So 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!