How often have you prayed “Lord, please take this away”? Your prayers more like pleads, looking to God to provide some relief that you cannot secure for yourself. There are many seasons and circumstances I can think of in my own life where I longed for the Lord to make it better, to remove the thing ever presently showing me that the world is broken. A consistent reminder of a loss, a failure, or a deficit. A fixture in life that makes me long for something different.
You are not alone.
In fact, scripture shows us that there are at least two people who understand and know, Paul and Jesus. In 2nd Corinthians 12, Paul recounts his experience with “the thorn in my side”. You have probably heard this story before, and maybe the whole “thorn” thing didn’t resonate with you. If that’s a little too abstract, here are some ideas of what your modern-day thorn may be.
Some common thorns:
- a diagnosis
- a characteristic or fault
- mental health struggles
- feeling purposeless
- an addiction
- a physical pain
- an inability to sleep
- a broken relationship
- a memory
- a difficult family
Each of these are painful in their own way. And as scripture shows us, it’s perfectly appropriate for you to ask God to please take it away. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me” (2 Corinthians 12:8, ESV). It’s okay to wish that it could be different, to hope in a world where God does heal and relieve.
However, Paul also explains that there is purpose to the thorn.
Understanding the Thorn’s Presence
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV
In ways that are not our ways and thoughts that are not our thoughts, the Lord has seen sovereignly fit to expand his power in our human lacking. In some way, it is better for us that we not be self-sufficient in and of ourselves here on earth.
Our thorn? Serves to remind us of God’s power. That we may not be fooled into believing we do not need him. That we may not strive out of our own might. That we may not pursue lesser idols or things that will not satisfy. That we may not glorify ourselves over God.
It is through our thorns that we learn that God’s grace really is sufficient.
When your thorn digs in a little deeper and the pain becomes a little sharper, it is not meaningless.
It is okay for you to wish for your thorn to be taken away, you would not be human if you were without desires. But in your waiting, let the thorn hold its proper place. You depend on a powerful God who is sufficient to make all things new and whole. Remember that the day is coming, and look forward to it with hope.