Tuesday, October 29, 2019

My Thorn In The Flesh?

     For years, since I have become a Christian, I have prayed for God to "crush all pride" in me, to keep me humble. The Bible has a lot to say about "pride." God hates it (Prov 6:16-17). It is sin (Prov 21:4). Pride goes before destruction (Prov 16:18). I list more verses on "pride" hereSince God is so averse to pride, I do not want to be proud. 

     In relation to this, it is also interesting to look at what the Bible says about Paul's "thorn in the flesh" in (2 Cor 12:7-10). In short, in the preceding verses (2 Cor 12:1-6), we see that Paul had been taken up into Heaven, and "heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak." As a result of this experience, Paul was given a "thorn in the flesh" to keep him from being proud of the "revelations" he had been given by God. While we do not know for sure what this "thorn" was (I believe it was an affliction of his eyes), we do know that it was debilitating to Paul.

     Are some people today being given a "thorn in the flesh" from God (or Satan depending on your point of view) to keep them from being proud? Have I been given a "thorn in the flesh" to keep ME from being proud? I don't know for sure, but I have been thinking about this for a while now. Let me explain.

     Most who read this probably already know that I run a Christian website: JesusAlive.cc. Many of you may have come to this blog from the site. I have answered hundreds of Bible questions, and written Bible studies for the site since August of 2002. If you spend any time on the website, you will probably leave with the impression, "Steve knows the Bible really well." I have spent thousands of hours in God's Word to write what I write. I "seem" to be a Bible scholar. However, there is a problem: I CAN'T REMEMBER WHAT I WRITE! 

     Frankly, this isn't the only problem either. I have a "scrambled up brain," and honestly, I am beginning to think that God is behind it. That it is my "thorn in the flesh." Let me explain.

     I have a learning disability. This has been a problem for my whole life. I barely got through school because of it. In some areas of my brain, I might be considered brilliant. For example, I know more odd bits of trivia than almost anyone I know. Most people refuse to play me in Words With Friends (a game like Scrabble) after a few games because I don't lose much. I have a gift for remembering people's names and faces for years (I see people years later, and call them by name and they have no idea who I am.). Cool, right?

     But, then it comes to the other part of my brain. This part literally "embarrasses" me on a regular basis. For one, I have a HUGE problem talking. I stumble over words. I make no sense sometimes. I often cannot convey what I want to say. If I get too flustered, my brain basically just "shuts off" - literally! (In moments like these, I have forgotten things like the name of the street I live on, or the name of a person I see on a regular basis.) Honestly, if this was not a problem, I would almost certainly be a pastor today. However, with my brain the way it is, I could never stand in front of a church congregation and preach. It is a constant problem even trying to teach my Bible studies. People have left because of it. 

     In addition to this is the "not remembering" problem I mentioned above. It happened again this week at Bible study. We came to a section on "crowns." We had discussed "crowns" a few weeks earlier, so I asked the class what they remembered about our discussion. I had followed up that earlier discussion by writing a specific study on "crowns," and I mentioned that. A lady who had joined us for the first time asked me what I had learned in my study. I had almost completely forgotten what I had just written on. I fumbled and stumbled over a few bits I did remember, then I had to jump to my phone and go to the website to pull up what I had written. This happens constantly! WHY??? How can I have such an amazing ability to remember odd bits of trivia, and names and faces, but yet I can't remember something I just finished studying??

     I may be way off here, but could God be using this to "crush my pride?" To keep me humble? If I had the ability to remember everything I have written on, like I can remember trivia, names, and faces, or if I could talk as well as I seem able to write, perhaps I would be prideful, "puffed up" in my knowledge and ability to speak. Not being able to remember, and not being able to talk well "crushes" me. It also keeps me from thinking too highly of myself. I hate it at times (like this week). It can also be depressing. 

     Here is what Paul said about his "thorn" in (2 Cor 12:8-10)(NIV): 

"Three times I (Paul) pleaded with the Lord to take it (the thorn) away from me. (9) But He 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. (10) That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

     Paul did not want his "thorn." If this is my "thorn," I don't want it either. However, if Christ's grace will carry me through, if Christ's power will be made perfect in my weakness, then I must be "glad" and "delight" in my weaknesses. I am not quite there on this..., but I am working on it. For those of you who have persevered with me as I deal with this, thank you! For those of you who have separated from me because of it, I am sorry!

P.S. I also have another "brain thing" that I have never known ANYONE to have. I will forget a person's name, or the name of a place or thing, but I will remember how many "letters" the person, place, or thing has in it. This happens constantly. It happened last night. My wife asked me the last name of a person we used to go to church with years ago. I couldn't remember, but I said, "I think it has like 8 letters and it may start with an "M." My wife said, "McGinnis." Yup, that's it! If my wife hadn't gotten it, it eventually would have come to me. It almost always does. Crazy, right? I only mention this because if anyone reading this knows another person like this PLEASE let me know! There must be someone else like me out there!

Update: Oddly enough, before I had a chance to post this, I ended up going to a local restaurant with my wife and a group friends last night to play a trivia game. Everyone has a little computer box and it asks you a question, then you answer. The faster you answer with the right answer, the more points you get. So, the guy (me) who is supposed to know a lot of trivia, and usually wins, lost to almost everyone in the first game. I thought about this blog. Then we played a second game. I was leading everyone with 5 questions left, on my way to victory. Then, for some reason, I was given "0" points 4 times in a row on answers I had right, and I lost! How did that happen?? I have played trivia at this restaurant probably around 50 times and have never had that happen before. Honestly, I think I know how it happened. Lesson: I need even more "pride-crushing."
(Also, I mentioned in conversation that a car repair place we use is on "Mason Ave." when it is on "Ridgewood Ave." because there is a business called "Mason's" near our car repair shop. Mason Ave. is on the other side of town...)


  1. I loved learning and looking for wisdom. When I 1st came to the lord I had minor stroke symptoms and had to learn to talk and read again. Ever since I had to trust the lord to help me remember everything. Even to this day. It sucks but it sure does keep you humble. At the right time the lord will give me the words to say. But ask me any bible trivia question and most likely I won’t be able to answer. Your not alone brother.

    1. Thanks! I appreciate you sharing your story. We are in it together!

  2. Hello Steve I just found this website this morning. I really enjoy the fact that you link so many Bible verses in your posts and your comments are very practical. I struggle with memory issues same as you exactly. Including if my daughter asks me someones name I say I don't know but I do remember what letter it starts with and randomly say like 4 names with that letter and then they guess what it is. I never met anyone else with that exact problem until I saw your post. I had GREAT difficulty in public speaking as do you and feel like I have Altimeters and I'm not even 50 yet. I have been diagnosed with ADD around age 13 so maybe you have it too? Ironically my name is Paul and I've always wondered what Paul's thorn in the flesh was so thank you for this post and the love for Jesus you show by having this website. God Bless.

    1. Thanks for sharing Paul, and I appreciate the encouragement. I definitely have OCD, and likely ADD too. I actually tried to Google my "remembering the number of letters of a person, place, or thing, but not know what it is." I could find NOTHING on it. Glad to have some company (but sorry you have to go through that too). God bless

  3. Wow. That’s me. I’m 72 yrs old and yes this is very humbling. But it’s good to know I’m not alone.


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