Paul wrote about having thorns. No he wasn't speaking about the "shrubbery" of the day but more specifically the pain and trials that God not only allows in life, but uses to process the work of sanctification. It is not a popular topic, you will not find a whole section in the book store on pain, trials, thorns or struggle. If you do find these books, people usually avoid it because we as humans tend to run after the fleeting feeling of pleasure to try and avoid the pain in our lives. I am definitely guilty. Why is there a need for pain in life? More specifically, why is the Christian life so difficult at times? We have all heard the gospel. A loving God who comes to die for a sinful, angry, bitter, and selfish creation called humans. We are faced with a choice to find our worth through the cross or run after the pleasures of the world which eventually lead to destruction. Paul explains how to respond to the thorns in life:
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." 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
When faced with thorns, we have three choices:
1. Run away from pain. This is the most widely chosen response to pain. I know I have tried before in life to cover pain by becoming busy to avoid it. God wants us to listen especially when we are hurting. It is his way to awaken us from becoming focused upon earthly things and reminds us of eternal things!
2. Deny the pain. Many times the response is to act as if you are not hurting. I think as Christians the response is to try to "spiritualize" our pain and never really deal with it. Face the pain. Be honest. Journal about it. Ask for prayer.
3. Embrace the pain. I think this is what Paul is explaining when it comes to the thorns in life. Embracing the thorn in our life does not mean we are jumping in excitement when we face trials, but trusting God enough to endure it through His strength. When a person accepts their pain then it allows the Holy Spirit to pour through their life.
Are you embracing the pain (thorns) of life and using the refining process to bring God glory?