-down mess. Don’t get me wrong, I still battle thoughts of nit-picking my body, constant comparisons to other people, and even temptation to go back to the activity that did so much damage to my mind and body.

Some people question, “If you’ve truly overcome this problem, then why do you still battle with thoughts of it?” One word…SIN. I am still a depraved human. Satan knows my weaknesses and he will do whatever it takes to destroy my relationship with Christ. As with any sin, it never goes away especially when it’s a personal weakness and Satan thinks he can attack you with it. But God ALWAYS gives His children a way out. You CAN take those thoughts captive!

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ~1 Corinthians 10:13

God IS faithful. He is right there by you when you’re being tempted by your thorn. He is saying to you “Come to me, my beloved, and I will help you out of this trial. I can be your shoulder, your rock, your strength when you can’t handle any more.” Only with Him can we be conquerors. So what are the ways we can overcome temptation?

1. Surround yourself with Scripture & God’s presence.

In the beginning of overcoming my eating disorder, my mother did one of the most helpful things she could have: she made cute picture frames with Scripture written in them. They went up in the bathroom so whenever I felt tempted I would look at God’s Word and it would fill my head with the things of God. What better way to combat Satan’s lies than with God’s very words, which are TRUTH? Scripture and prayer are our weapons against the evil one (Eph.6:17-18). That is why consistent reading of the Bible and scripture memorization is so important. When you surround yourself with it, you start to treasure it and know it in your heart, helping you live in obedience.

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” ~ Ps. 119:11

“I write to you…because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” ~ 1 John 2:14

Keep God close through prayer. Talking and listening to God is how you build a stronger relationship with Him. You get to know who He is and you learn the truth which then helps you watch out for Satan’s lies.

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”- Mark 14:38

2. Surround yourself with strong Christian friends to hold you accountable.

As members of the family of God, we are commanded to bear one one another’s burdens and restore each other in gentleness (Gal.6:1-2). Paul was a perfect example of this. In his letters, he was not afraid to confront any sins going on with the believers but he exhorted and encouraged them in love, gentleness, and with God’s Word. If not for my godly friends holding me accountable, it would be far easier to slip back into my old ways. Sin flourishes in the dark, in secrecy. That is why we must be honest with God, ourselves, and with our friends that our sin may not increase. God has called us out of darkness and to be children of the light, for God cannot have any darkness in His presence (1 Thess.5:5; 1 Jn. 1:5).

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Gal.6:1-2

3. Forgive those who have hurt you.

It has taken me a long time to forgive all those who hurt me because of my weight. I didn’t want to for so long. I almost liked blaming them for it all. But I had to take responsibility for my own actions. I was the one who decided to take what they said to heart and then act in sin. What they did wasn’t right but it is not my place to condemn them. Even Jesus commanded us to love and do good to those who hate us and hurt us (Lk.6:27, 35). They are sinners just as I am but I am accountable for my own sins. There cannot be true healing and reconciliation with God unless there is forgiveness.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and,(if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” ~Col. 3:12-14

4. Know that there is hope and way to a life of peace in Christ.

Christ will comfort us and bring us peace, if we give Him control of our lives (2 Cor.1:5). We can trust that God will not bring confusion or temptation into our lives (1 Cor. 14:33; Ja.1:13) because He can fill our lives with joy and peace, even ABOUNDING in hope (Rom. 15:13)! No matter what you’ve done in your life or are still doing, there is hope! There is a way back into Christ’s loving arms.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Rom. 8:35-39

He is more powerful than any sin in your life and only through Him will you overcome your thorn. I am testament of His life-changing power! Christ is transforming my mind every day. No longer am I enslaved to dark way of thinking about myself that led to a sinful action.I am a conqueror when Satan tries entangle me again in lies because I know God’s truth now. He has shown me how beautiful He sees His children, just the way they are. Christ truly brings peace! God has also blessed me with a godly man, to whom I will be marrying in May,who loves me just the way I am and pushes me towards having a righteous life and mind in Christ. so no matter your weaknesses, God’s power can be made perfect in you. Let Him be your strength and you WILL be a conqueror!


12 thoughts on “The Thorn in My Side: Making Christ’s Power Evident Through My Weaknesses

  1. Thank you so so much for this: “I was insecure and vain all at once.” This is EXACTLY how I feel as I have struggled through my own issues . . . thanks again for sharing and being vulnerable – what a blessing to read this today!

  2. I am in tears after reading this post. I have delt with image issues every sense the birth of my daughter. I just started reading Elyse Fitzpatrick book ‘Love to Eat Hate To Eat’ and this post reminds me of a lot of things she says in her book. Thank you for being so honest about your thorn. I am encouraged and I am so thankful for Gods gracious hand towards those of us that struggle with image, and weight issues. I was just feeling so down this morning thinking, ‘Lord I am tired of dealing with this…please help me” This encourages me to continue to FIGHT!!!! Lord help us all!!

  3. Diane, this reminded me of the scripture where Paul encourages us, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (or the way I got use to thinking and/or doing, my habits, my patterns of coping) but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” It is a battlefield of the mind. Praise God for your mom that knew the power of the Word of God and hung them on the doorposts for her children to see (Deut. 6). I too have had a lifelong battle with body issues that started at very young and innocent age, but it doesn’t matter how old the battle is, God is victorious in and thru us. I appreciated when you said the flesh is and will always be depraved. It is the roaring lion looking for who it might devor and we can overcome by the Word of our mouth and mind.
    Thank you for the honesty and the encouragement of this article, may God conyinue to bless you as you reach out to the hurting and the confused.
    Blessings Ulrike Grace

  4. “His approval was the only one that mattered now.” I am so grateful and so loved to know that even though we all are not perfect and our rags are dirty…we are beautiful daughters in the eyes of God and we are made strong through His strength!

  5. Hi, thanks again to you girls for keeping up this blog. I just have another quick fix for you– your quote at the top is from 2 Corinthians, not 1 Corinthians.

  6. Wow! I identify with your story so much it’s almost scary! I’m only 19 years old and I’ve only been struggling with food for about 2 years (at least 2 years that I’ve admitted it to myself), but it seems like it’s been forever!

    It really started for me when I came back to school my senior year about 15-20 pounds heavier and my track coach noticed right away. I had spent that summer sitting on my couch reading books and watching TV because I lived half an hour away from all my friends, and I hated driving to their houses in Arizona’s 110 degree weather in a car that lacked air conditioning. Anyways, being our teams top scorer running the hurdles and doing high jump, 15 extra pounds was just not going to fly with my coach. Track didn’t even start until Spring and I was on the schools swim and soccer teams before that as well, so I had ample time to loose weight. He weighed me once a week to check if I was loosing weight and eating as I should.

    For the first 3-4 months of me trying to loose weight by eating healthy and exercising, I ate practically nothing but carrots and celery for about 3 days until I was so insanely starving that I ate everything I could get my hands on. It was a vicious never ending cycle of starve and binge. This resulted in me gaining weight slowly and turning myself bulimic after becoming frustrated with myself for not meeting my weekly weigh-ins. I didn’t consider myself bulimic because I only did it every now and then, but then the number of times I’d made myself throw up got greater than I could count on my hand… When it got that bad though, I was so determined to loose weight that I didn’t care what I was doing to my body.

    After I came back from Christmas break that year, something changed in me and I got more motivated. I stopped throwing up regularly, but still did it every now and then when I ate to much. I started exercising three times a day (gym in the morning, weight lifting class before lunch, and soccer practice after school), but I was still not eating enough food for as many calories as I was burning. The weight came quickly off then and I allowed myself to starve slowly because I could see how thin I was getting and I loved it! I’m 5’9? and the lowest weight I got to was 140lbs. I was in the best shape of my life and not to sound conceited, but I looked and felt good. My muscles were toned and everyone around me commented on how thin and in shape I looked, which only encouraged the way I was treating my body.

    When track ended I told myself that I would give myself a week to eat what I wanted and then I would start eating healthy again to get ready for college track. Before I knew it, I had gained 15 pound back and it was time to go to college. I was so disappointed with myself! I just finished my first year of college and I can’t tell you how many times I told myself, “Tomorrow you’ll start your diet again!” To this day, I struggle with this eating disorder of eating too little and bingeing. The last time I had the guts to weigh myself, I weighed 170lbs and that scared me from getting on the scale again. I am a very strong person, so for me to be struggling with something like food, I feel so ashamed and weak! I can’t tell you how much I pray about this and how many times I’ve tried to eat healthy and seek God. I’ve prayed about it so much and asked for his help so much that I don’t think I believe it will work anymore. I don’t know how to trust in Him to get me through this. I even use to use the very same verses that you quoted in the beginning about the thorn in your side, which is one of my favorite verses, and about how no temptation has seized you except what is common to man. It all always works for like a week, and then I find myself falling into the same pattern of struggling with food.

    I don’t know what to do anymore and I loath the thought of seeking help because I am such a do-it-yourself type of person! Even writing all this out is a huge step for me! I sometimes think that maybe if I fast it will help break this obsession I have with food and my body, but then I don’t know if the fast would be totally for God or more for the loosing weight aspect, and I don’t know if thats bad? I don’t make myself throw up anymore, but the last time I did make myself throw up was probably in like March. I just don’t know what to do anymore? I don’t know how to trust in God to help me overcome this weakness that the enemy uses against me?

  7. I am so glad I read your testamony, it has blessed me so, I have a thorn as well that is sin and I believe more now that through my weakness I willover come this situation, I truly love and wrote down the scriptures, and I will study daily so I can be free to live right.

  8. I am taken aback by your message. I have been in prayer and meditation concerning 2 Corinthians 12. Your story is amazing. It helped me to humble myself and realize I am not alone. Even though my thorn is a different issue I can so relate when you said you were insecure and vain at the same time’. My God, I went through that when my Cellulitis first became an issue. My physical appearance was forever altered . But I can’t do anything but give God the GLORY. God bless you for sharing. You don’t realize how many people you have and will help with this blog.

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging comment! Praise the Lord for His faithful work in your life! Blessings to you, my sister.

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