Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Thorns

I think we all have them.

In second Corinthians 12, Paul wrote about his, starting in verse 7,


Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I've often wondered exactly what Paul's thorn was.  Was it literally a little demon-messenger digging his claws into his left shoulder while spewing venom in his ear?  Was it an inclination to commit a particular sin?  Was it pain or a physical injury, illness or a condition?  It was quite possibly something we cannot even wrap our heads around and that's why there isn't a more specific explanation.

Whatever it was, it was bad enough that Paul pleaded with God to take it from him.  Have you been there?

I have.  

I hesitate to share my thorns because I don't want this to be about me.  We are ALL in this together.  Some thorns do seem impossible to bear- the loss of a child or parent or spouse, an addiction, a diagnosis that leaves little room for hope, marital conflict, chronic illness, family discord, a loved one yet to accept Jesus....

And yet there are little thorns, too, that can trip us up- poking us in tender places, sending us running- to plead with God for relief.  If only you took this from me, I could.....  If only this wasn't an issue for me, I'd have more time and energy for....

I imagine God winces when we come to Him with our petitions.  Like a good father, it's hard to see His children hurting and in pain, begging for mercy.  But unlike many good earthly fathers, He has our whole story in view.  He sees who we will touch with our stories, who we will walk beside and cry with.  He sees the witness we can be for Him despite and because of our struggles.  He sees us in the place we're meant to be- relying on Him for every step and every breath.

We often forget how much we need Him.

And instead of just having our burden lifted, we can be made perfect (v. 9)?!  I know I can't do that on my own.  Some days I might still choose relief.  But that only highlights my imperfection (albeit natural and completely understandable).  Who in their right mind would ask for earthy relief over making God's power perfect?  Paul did.  Three times. That makes me feel better.

My prayer is that we can all pull way back.  Then in our mind's eye picture the amazing story of God's glory- from creation to the Kingdom of God right here on earth- and put our hope in Him, remembering that when we are weak, we are strong.  His power is made perfect in our weakness.

Cling to this, friends, and in our best moments, let's even delight in it.  I'm clinging right along beside you.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13
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10 comments:

  1. I know "thorn in the flesh" is much different than Christ's sufferings for us, but he also suffered more than just in Gethsemane and on the cross even though his suffering wasn't because of his imperfection like ours is. These scriptures in 1 Peter give me comfort:
    1 Peter 4:1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves like wise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
    1 Peter 4:13
    But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

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  2. Thank you, I needed these words today.
    Blessings to you and yours.
    JoeyLea

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  3. I can't really explain why, but this post is the best answer to what has been going through my mind. Thank you.
    Thank you.

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  4. Excellent. I posted it on my fb page, with a link back here. Thank you for your words of wisdom!

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  5. May the Lord bless and keep you through it all!

    Fern

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  6. Thank you so much for writing this. It will be a great help to me! God bless you

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  7. Your post is absolutely beautiful! You are truly an inspiration and a blessing. My favorite is Phil 4:13. God Bless and keep them coming!!!

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  8. Thank you so much, Jane. I really, really needed to hear this this morning.

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  9. The best "theological guess" of what the thorn is might be that Paul was nearly blind. There are various hints at this, the clearest in Gal 4:15 where he speaks of the "large letter" written in his own hand. Whether or not this had any connection to his temporary blindness at his conversion is another discussion.

    However, I often wonder that he would not be angry by spending so much of his ministry years "rotting" in jails when he could have been preaching from the rooftops. How could he have ever guessed that only because he was in jail and writing to the churches instead of visiting, would he pen more of the new testament than any other person? One of the best examples of God using what we see as "thorns" as a blessing in disguise.

    Kimberlee

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