Briars, thorns, pokers, stingers, shards--those are all things that tell of getting stuck by them! Getting stuck means, you are going to feel pain from a "sticker." A couple of weeks ago I took a shortcut and my shortcut in trying to save time and trips has caused me distress ever since. I knew better--to not take a shortcut. Perhaps the Holy Spirit was giving me a nudge that I didn't heed. At any rate, a favorite glass pot lid slipped and fell and shattered. My reaction--a loud "NooooOOoOoooooo!" At that point my "no" did absolutely no good, it was already happening as I spoke.
Now this happened in front of my kitchen stove and counter. Remember, I said I was trying to take a shortcut because I was in a hurry! I had "no time" to clean up the mess at that moment! So, I carefully, very carefully stepped where there was no shard of glass. I am one that despises shoes unless I absolutely have to put them on--the reason for carefully stepping where there were no shards of glass in order to take care of something important on the stove.
My carefulness was of little value as my foot found an unseen shard and it punctured the arch of my left "bare" foot. Just one very tiny shard of glass and I immediately knew that I had a "sticker" in my foot. A very painful tiny "sticker!" I was careful to not walk and push it into my foot further and carefully felt the bottom of my foot until I could feel the "sticker", and equally as carefully, removed it! I knew it was my fault that I was in pain and knew I shouldn't complain--so I didn't! Endure in silence so to speak. But I was in pain! Since it was such a tiny little wound, and I knew that our bodies are wonderfully made to heal by our Maker, I fully expected to have a sore foot for a while as it began to heal. Expecting the soreness, after several days my foot hurt worse than before until I was finding it difficult to walk. This was a left foot problem and at the same time I have a right leg and hip problem that gives me lots of pain too. Have you ever tried to limp on both feet at the same time?? I fear it makes me waddle like a lame goose--I guess that is a good name for me in my distress.
Finally, I asked for help! Surely a band aid with healing salve would be the answer! But it didn't seem to help! I had to ask for even more help. Trying to see the bottom of my foot simply isn't possible for me since getting older has caused me to get "old and stiff." Getting help involved getting an extra light, getting a needle, salve, band aid, and also a pillow to prop my foot on to get it visible to my helper husband and then, lift my foot high enough! By now just the thought of poking my sore arch with a needle to explore for the "sticker" shard had me cringing and I did not think I was going to be able to hold still. My involuntary reaction is to jerk no matter how much I try to prevent doing it by mind control! Then I remembered that he perhaps had something with lidocaine in it for his own painful foot. (We are a painful couple!) I decided that anything to lessen my fear would be a good thing and it was. After all the preparation and dread and enduring pain, getting the "sticker" shard out was just about painless! Why, oh why, did I endure so long?
Many years ago—many, many years--I remember that my Mother had a story in her repertory of stories for teaching Kindergarten Sabbath School about stickers and sin. I wish I could remember it! But it has been so long ago that I cannot and that makes me sad. I wish I would have paid better attention.
This week I thought about the "stickers" of sin. Every time we let even the tiniest sin enter us, it pokes and pokes us. It acts as a sticker, a shard, a thorn--reminding us of what we did that we should not have done. And it is very similar to the sticker I stepped on--my shard--that kept poking and poking until it was removed. Even then, the soreness has persisted, still reminding me of my "sin."
The "thorn" is most commonly interpreted in relation to persecutions or hardships Paul faced. I gleaned some "google" thoughts about thorns that I thought were good:
Thorns are lethal to our spiritual growth. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. The thorns are dictators. They know nothing of peaceful coexistence with the life of freedom and victory. Their long, sharp points keep annoying us. They play no favorites. They paint a picture in 3-D: disturbance, deception, discontentment. They demand first place as they siphon every ounce of your interest in spiritual things and reduce you to an ineffective and unproductive loser.
Why do so many Christians live among thorns? I've got ugly scars to prove I do. Each one is a mute reminder of times I stood trapped in a thorny thicket. Periodically I still must yank a few. I've never heard of such, but I'd like to proclaim a day as our personal thorn-pulling day. We may bleed and it may hurt . . . but, oh, the beauty of a thornless day. How sweet it is!
To give thanks in every situation is sometimes very difficult. When your body is wracked with pain, or you have just learned that you have a physical problem for which there is no cure, or you have lost your job, or a cherished relationship has been broken, it’s hard to feel grateful. But we can learn to thank God because He gives us strength when we feel weak.
That’s why Paul could say, “I take pleasure in infirmities, . . . in distresses, for Christ’s sake” (2 Corinthians 12:10). And as believers, we can be grateful that through such experiences God is accomplishing what is best for us. Even through our suffering, He is working for our good (Romans 8:28).
Scottish author and preacher George Matheson (1842-1906), who was blind, expressed this prayer: “I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my ‘thorn’ . . . . Teach me the glory of my cross; teach me the value of my ‘thorn.’ Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made my rainbow.” As we surrender ourselves to the Lord and remember that He is working in everything to accomplish our ultimate good, we can thank Him even when we are pierced by “thorns.” 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.” 2 Corinthians 12:10. Paul referred it as “a messenger from Satan sent to torment me” tells us that this wasn’t just a nagging ache. It was a deep, agonizing pain. Whether it was physical or emotional doesn’t really matter because both can be excruciating and equally devastating. Paul learned to delight in hardship. Weaknesses, insults, persecutions, and difficulties were considered opportunities for God’s power to be perfected in him. What a loving Father! He knows that if our lives were easy, our hearts would wander from Him.
I had a “sticker thorn in the flesh.” I didn’t like it. I wished I didn’t have it. I was exasperated by it. It made everything harder, nearly everything I did harder. It weakened me. I felt that I would be more effective and fruitful without it. I wanted, sometimes in tears, for it to be removed or for more power to overcome it. But it remained. Maybe we are given thorns that significantly weaken us in order to make us ask for help--God's help! From the apostle Paul: To keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. (2 Corinthians 12:7) The fact that we really don’t know what Paul’s thorn was turns out to be both merciful and instructive to us. It’s merciful because, given the various possibilities, we all can identify with Paul to some degree in our afflictions. It’s instructive because what Paul’s thorn was isn’t the point. The point is what God’s purpose was for the thorn. God disciplines his children with affliction in order to protect them from having their joy destroyed by the sin of pride. Ponder that: pain can protect us from pain; redemptive pain can protect us from destructive pain. Our God is so powerful and so wise that he can work all things — including our satanically delivered thorns/stickers/shards — for our good (Romans 8:28). Just like Paul’s, our thorns weaken us. Sometimes they are visible to others, but often they are hidden from public view, known only to those who know us best. And they are never romantic, never heroic. Rather, they almost always humble us in embarrassing rather than noble ways. They not only seem to impede our effectiveness and fruitfulness, but they also are more likely to detract from rather than enhance our reputations. Which is why we, like Paul, plead with God to remove them (2 Corinthians 12:8).
This is the reason we have our thorns. They are weakeners that strengthen us. Without them, we would choose a weaker strength and miss experiencing the glory of God’s powerful grace and realize lesser joys as a result. It’s just one more wonderful kingdom paradox: our agonizing thorns end up producing greater joy in us and ultimately make us more effective and fruitful. The more we press into this paradox, the more we will say with Paul, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9–10)
I can say that I have a deeper appreciation for the purposes of God behind the hard times that come into our lives