When I was a kid in elementary school I remember playing dodge ball one day in the winter when someone threw the ball and it rolled over an embankment. It happened that this particular embankment was covered with ice. When I went to get the ball, I proceeded to slide down the bank, through some thorns, sticking one straight through that little area of skin between your fingers. I’m sure it hurt a bit but I just remember, being a tough boy, thinking of how cool it was that I had a thorn stuck all the way through my hand. I showed a few people before I pulled it out.
More recently I was doing some hiking in Virginia and got off of the marked trail, looking for a short cut to another area on the Appalachian Trail. During this off-trail adventure, my legs were shredded by thorn bushes in the underbrush. After we made it to the trail, I looked down and the effects of the thorns were obvious. I didn’t feel cool either. Just glad to be back on the trail and second-guessing my decision to wear shorts.
In nearly every case an encounter with a thorn is not a pleasant experience. They typically inflict pain and are not a welcome sight, not even at a distance. We will even have thorns arise in our path spiritually. The bible addresses them in a couple of ways.
As a distraction: something that chokes out the truth we hear and causes us not to mature as seen in Luke 8:14
As a benefit: something God allows in our lives to keep us humble, to rely on Him for our successes. To keep the glory heading His direction and not our own, as Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 12:7.
What’s that pokey thing in your life? That reoccurring thing that keeps you uncomfortable. The thing that always seems to come up just when you are feeling really good about the things you are doing for God and how He has been leading you.
Maybe it’s something that becomes a distraction for you, preventing you from accomplishing the things that God want to do in your life. Maybe it’s a hobby, a possession, a habit, or even an addiction. Whatever it is, if it is coming between you and God, it is like a thorn that grows up and chokes out the word of God in your life.
Maybe it’s a thorn like Paul encountered. One that God actually allows to remain in your life to act as a reality check – making us realize that it is God who allows our successes. This could be many different things like a lack of formal training or education, a physical handicap, or it could even be a person that continually opposes you. Whatever – or whomever – it is, it is a thorn allowed by God for your benefit. This type of thorn would never be a sin, God would not allow sin to remain in your life to help you grow. That would be a bit of a contradiction….
If it’s a distraction, get rid of it. Pray that God will help your life to be fertile soil, that His word will be planted in your heart and you will grow and mature. The first step is to recognize the issue. If you wonder why you don’t seem to make progress, look at what you spend your time doing. That may be the very thing you need to ask God to help you weed out.
If its a thorn like Paul’s, accept it for what it is. Paul realized that God’s grace was sufficient. The thorn was still uncomfortable but Paul accepted it in his life because he realized it was God’s will. God may allow us to remain uncomfortable. He knows that if a particular thorn was removed from our life that we may not serve or seek Him like we do now.
Thorns hurt. They bring discomfort. They can both distract us or help us focus. Look at your life today and check for thorns. What purpose is yours serving?