Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Gift of Thorns

 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. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so thatthe power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 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 (2 Cor. 12:7-10, ESV).

            Twice here Paul states the purpose of his thorn: “to keep me from becoming conceited” (v.7, ESV). Granted, the affliction also came from Satan to harass and torment, but even that harassment proved a gift to pierce his pride.
            A decade of living with lupus has acquainted me with weakness and feeling harassed. Few days pass now without the slow hiss of punctured pride. I hear it every time it pains me to say, “I can’t do this. Will you please help me?” My private tantrums over unattainable desires, petty or substantial, reveal my addictions to control and comfort. My discombobulation at God’s refusals exposes the areas of life where I still want my kingdom, not His.
            Every life experiences thorns, none of which are easy or pleasant. Paul’s threefold prayer for the removal of Satan’s tormenting angel indicates his realistic assessment of the pain. This passage challenges our perspective on suffering because Paul does not stop at pleading for relief but opens himself to receive the blessings in the thorn:
·         Purging the pride that sets us in opposition to God (v.7; James 4:6).
·         Staging the perfect display of God’s sufficient grace (v.9).
·         Opening the way through weakness for Christ’s power to reside in him (v.9).
Paul so esteems these blessings that he boasts for Christ’s sake about the tough stuff of life rather than in his heavenly vision.
            Lord, thank You for the gift of thorns. We don’t like them and will be pleased for You to remove them as soon as they have accomplished Your work in us. Until then, they are a gift from You, our loving Father. By faith, we thank You and ask that Your grace and power would shine all the more because of them. Amen.

Prayer note: The physical therapist diagnosed the knee pain (i.e., not my imagination) and believes both that and the ongoing back pain are "manageable."  The less pleasant news (see paragraph 2 above) is that managing the issues requires 9 appointments (plus homework exercises) over 4 weeks. This will stretch my stamina and require some tough decisions about what to do and what to leave undone. My sincere thanksgiving goes out to you who pray for me! You are a grace.

Sharing with the Faith Jam about "vulnerable" today:


  1. Precious Wisdom, learned through a walk that is ever more completely dependent on Him. May He sustain and multiply your strength, sweet Christina. May His Provision be so very evident for every, single need. Love you, dear.

  2. What a nightmare. You know me: I'm spiritually immature and think this chronic-illness business is ridiculous. I'm praying for complete healing, and often; you've been heavy on my heart. Love you.

  3. Count me among those who are praying for you, Christina. I am sorry for the intense schedule you've got coming up. :-( I pray it will be effective and that God will give you wisdom about what to do and what to let go of.

    You did just ruin my pity party though. Just when I want to feel sorry for myself because of insomnia and back pain, I have to read this. :-) Thank you for pointing out that God knows what he's doing with each of us, and that pain can be part of the process.

    I love these statements you make:

    "Few days pass now without the slow hiss of punctured pride."

    "This passage challenges our perspective on suffering because Paul does not stop at pleading for relief but opens himself to receive the blessings in the thorn."

    Blessings to you, friend.

  4. Thank you, dear Anne. May He grant the same sustenance and provision to you and the Antbed clan.

  5. :) Thank you, friend. I love you back! Your prayers are a balm.

  6. Thank you, Lisa. You are in my prayers, too. May God grant restful, hotel-quality :) sleep tonight and relieve your back pain by whatever means necessary. Don't you just hate it when God crashes the pity party? He does that to me all the time.

  7. Hm, I wrote a thing about thorns some time back. And their good purposes. (Maybe I ought to resurrect it.) And that 12:10 verse above is the one I picked very early in my Christian life to be my likely life verse! So I get it -- but not in the realm of chronic pain. That is a hard one. There my heart goes out to you often. And prayers: I will be praying about your therapy and choices to make also. God bless you, dear sister in Christ.

  8. Thank you, Sylvia. My prayers go out to you, too. I know you understand about limitations and weakness. Grace to you in Jesus, dear one.

  9. In the midst of a week of feeling physically empty, you bring this much-needed reminder that it is our very weakness that most beautifully manifests God's strength. And that means even though this week feels a bit like failure, it's actually victory. Oh, what a welcome hope!

    Praying for your strength in this road that lies ahead of you--"manageable pain" is good news at least. And all these challenges to your stamina? Just more windows for His strength to shine through. Love to you, dearest.

  10. I'm sorry you're struggling this week. More of that hope in Christ and much love to you also, precious one.

  11. Amen. Praying for you. I was just talking to David about this very thing. How the illness can be so trying. And the trusting God part is hard, but I choose it anyway. I love your prayer at the end. You have an grace-filled attitude.

  12. Those 2 Corinthians verses always impact me greatly. Such a beautiful and needed truth you point out in the verses here: "Opening the way through weakness for Christ’s power to reside in him." Thank you.

  13. hi Christina,

    a sobering post, but a really edifying one. the beautiful closing prayer is such powerful witness--not just for us crumbles who've had immense privilege of knowing and praying for you for a while, but (i'm sure) for new readers, hemmed in by fearful thorns, whom God will lead to this post.

    love and prayers,


  14. Praying, friend! Included in my prayers is that this "management" will be resolved in the four weeks given to it, as well as wisdom and peace for what goes undone. As Elisabeth Elliot would always say, "There is always time to do the will of God." We'll pretend I can sing for a moment so I can tell you I'm preaching to the choir on that one. Your thorns are a gift~I'm just sorry they have to be born in pain. It is such a daily struggle for His kingdom vs. our own. His grace and power do speak through you, and I am grateful.


Thank you for sharing your day with me! Your presence here is a gift. *You* are a gift. Right now I am unable to reply to every comment, but please know I read and pray for each and every commenter. Grace and peace to you in Christ.