People have varying opinions about Paul's thorn in the flesh.
However, Paul tells us exactly what his thorn was:
"...a messenger of Satan sent to torment me."
(2 Corinthians 12:7)
So we know from Paul's own words the thorn was a messenger of Satan sent to torment him.
The question is:
Who is the messenger of Satan and how did this satanic messenger torment Paul?
The messenger of Satan may be the false apostles whom Paul referred to as servants of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:12-15).
It is possible they were seeking to destroy Paul's message and mission wherever he went.
It is also possible the messenger of Satan could have been injecting thoughts into Paul's mind about his past, bringing up horrific memories about the many lives he took and the pain he caused others.
In Paul's attempts to shut down the movement of Jewish people coming to believe Jesus was the Messiah, he violently would drag people from their homes and synagogues, imprisoning them for their beliefs.
He would also have people put to death.
One of these he had put to death was Stephen (Acts 7).
I am sure Paul had vivid and horrifying memories of Stephen being pounded with stone after stone, dying an excruciating death.
I am sure he had guilt-ridden memories of fathers and mothers being dragged away from their homes with their children crying out in horror.
More than likely, whenever he saw children, he was reminded of his past.
Surely, the memories of his past haunted him, possibly tormenting him day and night.
Shame, guilt, condemnation, and regret weighed heavily upon him.
We can’t forget, Paul was human, just like us, capable of doing terrible things and feeling tremendous emotional pain.
It is possible these tormenting memories, producing shame, guilt, condemnation, and regret, was his thorn in the flesh, which the messenger of Satan injected into his mind (2 Corinthians 12:7).
I believe the mission of this satanic messenger was to attack Paul through the memories of his past, tormenting him with shame, guilt, condemnation, and regret, much the same way Satan attacks us through the memories of our past.
Tormented by these memories and weighed down by shame, guilt, condemnation, and regrets, Paul cried out to
Jesus three times to take these tormenting memories and feelings of shame, guilt, condemnation, and regret away, but Jesus responded to Paul by saying,:
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:8).
Essentially, Jesus was telling Paul his unconditional love, unearned blessings, unmerited kindness, and unlimited forgiveness were what he needed to find healing from the memories haunting him and to find relief from the shame, guilt, condemnation, and regrets weighing heavily upon him.
Rather than dwelling on his past, Jesus told Paul to dwell on his grace.
By dwelling on grace, healing and relief would come.
Toward the end of Paul’s life, while sharing the good news of God’s grace as the way to enter the kingdom of God, he quoted a verse from Isaiah which said God would bring healing to the hearts of people if they would turn to him (Acts 28:23-27).
God’s heart is a heart of grace that wants to heal those who are haunted by their memories and release those feeling the weight of their shame, guilt, condemnation, and regrets.
So many people live daily tormented by the memories of something wrong they did.
You may be one of these people.
If you are tormented by your memories and weighed down by shame, guilt, condemnation, and regret, hear Jesus telling you what he told Paul:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness. Receive my grace. Receive my unconditional love, unearned blessings, unmerited kindness, and unlimited forgiveness. I love you. I accept you. I have forgiven you.”