OH, THOSE THORNS!
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NRSV)
7 …therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
I know that our God of infinite love does not need to inflict “thorns” on us; this imperfect world provides more than enough. We have imperfect bodies, imperfect temperaments, imperfect relationships, imperfect weather, imperfect societies, and more- all of which increase our odds of having a thorn or two!
Paul never says specifically what his thorn was, but I think we can relate to this thorn in our lives. Our thorn can be anything that causes our unease or discomfort:
~An illness (or the fear that it will return) in ourselves or a loved one
~A coworker, colleague, or family member who irritates or mistreats us
~A habit that hounds us, but is so difficult to break
~A loss of our career, possessions, or lifestyle
~An ache or pain from aging or illness
~A death of a dear one
~An emotional or mental struggle of anxiety, fear, or depression
~An ending of a marriage or relationship
Life WILL have thorns. But we are blessed to know that God can make good come from everything. If God can even redeem Jesus’ horrendous suffering and death in a glorious resurrection, can’t God redeem any of our thorny trials?
The secret to our discipline of acceptance is to know in our hearts that God’s good doesn’t always follow our plan. But God’s good is even better than anything we could hope for ourselves! Because of our limited perspectives, we may not always see the potential for good in our thorns. (The oyster makes beautiful pearls from irritating grains of sand. But does the oyster see the beauty in them?) When we are able to truly, sincerely entrust our thorny selves to God, God can more readily work through us to make good come from them.
And so our Lenten discipline of acceptance can be practiced, not with an attitude of despair in resignation, but with an attitude of hope in potential!
For our discipline today, let’s carry a safety pin with us, as its point can remind us of a thorn. Take a moment to consider: What is the one “thorn” in your life that you would love to have God remove? How would the removal of this thorn make your life easier? This is your safety pin/ thorn for today. Each time we see or feel the pin, let’s acknowledge our thorns with hopeful acceptance. Let’s entrust our thorns and burdens to God, while asking God to freely work in us through them, to redeem our thorns for good… God’s good.
You have shown me your power to redeem all of my thorny burdens! Thank you for the gift of hope you show me through Biblical stories and promises, through my own experiences, and especially through Jesus’ resurrection. As I consider my personal thorn, I may not be able to pray with gratitude, but I will pray with the hopeful acceptance only you can provide. Help me to entrust my thorn into your redeeming love. Help me to remain open to your work within me. Help me, despite my imperfections, to enable you to redeem my thorn for your perfect good. Amen.