To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassing great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Corinthians 7-9)
What is a “thorn in the flesh”? I guess one could say that a “thorn in the flesh” is a nagging problem that won’t go away. For the apostle Paul it was more than likely some sort of physical pain or ailment that was not necessarily debilitating, but none the less, a permanent fixture and difficult to deal with. Although he doesn’t tell us exactly what the problem was, he seems to feel that it was from Satan.
Satan works extra hard on those who love God. He wants us to reject God and accompany him (Satan) to hell. As Christians work hard to light up the world around them with the light of Christ, Satan tries to weaken them by putting obstacles in their paths. We are warned to; Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He is always nearby waiting to pounce on us in our weakness. He wants to make us think and feel that God doesn’t love us. But we know that Jesus is stronger than Satan and that those who love Him need not fear Satan’s evil tricks. Through faith in Jesus and prayer we can overcome anything that Satan sets before us.
Have you ever experienced a problem which would be considered a “thorn in the flesh”? I have and I would like to tell you about it. I hope that sharing my “thorn” with others will not only help me, but others who are experiencing a never ending problem, whether it be similar to mine or completely different.
My thorn is called Psoriasis. It’s not a life threatening condition, but it is very difficult to deal with. It began for me about two years ago. I had an itchy spot on my thigh. When I reached down to scratch it I noticed a red spot with a tiny piece of skin beginning to flake off of it. It was summer so I thought perhaps it was a bug bite. As it turned out, that itchy spot was the beginning of Psoriasis. At the time of this writing about 80 percent of my body is covered with itchy, red, flaking skin from my neck to my ankles.
What is Psoriasis? Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. Psoriasis occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells. While normal skin cells mature and fall off the body within about a month, psoriatic skin cells mature rapidly and take only 3-4 days to surface. Instead of falling off, the skin cells accumulate and form red, flaking skin patches. Basically, with Psoriasis, the immune system turns on itself, attacking the skin. Many who have Psoriasis also have what is called Psoriatic Arthritis and yup, you guessed it – I have that too, but it is not the worst of my problems.
We don’t know what exactly causes this disease. It is believed however that stress can often trigger it. Strep infections, smoking, injury to the skin, heavy alcohol consumption, cold weather and certain medications can also cause it to flare up. Research seems to show that it runs in families. I am not aware of any close or distant relatives of mine who have or had Psoriasis. However my immediate family does have a history of autoimmune disease. My mother had Rheumatoid Arthritis as also does our son. Mom was diagnosed in her 50’s but our son was diagnosed at age 28 and we suspect that he had it as a child. We just weren’t aware of it.
Only those who have experienced Psoriasis know just how difficult a problem it is. The biggest problem for me in the beginning was the fact that the medications which help it are extremely
expensive. When I started with the disease I had no prescription coverage. A little tube of Dovonex is a $300 dollar bill. A four ounce bottle of Desonide Lotion is $200. I have better health insurance now which provides prescription coverage. Although I pay a pretty penny for it, I don’t pay as much as I would be paying for my medication without it.
For many people with Psoriasis sunlight seems to be the best medicine. Vitamin D given off by natural sunlight seems to help it heal. My Dr. recommended 30 minutes a day (15 minutes for the front/15 minutes for the back) in the sunshine. He had me try Photo Therapy during the winter months, but neither worked for me. In fact natural sunlight and photo therapy made my Psoriasis worse. I have also tried Humira and Enbrel which are self administered injections, but ended up being allergic to both. My next option was Methotrexate, but I was allergic to that also.
For the past six months or so I have been using topical medications which, although they didn’t clear it up completely, they did keep it under control. However a few weeks ago they stopped working for me altogether. Currently my back, chest, legs and arms are covered with horrible red blotches that itch uncontrollably and sometimes bleed.
I was referred by my Dermatologist to the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After discussing my condition with the Doctors there it was determined that the next plan of action for me would be Stelara. Stelara is an injection drug which is taken once every three months. I pray that it will work for me. My options have become limited and I am beginning to feel desperate.
The bottom line is that I have this “thorn”. It is very difficult to tolerate, but I also know that many people have much worse things to deal with in life. I have prayed with tears to Jesus to help me and I believe he has. I seem to be finally making headway in treating my disease, but it will never go away. I believe that God is using this “thorn” to draw me closer to him and to make me realize how much I need him.
Is it from Satan? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter because I am not afraid of anything Satan can do to me. I love the Lord and I am confident that I am protected from Satan. So —- SATAN GET AWAY FROM ME! NOTHING YOU DO TO ME CAN DESTROY ME BECAUSE I HAVE JESUS ON MY SIDE!!!
In the end, I am truly blessed. God has been good to me. I am honored to be disciplined by him because I know that the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. (Hebrews 12:6) He doesn’t promise anywhere in his word that this life on earth will be easy. In fact he warns us; In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world! (John 16:33)
As I deal with this “thorn” I will continue to do the Lord’s work, knowing he has a plan for my life. I am confident that he will use my “thorn” to grow my faith and keep me connected to him. I am reassured that he loves me and will never leave me to face my troubles alone. I am so thankful and honored that he chose me to belong to him. What more could anyone ask for? Thank you Jesus!! Help me to remember that your grace is sufficient for me and that your power is made perfect in me through my weaknesses.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.(Romans 8: 35, 37-39)
Gloria Dei! Amen.