This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.
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 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.
~ 1 Corinthians 12.7-10, ESV
Thorns come in many forms. Ginormous thorns are easy to avoid as you can slide your fingers between them and work around them. The ones that prove most difficult to avoid are the small, nearly imperceptible ones. As you go to cut your rose, they assault your fingers with gusto. Here in the desert, we have these prickly things called goat heads. The thorns on those things are strong enough to puncture a stroller or bike tire, but a goat head is no bigger than the eraser head on a pencil. Taking them out with your fingers is particularly painful. They get swept about by the wind and caught in socks, dog fur and whatever else is unfortunate to be in its path. I hate those things…
The thorns that I give thanks for are similar to what Paul refers to in the above passage. Sometimes we are given a weakness in the form of physical illness, mental illness, urges, and troublesome people. No matter how much we pray and fight, they won’t. go. away. They sap our strength. They humiliate us. They test our faith.
So why be thankful for these horrid things, these thorns?
Thorns allow God’s power to shine through. They keep us from the downfall of conceit. They teach us to rely on God and not ourselves.
Allow me to illustrate through a real-life example. I am friends with a very dear, sweet lady who is the wife of a preacher. Her husband is such a powerful speaker both in volume and in message that he doesn’t necessarily need a sound system for his message to get through. In contrast, she is small in stature, soft spoken, and gentle. Her eyes glow softly with the light of Christ. Her presence is calming. She and her husband are an excellent team, balancing each other in perfect harmony. She has done a great many things for others over the years, working quietly in the background, supporting and encouraging her husband, and raising three godly children.
She has done and continues to do all these things while being afflicted with multiple sclerosis (MS). MS makes a person feel weak along with abundant aches and pains. While she may tell you about it when asked, I can’t think of a time I’ve ever heard her complain. She always has a ready smile and, as I say, the light of the Lord in her eyes. That steely strength doesn’t come from her own power. She relies on the strength of the Lord. His power shines through her thorns. Her humble spirit allows Christ to be magnified. She lives with joy in spite of her pain and weakness. She continues to work for him in spite of fatigue.
I am thankful for people like Vicki and the Christ-like life they live each day.
Give thanks for your thorns. Every time you are tempted to complain, be thankful for the opportunity to allow God’s strength to be magnified through your weakness.