Thank God for Thorns

It is Thanksgiving time and it is one of my favorite times and holidays of the year. A time just to stop and give thanks. Thanks to others, thanks to God, thanks for things that we may not even recognize in our lives that are a part of the outpouring of the blessings of God. It’s Thanksgiving. I want to encourage you to join with me in thinking about thanking God for thorns in your life.

The Apostle Paul struggled with what the Scripture describes as the thorn in the flesh. While many have speculated as to what the thorn was no one actually, definitely knows, but everyone of us have had thorns in our lives. Maybe you are like me. As a kid, oftentimes we would be playing in the yard; summer time games are lots of fun until you ran into some stickers. I can remember thinking either I or someone else was dying from it. If you’ve ever been around some of the sand spurs down in Florida or the coastal areas, they will bring deep pain.

When Paul talked about his thorn in the flesh, you could make it a physical problem or an emotional problem or a mental problem or a spiritual problem and it would all fit and you would feel the pain that he was going through. It may be that you are going through some thorny experiences. For life, whether it’s youthful and exciting, older and maturing, or senior adult and declining, has its thorny situations. Often thorny things are just situations, but at other times they show up as living, breathing people and that is just as thorny.

However they show up and whatever they touch in your life, the reality is you and I typically revert to our first response – get rid of this! That’s what Paul did. In fact, he admits that three times he called upon the Lord to take away the thorn in the flesh. Get rid of this thorn, this pain, this sticky thing in my life to the point that he even pled with God to remove the thorn and God did not.

Can you imagine the frustration he must have been feeling? It might even be kin to the frustration that you may be feeling sometimes when the thorn doesn’t go away, or God doesn’t seem to want to or have time or care about intervening in your life to remove it. It stays and it continues to stick you. But while most folks know about the thorn in the flesh that Paul had, many do not read on to hear Paul rejoicing in the thorn, of giving thanks that he has the thorn.

If you go back and read 2 Corinthians 12:7 and following, you will find out some interesting and amazing things. You will find out that this was a painful thing that Paul was going through. You will also read in Scripture that the painful thing was known by God but it came from Satan. You will also read that the thorn was left there by God to keep Paul from being carried away by his own spiritual experiences that might make him conceited or arrogant in his own spirituality.

Finally, you may find that God told the great apostle – I know you have the thorn, but I’m going to give you something that is even greater than me just taking it away. “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9). God gave the apostle Paul a glowing, glorious resource of His grace that would enable him to endure, to continue, to even be blessed by this thorn in his life. At this Thanksgiving season, it would be easy to try to pick out one or two or three or four good things to thank God for that you have seen Him do. You’ve been blessed because He opened up the windows of heaven and poured out some good blessings on you. I understand that there may be a thorn in your life. You may have struggled with it, prayed about it, wished God would remove it, and there it is still sticking you.

What is it that God may be trying to do in your life like He was working in Paul’s life? Could you pause at this Thanksgiving time and say, “God, thank You for the thorn”? See here’s the fact. In reality, real thorns sometimes slow you down and that is not a bad thing. Sometimes they will speed you up, and that is not a bad thing either. Sometimes thorns will shift your way and change the direction of your life and that can be a glorious thing. Sometimes the thorns can show you a new thing in your life that you need and need to recognize. All those things seem to have been happening in Paul’s life, and he came to the understanding that while this thorn came from Satan, God allowed it to happen so God could bless him.

I suppose if I got a thorn in my flesh today I would immediately want God to get rid of it. But at some point it may be that I would come to a new understanding and a yielding view of what God is doing in my life to even be able to say, “Thank You, God, for the thorn.” Here’s what we need to do.

One – look to God.  He can remove the thorns. He can provide for us when we have a thorn and He may have a greater plan for our lives beyond the thorn. Two – listen. Listen to God trying to help us, explain to us, show us. He is not trying to hurt us, but to help us. And so it was that Paul looked to God and listened to God and then he limped on with God. Trust that God will help you. Even with the thorn, He can do great things through your life. Don’t stop, just limp on. Determine that your attitude is not going to be sour and that your faith will be strong enough to say, “God, thank You for this thorn.”

If and when you and I get there we might be able to join with the apostle Paul as he writes in that same passage. This is the conclusion he came to and said, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). Happy Thanksgiving. Take a look at it and thank God for the thorns that have come in your life.

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Jim Futral

Executive Director-Treasurer