By Chaplain (Col) Stephen W. Leonard, USA, Ret.
“So 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. Three times I pleaded with the LORD about this, that it should leave me. 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ might rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
My grandson has to get around on crutches for at least a few months. He is a very good soccer player, and in a recent game collided with a goalie in a freak occurrence of his knee breaking my grandson’s leg. The break was bad, requiring a full leg cast from toes to hip, and a long time away from competitive soccer at a crucial time in his school career.
My good friend’s son is a very good baseball player (pitcher and shortstop). He throws a 90 mph pitch as a high school pitcher. He just sustained an elbow injury pitching, which will shut his pitching/throwing down for a whole year. If he were old enough, he would have to have Tommy John surgery.
These were crushing blows to these young men, which were difficult to endure early in their lives. It gives them a terrible taste of the thorns we all bear in a fallen world. These thorns, of all types, come crashing in upon us, changing our lives and impacting our comfortable world in many, many ways.
Thorns are usually physical ailments that prove to be very painful; they are constricting and life-changing; some are permanent, as apparently the Apostle Paul’s were, and some for varying lengths of time. Other thorns are primarily mental or even spiritual, which bring pain, irritation, and frustration. In any case, thorns are extremely difficult for anyone to bear.
Adam once had a life that was pristine, living in the Garden of Eden in a sinless state. The Garden was lush and fruitful. Everything healthy, wealthy, and wise were available to him and Eve. They truly wanted for nothing.
But sin, once it sprang into being through Adam’s and Eve’s willful disobedience, produced every kind of thorn known to man. Weeds were created. Accidents happened. Murphy’s Law came into being. You get the picture! Life as you know it today has become the norm for every human being. Some were worse than others, but life took on the nature of tediousness, treachery, violence, and universal immorality.
Thorns proliferate. It seems that something maleficent is waiting around every corner. When things seem good, harm pounces quickly. When life is hunky-dory, it quickly turns to unavoidable quicksand. Thorns and thistles spring up where roses and tulips bloomed. Life is festooned with deadly booby traps.
How can we boast about such excruciating weaknesses created by numerous thorns while we hate and worry about the very thought of them? Yet, the Scripture tells us to “boast in the weaknesses” those very thorns produce in our lives.
Thorns are the catalyst arousing anxiety to call for the grace and mercy of Christ to come to your aid. Thorns create pain, irritation, and frustration, yet it is Christ who alone is able to provide an antidote for those stinging thorns. Without them, there is no need for Christ, and without pestering thorns, you will not be forced onto your knees crying out for the Savior’s help.
Without thorns in your life, you may not even see the need to call on Christ. You would not cry out for His grace and His intimate companionship in a lonely place. Of all things, you truly need Christ, not only for salvation from sin, but for His unique grace to survive this world, and for the very real possibility of living in the next. Thank Him for the thorns which draw you ever closer to His spear-pierced side.
“Sure, I must fight if I would reign: increase my courage, Lord; I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by Thy Word.”
(4th verse of Isaac Watts‘ hymn, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross,” 1724)