Recently, I was telling a friend about a problem that I’m dealing with when she asked me a million-dollar question. A fellow believer, she’s quick to challenge me in my discipleship. She asked me what I would look like if I didn’t have this problem. She wasn’t referring to the situation itself but to what I would look like if I didn’t have this current trial. What followed was a discussion about the value of “thorns” in our lives.
A Humbling Effect
The apostle Paul explained that his thorn kept him from being prideful. As I imagined what I would look like without my current thorn, I realized I would likely be judgmental of others in my current situation. I would think I would be wise enough to avoid it. But, like Paul, I can’t do anything to remove the “thorn” on my own. I’m reminded of it, sometimes almost haunted by it, at various times every day. It’s persistent, it hurts, and I hate it.
Unavoidable and Undeniable
Author Andrea Maher in her book, Slammed, tells an incredible story about surviving tragedy and discord in her life and leaning into God in new ways. Compared to Andrea’s trials, my “thorn” is minor, but I’ve gleaned so much from her story and the fresh perspective it’s given me. She said that she and her husband did everything they could do to address the issues they were concerned about before the tragic death of their firstborn son. But they couldn’t prevent his death. It was an event God had chosen for them to live through, and by His grace, they have. But they will live with an emotional scar the rest of their lives. It will be a long-term thorn.
I reflect on my own thorn and how I’ve tried everything I know of to get rid of it, yet God allows it to remain. This is where the “rubber meets the road” in following Jesus. It’s easy to believe the promise of Romans 8:28 when we see it in small, short-term events. But when it comes to long-term, deeply penetrating, flesh-throbbing thorns, do we really still believe that they’re for our good? Do I really believe that God is working through my current painful thorn for my benefit?
From my limited human perspective, I can’t see His hand in it. Even in my imagination, I just don’t see how this thing could be good or ever be considered good. Yet I know that my God has never ever, not even once, broken His promise. He is good and His plans are good. He can work out things so far beyond our understanding that, when our eyes are finally opened, we see that the thorns have become blessings.
Who Would You Be?
So I ask you the same question, friend. Who would you be without your thorn? Would you be more blessed, more beautiful, for having survived it? Or for having never had it at all? Can you join me in this day, even with just a mustard seed of faith, in believing that there could indeed be a blessing growing deep in that wound beneath the thorn?