In my close to twenty-eight years of living on planet Earth I have noticed something remarkable: most of the people who literally have nothing; who are going through lots of hardship, or who have experienced great loss in their lives time and time again, are usually the happiest and most joyful people we meet! While on the other hand, those who have everything such as wealth, success, fame, or have everything the world can offer, are often those we see in the public eye with an unhappy attitude and bad mood.
Don`t get me wrong, I have also met people who are very joyful when they have lots in life, but I don’t see this when looking at the majority of the people who have it all. There is nothing wrong with having lots in life! We all like to have success, wealth etc. but my question is: do we really place value on what we should value?
As I’ve been chronically ill since I was very young. I have been through much hardship, some of it harder than the rest. But, at the end of the day, I have learnt, and am still learning, a lot from those times. Values, gratitude, character and morals are a few of the things which I probably never would have learned if I’d grown up without experiencing so much suffering!
In this blog, I want to write about “the thorns” in our lives, what impact they have and how they shape our lifestyle forever! This blog is based on Paul’s letter in 2 Corinthians 12:6-10.
6“Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 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.“ (NIV)
1. The thorn that brings us to the knee
In the context of the passage, the thorn could have meant anything to Paul. We don`t know exactly what he went through. What we do know is that he was suffering somehow, although whether spiritually, emotionally or physically it’s not clear.
He says in verse 8 “Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees.“ (MSG)
Most of the time when people suffer or are going through a tragic season, the human soul is crying for help. Not just physically but also emotionally and spiritually.
God wants us to come before Him, get on our knees and talk/listen to Him. Trapps says, that the prayers God respects are the ones that are heart-sprung, divine and passionate.1
The Devil likes it when we suffer, go through hardship, or when we have to deal with things like addiction, illness, stress etc. for years. But all the thorns we have in our life actually push us to get closer to God, because He is the only one who has the control over our fragile human nature!
2.The thorn that reveals our depths of life
Living with a chronic illness, I have come to realise many times, how broken a life can get. There were days when I felt that all the pain, weakness and burden would never go away. There were times when I thought that things would never go back to the standard they were before!
When some things happen in life, we can find ourselves at the lowest point of our soul. When I arrive at the very end of myself, I`m astonished and full of wonder at how small my life is in this world.
In verse 9 of the passage, Paul tells of how God spoke to him when he was arriving at the deepest point of his burden, after pleading with God for him to remove the thorn many times: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Then Paul goes even further in his attitude: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.“ (NIV)
I`m a man of prayer and I have prayed to God thousands of times asking Him to heal me of my incurable illness. But often times I find myself in the same situation like Paul was. God`s grace is all we need in our lives because His grace brings our heart closer to Him, whereas physical and emotional welfare are temporary and not eternal. Furthermore, grace is perfected in our imperfections and the tougher the problem the greater the grace is!2
The more His grace is in us the more we reflect God`s radiance, which we often see reflected from within People on their face. Those have usually been through lots of difficulties in life.
3. The thorn that gives divine strength
Paul took the whole situation to the next level. In verse 10 he says: “Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.“ (emphasis my own).
Paul didn`t get angry at his thorn, he even relished how weak it made him, because it kept him in close dependence on the power of God.3 The lesser we become as humans the more God we have in us!
When we as humans have a thorn, whatever this might be in your life; Whether you have a long or short-term sickness, struggling with an addiction, feel stressed out, getting overwhelmed or have any other personal issues, I want to encourage you, you`re not alone in this! God knows your needs and His grace brings the divine strength to your life. We can`t receive God`s divine strength before we completely get to know that we are insufficient with our own strength!4
God loves to give His grace, because this is how he demonstrates His love, it`s His character! God wants to have us closer and closer to Him so that we can become mature people in His sight.
He always stands open-armed to receive you. But sometimes we only go into His open arms when there is nothing else left in this world and that`s when we come to realise that grace is all we need! Human weakness provides the ideal opportunity for the display of divine power.5
I hope I have encouraged and inspired you in this blog. Don`t give up, whatever your thorn is, fight for the good! Even if God doesn`t always fulfil your wishes, He knows you and wants to fill your life completely because He knows best what you need – His grace! With His grace, we also learn to value what is really valuable – the eternal things internally in us, not the temporary external things around us.