ThoughtShades FrameWork

Essays, Themes, Opinions

Constructs, Practical Ideas, Applications

Poetry, Impression Writing

Sermons, Devotions

Personal Revelations, Illustrations

Viewpoint: Politics, Contemporary Issues, Editorials


Choice Offerings by Others

Powered by Squarespace
« The Prayer Dilemma | Main | The Silhouette Syndrome »

Thorns Have Roses

roses.jpg“There was given to me a thorn.” 2 Corinthians 12:7

It sneaks through the back door of your consciousness; it looms before your tightly closed eyes in prayer; it pulls you down each time you take a step up; it laughs at your attempts at discipleship; it hollows out your achievements, voids your victories and ridicules your goals. No amount of fasting, prayer, study, counseling, rebuke or encouragement matters. It’s always there. It is your thorn.

We know about bothersome thorns on plants. Other meanings for thorn, however, include a stake for impaling; a surgical instrument; the point of a fishhook; something that causes severe pain or constant irritation. If it’s any consolation, this same nemesis beset the greatest Christian who ever lived. More than nineteen centuries have not eased speculation about Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Was it myopia, cataracts, or epileptic seizures? Earaches or headaches? Maybe malaria, sciatica, rheumatism, recurring nightmares plagued him. Who knows? Or, some may ask, who cares?

Paul cared. Given his proficiency with language, he could have spelled out exactly what he meant by his thorn in the flesh. He chose not to tell. In my experience, things left unsaid reveal as much or more about people as the things they say. Did Paul wrap his thorn in anonymity to avoid jeopardizing his ministry? Possibly. To share some personal, intimate details—-like a congenital problem, disfigurement, predisposition to depression, strained relationships, perceived personality failures—-would be throwing red meat to the dogs. And, the thorniness of a thorn worsens when prudence hides it. Careful analysis of Paul’s excursion into his privacy yields telling truths of his complex psyche to us. In turn, this leads us to a greater understanding of ourselves. This we know: something troubled Paul until his dying day.

The thing about the thorn—-brace yourself—-is that it never goes away. Paul prayed three times for deliverance. Each time, God gently, but firmly, said no. “My grace is sufficient for you.” God forced Paul to factor this impaling stake, this messenger of Satan, into the fabric of his life. As the pain increased, so did the grace. All of Paul’s spiritual exploits, all of his monumental missionary feats, all of the righteous influence he wielded, every inspired scripture he wrote took shape with a throbbing thorn permanently buried deep within his soul. The significance of this fact is simply this: The thorn made Paul what he was. It tempered his divine revelations; it prevented pride from destroying him; it keenly honed his dependence upon God; and it perfected him with God’s strength rather than his own. By refusing to identify the thorn, he focused our attention on what it does rather that what it is.

I grieve to see potential warriors of the church thrashing around for relief from their thorns. They return time after time to the same altar. They chafe against the prickings of problems that never get resolved. And, in their failure to see the value of the thorn, they never achieve the anointing that the thorn can bring. God designed thorns to be catalysts for perfection.

Jesus said, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you…You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do!” Matthew 5:3-12. The Message.

Strength requires stress for development. “For two years, scientists sequestered themselves in an artificial environment called Biosphere Two. Inside their self-sustaining community, the Biospherians created a number of mini-environments, including a desert, rain forest, even an ocean. Nearly every weather condition could be simulated except one, wind. Over time, the effects of their windless environment became apparent. A number of acacia trees bent over and even snapped. Without the stress of wind to strengthen the wood, the trunks grew weak and could not hold up their own weight.” Jay Akkerman. Leadership. Tough conditions do make tough people.

“From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Galatians 6:17. Philip Harrelson asks some insightful questions: “Could it be that the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ, the marks of the Cross, were those marks that Paul obtained from the marks of his thorn? Could it be that the thorn was what shaped his life into the image of Christ? Could it be that what caused him to flame with holy fire was the presence of the stakes in hands and in feet? No man will arrive in heaven without some scars that life places upon him. But the scars of life should mark us in the manner of a Cross. The thorn is not to destroy us; it is to equip and empower.” “You can either complain that rose bushes have thorns; or rejoice that thorn bushes have roses.” -Unknown.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>