Today’s Text of Encouragement:
“What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. In God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.”
Psalm 56: 3, 4
King James Version
Today’s Study Text:
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”
II Corinthians 12: 7
“The Challenge of Thorns”
“Instead of complaining that the rosebush is full of thorns, be happy that the thorn bush has roses.”
Is there something in my life that I would liken to a “thorn”?
How does my personal “thorn in the flesh” affect my life?
“And the heart that is soonest awake to the flowers is always the first to be touched by the thorns.”
“Adversity is the diamond dust heaven polishes its jewels with.”
Her name is Linda Oliver. She lives in the state of Maine, high up in the northern tip of the United States. She’s one of our fellow sisters here in Transformation Garden and although I’ve never met Linda personally, my heart is one with hers for we pray for one another and in my mind, there is absolutely nothing that binds two hearts together like prayer. It is the super glue of the spiritual world which seals us in heavenly love for each other. And in a moment, I’m going to share a prayer with you that Linda sent me.
As we continue our studies on delayed or unanswered prayers, this week we will be looking at the life of one of the greatest apostles in Scripture. Much of the New Testament contains his letters to the Christian churches he started. Our focus this week is on the Apostle Paul and specifically what he wrote to his friends in Corinth regarding what he identified as a “thorn in the flesh.”
When I began to prepare these inspirational thoughts, I went to my file and pulled out Linda Oliver’s prayer, sent to me several weeks ago, even before I had prepared the devotional outline for today. It’s one of those “heavenly moments,” here in Transformation Garden, when I know with all my heart that God is guiding our study and that it is He, who impressed Linda, to send the beautiful words which I asked if I could share with you today:
“I said, ‘Dear Lord, please take this away,
This illness I have, I’ve prayed and prayed;
But I’ve come to believe He wants me to know,
That within this trial, He has a goal…
…Yes, I’ve come to believe, He knows what’s best—
And if I’ll just Trust Him,
There’s peace and rest,
And that in praying for others,
self is replaced,
With joy unspeakable and
unimaginable grace!!!’” Amen
Now, I want to share with you something else that’s very important to know about Linda – she has Multiple Sclerosis. When she shared this information with me awhile back, I thought of the many times Linda had emailed me, telling me she was praying for me and the daily pain she knew I endured. I have to tell you, when I found out that Linda also endured what I call, “a thorn in the flesh,” I can’t begin to tell you how much more I appreciated her faithful prayers. And this brings me to our in-depth study of the text in II Corinthians 12, where the Apostle Paul writes that he was “given” a “thorn in the flesh.”
Over the next five days we are going to dig deeper into the challenges that “thorns” bring into our lives, for I have found, especially from the notes I receive here in the Garden, there isn’t one person on earth, who in one way or another, hasn’t suffered from the prick of a thorn in their own life or in the life of someone they love.
Thorns, however, can create problems.
Problem #1 is that “thorns” are unwanted! I have to say that I’d love to have a life without pain or suffering or problems! Who wouldn’t? But, if I was totally honest with you, it has been in the most dreadful moments, when no human hand could take away my pain or wipe the tears from my cheeks, that the knowledge of my dear heavenly Father’s presence has been a sustaining force like no other. And I’ve only seen this clearly during those moments when I was so alone I couldn’t see my way through the darkness. As the amazing Helen Keller, who was both blind and deaf wrote, “We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.” That’s quite a statement from one, who from all outward appearances faced so many disabilities.
But there are several other problems that come with thorns. Not only are they “unwanted” but Problem #2 is that thorns cause pain. It doesn’t feel good to be stuck by a thorn, even when it may be a small prick. And with the pain of a prick or stick, whether shallow or deep, as Tim Hansel insightfully noted, “Pain can either make us better or bitter.”
Finally Problem #3 is that thorns can be “lethal,” physically and spiritually. Let me explain.
I was talking with my dearest of dear friends this weekend, who also was my college roommate. Shari lives in Canada and our phone calls are literally marathon in length. We’ve been “best buddies” since the summer of 1969! A long, long time.
During our discussion this weekend, I asked Shari, who also is a nurse, about a patient she had taken care of many years ago on the Specialized Neurology Unit where she worked. This particular lady had been gardening – tending her rose bushes, no less. A thorn stuck her finger and a small portion broke off and was left under her skin. Several days later she was admitted to the hospital, displaying the critical symptoms of tetanus and the physicians, at that time sadly, were unable to save her life. From a physical standpoint, the contaminated thorn containing the tetanus toxin was lethal.
However, toxic thorns, can also wreak havoc on our spiritual lives, allowing bitterness, anger, and, finally, an overwhelming resentment toward God to penetrate our hearts. As the theologian C. S. Lewis wrote, “When pain is borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.” I love this quote because it reminds me of my dear grandmother who had several “tinctures” she would apply to the cuts on my fingers as a child. But here’s the interesting thing about a “tincture.” Not only is it an alcohol solution of medicine, it also has the ability to change the color of something. And this is the image I get in my mind when I think of the “tincture of the love of God” on the “thorns” which come my way. It is the application of the “tincture of God’s love” that beautifully colors the thorns of our lives and keeps them from becoming spiritually lethal to us.
Whatever the “thorn you face today, how thankful we can be that with the knowledge, that we have a Father who walks beside us, our hearts can receive daily encouragement. As Paul Claudel shared, “Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or to remove it. He came to fill it with His presence.” What a comfort – for we know, we never bear our “thorns” alone!
“Christ himself came down and took possession of me…I had never foreseen the possibility for that, of a real contact, person to person, here below, between a human being and God…in this sudden possession of me by Christ, neither my sense nor my imagination had any part: I only felt in the midst of my suffering the presence of a love.”
“If I had not suffered
I would not have known the love of God.
If many people had not suffered
God’s love would not have been passed on.
If Jesus had not suffered
God’s love would not have been made visible.”
Mizuno Genzo, Japan
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
P.S. Just to let you know, Transformation Garden is now on FACEBOOK. Please come and see us and share the garden with your friends. The Daily Devotional is posted everyday, Monday through Friday on Facebook, too.
My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, and www.Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian. You may also call Transformation Garden at 480-281-1508.
For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.