When Paul writes about thorns in the flesh, I think his reference is an understatement. A thorn in the flesh is an annoyance.
Sometimes it feels like a knife in the heart. It could be a silent sorrow of a stabbing you’ve endured for 40 years. Or it could be the new and improved, 21st century rocker knife which rocks back and forth, slicing and dicing your feelings with each stroke. Like Paul, I asked God to remove them, but it didn’t happen.
The good in my life outweighs those thorns in the flesh – or the knives. Most of the time that’s what I focus on and talk about.
The thorns are still there. We sometimes forget the thorn is there and then something shifts and it hurts all over again. The pain gets easier with time. At first, it felt like a twisting of that knife in the heart, or a punch in the gut that would reduce me to tears. Now it fills me with a sadness as I long for what might have been but isn’t.
As I dealt with that thorn in the flesh yesterday, it was now an ache. I prayed for God to help me handle it, and Psalm 27 came to me – “the Lord is my light and my salvation.”
Then I turned on K-Love radio – my car radio and I have a special relationship. When I need it most, I can turn it on and the song that is playing matches perfectly what I need to hear. I was hurting too much to know what the song was that was playing, but basically, it was that Jesus shed His blood for me, and He loves me no matter what.
I knew as the song played that I was not alone, and I do have a light and a salvation that will carry me through the valleys of the shadows of despair.
Those thorns in the flesh are what opened my own heart to compassion for others. They help me see pain in others, even when they don’t discuss it , and my thorns help me help and inspire other people.
Like Paul said of his own thorns in the flesh – when I am weak, I am strong. The things that should break us – but don’t – are the things that God uses for our greatest strengths.