The golfer’s handicap was introduced about 100 years ago and it is a numerical measure of a golfer’s potential that is used to enable players of varying abilities to compete against one another.
A handicap is essentially how many strokes over (or under) par golfers are able to play and the lower a golfer’s handicap, the better golfer he/she is considered.
If you know me, than you know I am no golfer, but I am a formidable competitor at putt-putt! Whilst amateur and professional golfers focus on improving their handicap index, the Apostle Paul chose to focus on the gift of his handicap rather than the handicap itself.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 of the Message paraphrase Peterson said, “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”
There have been many theories as to what exactly this thorn [handicap] was—so many theories in fact, that it is literally impossible to diagnose Paul’s situation with complete assurance. Some have suggested that Paul’s thorn came as result of spiritual pride, while others propose that he wrestled with carnal temptation and/or depression.
A physical ailment, however, seems more likely, though the lack of details forbid a proper diagnosis.
In my research, I found that Paul took advantage of various amanuenses to do the actual writing of at least some of his epistles. A mentioned amanuensis of Paul is Tertius who wrote down the book of Romans and added his own greeting to the church in Rome (Rom 16:22).
To be honest, the ambiguity of the thorn in the flesh [handicap] is actually a positive thing. If Paul would have specifically stated the identity of his thorn [handicap] believers from following generations may have discarded his experience if they were not afflicted with the same affliction.
Each of us have a handicap(s), but thankfully God uses our handicap(s) to demonstrate the power of His grace. Even when our flesh and heart fail us, He is the strength of our heart (Psalm 73:26). In order for Christ’s power to work in us we must be in total submission to Him, despite our handicap(s). Like Paul, when we choose to focus on the gift and not the handicap(s) we allow ourselves to humbly depend on God to extend grace upon grace in our time of need (John 1:16).