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2 Corinthians 12:8

ESV Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.
NIV Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
NASB Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me.
CSB Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me.
NLT Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.
KJV For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
NKJV Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.

What does 2 Corinthians 12:8 mean?

One of the oldest and most heinous lies told about the gospel is that religion brings earthly success (1 Timothy 6:3–5). Prosperity teachers and faith healers routinely claim any sickness and struggle can be eliminated by those with enough faith. There is absolutely zero scriptural support for this view; passages such as this prove exactly the opposite. Even the most faithful, sincere, and committed Christian is not immune from hardship, whether that's through persecution (John 15:19) or natural ills (2 Corinthians 5:2–6). Neither sin nor lack of faith is necessary to experience difficult times (John 9:1–3).

Among the dangers of the "word of faith" approach is this inevitable disappointment. False teachers tell converts that Christianity means health, wealth, and prosperity. When that promise falls apart, their followers either blame themselves, or they blame their warped perception of the faith. That leads to discouragement, at best, and apostasy, at worst. Christ's own warning about earthly struggles was meant explicitly to avoid this (John 16:33).

Paul's experience involves some unknown "thorn / stake in the flesh." This could have been anything from a physical condition, to emotional distress, to a harassing temptation. It would be absurd to claim Paul lacked faith, and yet he suffered. This thing, whatever it was, was obviously uncomfortable. It likely slowed down Paul's ministry, at least from his point of view. He even prayed—"pleading" with God three times—and that request was denied.

Paul reveals in the following verse that God refused to remove this from his life. It was God's will that Paul endure this. The reason is one Paul may only have fully understood once he realized his prayer would not be granted. The comment made at the end of verse 7 gives God's motivation: to keep Paul humble.
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