Living With Thorns
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-9
Living With Thorns
Plants were created with a variety of clever self-defense mechanisms. The list for botanical self-preservation is endless, ranging anywhere from impenetrable barriers to poisonous chemical warfare to carnivorism (as seen in the classic Venus flytrap). The most primal and effective are thorns. Often, the world's most gorgeous flowers grow on thorny stems. The two things growing together seem contradictory. Why would God make something so attractive so painful? Beauty inspires us. We long to reach out and touch it. We desire to own it and hold it in our hands, even knowing its potential to hurt us. Beauty is often seasonal and fleeting, yet every inch of our fleshly fiber chases it in one form or another. How are we supposed to find beauty in a world that hurts us so often? How do we deal with the thorns in the botanical gardens of our hearts?
Abraham Lincoln once said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” That is the underlying message of what Paul is getting at here. He knows that God has snatched him from the fiery pit of hell for a great and glorious purpose of His choosing. Not Paul’s choosing. So to keep him from becoming too self-reliant, he left a thorn in his heart to protect him from pride. I love that Paul doesn’t tell us what the thorn is because it makes it much more relatable to us as readers today to place ourselves in his shoes and substitute our own thorn. In Living With Thorns: A Biblical Survival Guide by Mary Ann Froehlich, she reminds us that “We seek to know through Scripture what God’s purposes and secrets are. This understanding protects us from the tyranny of self-absorption. Practicing it will revolutionize your prayer life.” She is absolutely spot on. What a blessing that God left us His Word so that thousands of years later, I can cope with the thorns in my heart.
Like Paul, I too, have been dramatically saved from a destructive path of self-sabotage and torment. Now that I am born again in Christ, I am a new creation. Many wonderful things have happened this month, and I am finally in a flowering season after a long cold winter. I see the fruit from years of Christ helping me become more rooted in Him. Yet like a blooming rose bush, this season also holds many thorns, and the attacks from satan have been the most intense I have ever experienced in my life (next to going to rehab). I keep reminding myself to take pure joy in the fact I am being attacked so hard because it must mean God has a fantastic plan for my future.
The enemy doesn’t want us to realize how powerful prayer is. When Paul says above that he pleaded with God, he was referring to his conversations with God in prayer. Prayer is a powerful weapon. When we pray with and for others, we see deliverance in this realm. Sometimes not immediately, and often not how we would like. But God always answers prayers. In Job 42:8-9 we see that God reprimands Job’s three friends that spoke wrongly of God’s nature. He rebukes them and tells them that He will have his servant Job pray for them. Then we see that the Lord accepted Job’s prayers, and his fortunes are restored and doubled only AFTER he prayed. Our prayers are important, not only for ourselves but for the people around us.
Like Job’s friends, sometimes we say things when we should just sit with and pray for our loved ones tortured by thorns. That is what the book Living With Thorns reminds us of. It isn’t a self-help book that will tell us how to improve our lives. Rather, it offers survival tools (such as prayer) so that we can turn to God when the pain of life feels unbearable. We learn that “He speaks to us in our affliction and uses our thorns to rescue us and draw us closer to Him.” That’s all He ever wanted in the first place. And really that’s all our hearts ever wanted too.
Have a blessed week, no matter what thorns you face.