During yesterday’s adventurous day of weed pulling and season pruning, I came across a rather large weed. First, I tried grasping it by the root and pulled, but it was too deep. Then I managed to grab the weed’s large leaves and OUCH! A thorn. Many thorns. I sat back, examined the weed a bit and noticed that it was the largest one in the yard and probably had been rooted for many months. I decided to leave this annoying thorny weed alone until I found the proper tools to uproot it.
The irony in this story is that I am two weeks into a new bible study called “Brave,” by Angela Thomas. After getting cleaned up from the long day and writing yesterday’s Faithful Trainer’s devotion, I decided to get caught up on this week’s lesson and what do you know? The topic was on thorns.
This week’s lesson shared a scripture from the apostle Paul where he spoke of his thorn in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from 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. For when I am weak, I am strong.’”
I thought hard about this subject and felt it was hard to pinpoint exactly what she was referring to, because really, what is a thorn? The American Heritage Dictionary says that a thorn is a modified branch in the form of a sharp, woody spine. It can cause sharp pain, irritation, or discomfort.
Funny thing was…I was pierced by a thorn only hours ago. Have you ever been struck by a thorn? I’m sure we have had a thorn in our hands or feet, perhaps after running through trails, or off the beaten paths. They can be very annoying and hurtful in a very specific way, but they don’t stop us from doing our work, or running that trail again. They do slow us down a bit and focus our attention elsewhere. This is what Paul recognized as well. This kind of obstacle can have a very important purpose for our life and our mission.
Thorns can come in different forms. It could be related to a specific event, an illness, an untimely death, or a divorce, which shook a family to its core. Relationships can also be a thorn. People can sometimes irritate us, criticize us, talk about us, make life difficult for us, cause problems, or even disgrace us in some manner. In other words, they can make our lives miserable, exasperating, annoying and we don’t like it. We all have thorns in our lives. Thorns can bring positive or negative changes in our lives. Many people have faced the thorns and made them roses. For instance, Lance Armstrong, who has turned one of his most challenging life-experiences into an engine to fight the very illness that almost ended his life.
When Paul said that he was given a thorn in the flesh, we are not really sure what his thorn because scripture doesn’t name his thorn. But what we do know it that under God’s grace we will be able to bear the pain of any thorn. There is no doubt that God could remove a thorn from us, but sometimes he chooses to just give us the strength to endure it. Like the scripture says, Paul’s weakness or our weakness could become the place of God’s power. It is in our weakness that His power finds its strength. When we are weak in ourselves, then we are strong in the grace of God. Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10
One thing I have personally discovered is that these challenges make us grow and improve who we become. Our thorn in our flesh can teach us perseverance and drive us to success. I know I have learned tolerance from my experiences and gained empathy for others.
This morning, during my drive to bible study to join with my other thorn-bearing friends, I felt a faint sharp pain in my finger. I looked down to discover that I had a thorn in my flesh, literally. This thorn was both painful, yet, comforting because it reminded me of my imperfections (and that annoying thorny weed), but I know that God is humbling me to keep me grateful and committed to other thorn-bearers. So where I am in my race today? I have finally come to grips that I am weak, I cannot remove the thorn from its deepest roots, so instead, I am hiding myself in the power of God.
I hope we can venture together carefully into the thorny field, in the hope that amid the briars we can find discover what Paul has revealed: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9