Was Paul’s “Thorn in the Flesh” Multiple Sclerosis?

It’s Sunday!

The New Testament is full of examples of the Apostle Paul’s physical ailments. I remember hearing of his “thorn in the flesh” when I was a child.

There wasn’t much for a first grader to do in south Texas in the 60’s. I liked to break the prickles off my mom’s roses and would occasionally stick the tip of one in my fingers. I imagined Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” must have been huge and deep if no one could remove it!

So What Was Wrong With the Apostle Paul?

Jim Kemp’s “must read article”, What Was Wrong With the Apostle Paul?, presents an excellent analysis of the Apostle Paul’s physical ailments and compares them to the diagnostic criteria for multiple sclerosis. He offers a convincing argument the Apostle Paul’s symptoms may very well have resulted from the relapsing/remitting form of multiple sclerosis.

If this diagnosis is correct, the life of the Apostle Paul is a great example of one who accomplished much in spite of the “on again/off again” symptoms resulting from his MS. If you care for someone with MS you know the frustrations of the exacerbations and relapses followed by the relief of the remissions. And always in the back of your mind is concern about when (or if) the relapsing/remitting form will become secondary progressive.

A good presentation of the different forms of multiple sclerosis titled, “Types of Multiple Sclerosis”, is available on the MultipleSclerosis.com web site. The article shows line graphs of the way MS progresses in its different forms. According to the article, on average, MS relapses occur every 2 years and the change from relapsing/remitting to secondary progressive occurs after 5 to 15 years. In the secondary progressive form neurological symptoms tend to worsen progressively instead of coming and going.

I digressed. One role of an MS caregiver is to offer encouragement. This can be difficult when an MS patient is experiencing a relapse or suffering progressive decline. After reading Jim Kemp’s article, “What Was Wrong With the Apostle Paul?”, and knowing how much Paul accomplished, I’ll read Paul’s letters with a renewed perspective on what one with MS can actually accomplish in life.

Caregiver Tip: Find ways to offer encouragement that are meaningful to the one for whom you care.

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