When I hear the word thorn, I immediately think of something I want to avoid. I mean, who doesn't? Thorns hurt! I also think of my grandmother's favorite flower...red roses. It's easy to understand why red roses are her favorite, they are absolutely beautiful. However, as beautiful as they are, on every stem, there's a thorn and they hurt!!! Scientists think that roses have thorns as means of protection. The idea is that those prickly little thorns keep animals away from eaten the roses. So, it's safe to say that thorns aren't just prickly little inconveniences, thorns are necessary for the life of a rose.
Paul mentions “thorn in the flesh” in 2 Corinthians 12:7. Many scholars have their opinions as to what Paul's thorn was, but there aren't any concrete answers biblically as to what Paul is referencing as his thorn. We don't know if Paul was dealing with something spiritually, physically, or emotionally. We obviously know Paul was referring to the thorn metaphorically because he wasn't walking around with an actual thorn in his side. We also know that Paul was tired! In 2 Corinthians 12:8, Paul said, "Three times I begged the Lord to take it away from me." Paul asked three times. Paul wanted whatever he was dealing with to be over and done with, and understandably so. Paul did say in 2 Cor 12:7 that the thorn's purpose may have been there to keep him from becoming prideful. Considering the many ways God planned to use Paul, it is easy to understand how he would have become prideful. After all, we are talking about the man that would later go on to write a great portion of the New Testament.
I shared that back story about Paul because, like Paul, I've dealt with a thorn in my side for years(about 11 1/2 years to be exact, but who's counting? Lol!). Also like Paul, it's a thorn that I've asked God numerous times to take away and His answer to me has consistently been, "My grace is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak." I honestly didn't know right away what that meant, but God eventually began teaching me the significance of those words.
My thorn is ongoing chronic pains. My pain started around July 2010. Over the years, my pain has gotten so bad that most days I'm bedridden. My down days due to being in pain are hard and can often be very frustrating.
In 2016 while my family and I were attending a church in SD where we were stationed, I met a woman that I became quite fond of. After months of talking and hanging out, she eventually caught on to the number of times I was missing church or having to cancel plans due to being in pain. One day she asked, "Why does it seem like you are always in pain?" I laughed and said, "It's something I've dealt with for years." Of course, this was very surprising to her, all she had ever witnessed was me in church smiling and seemingly ok. But, that was the point. For years I just pushed through whatever pain I was feeling at any given time. I didn't want those around me to see me as a weak woman who's in pain all the time! See, that mentality came from me thinking I was Wonder Woman with a point to prove, and the pain I was experiencing wasn't going to stop me from being a warrior woman! Until it did...
God grabbed a hold of my heart one day while I was in bed resting, barely able to move. He allowed me to see that while I was focusing on creating an unrealistic image for myself, I was taking away from who He has created me to be and what He wanted to do through me. I saw my thorn as something that would hinder me and I was doing everything in my power to make sure my thorn didn't control my life. Little did I know, what I thought to be my main weakness was the very thing God was and is still using to shape me and shine His light and strength through me.
Over the years I've read 2 Cor 12:8-9 numerous times and each time, God spoke something differently. 2 Cor 12:8-9 says,
"And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."
The simple truth in those verses allowed me to see that I no longer needed to take the cowardly way out and hide my weaknesses, I could take comfort in knowing that God's grace covers me and that His power is being made perfect in my weakness.
So, I started applying that truth to my life. I prayed that scripture over my life and believed every word with my whole heart. I began sharing more about my chronic pains with those around me as God allowed. Instead of staying quiet, I was truthful as I asked my sisters and brothers in Christ to cover me in prayer. After a while, I no longer felt like a loser because I couldn't make it to church, go out, or fulfill my obligations as a wife and mother at certain times. I no longer felt the need to put on my Wonder Woman facade. I was able to live my truth, and the truth is- I suffer from multiple chronic pains almost daily. Most days I can barely get out of bed and often when I am up, I'm in some sort of pain. That's just my life. Every test imaginable...I've had it done. This is the hand I was dealt, but it doesn't mean I have to throw in it just because I don't like it. Though I may be physically weak almost daily, I'm now spiritually, mentally, and emotionally stronger than I've ever been. I'm able to enter into God's rest during those times knowing that His power is being made perfect in my weakness.
The moment I stopped trying to be Wonder Woman, that's exactly how I was seen. The lady from church that I mentioned earlier actually gifted me a Wonder Woman bracelet to wear during a 5K run I did while in SD. I laughed because I had never told anyone about my alter ego. But she was serious. I was Wonder Woman in her eyes.
She found out my truth and witnessed my reliance on God and His strength through all my adversities and because of that, in her eyes, I was Wonder Woman. She saw a woman that refused to complain and make excuses, a devoted Child of God, a wonderful wife, an amazing mom of four great boys, and a true gem(her words, not mine). She saw past what I viewed as the thorn holding me back. She saw God's strength at work!
So, yes. I have a thorn, it's uncomfortable, and it's probably not going anywhere anytime soon. I am unsure about the exact reason my thorn exists, but that's ok. I've learned so much because of my affliction and I'm sure God has more to teach me. My prayers have even changed. The position of my heart is different. I'm not always praying for God to take my pain away. Don't get me wrong, I pray those prayers for sure because I am tired of being in so much pain as often as I am. But I also pray that He will speak to me, teach me, and grow me in those moments. I pray that He will allow my body the rest that I know only He can provide. I pray that He comforts me and gives me strength through my rough moments. I'm confident that He is using each of my painful moments in some way or another. God allowed Satan to torment Paul according to 2 Cor 12:7, but God also knew the result. God knew that Paul's suffering would not be in vain and neither is mine. I am confident that my current afflictions will be used for good. Like roses, my prickly little thorn isn't just an annoyance in my life set in place to drive me crazy, my thorn is necessary. God has a purpose for my pain.
Can you all relate? Do you have a thorn or thorns? If so, what's been your response? Has the position of your heart been- Lord, take it away or Lord, use this to strengthen me, teach me, and to grow me.
The thorns in our lives only weaken us if we don't rely on the source of strength we all need...Jesus.
I pray that my truth in dealing with my thorn has encouraged you and reminded you all to remain hopeful in all things, knowing that God always has a plan for all we go through.
Until next time, blessings to you all ❤