What is a thorn? The American Heritage Dictionary says that a thorn is a modified branch in the form of a sharp, woody spine. It can cause sharp pain, irritation, or discomfort.
How many of you have ever been struck by a thorn? We have an arbor at the end of our patio as you step out into our lawn. I had this magnificent idea to plant climbing rose bushes around this arbor so we would have beautiful flowers blooming all summer. The first summer they were absolutely beautiful. Brandon was married that summer and the rose bush was in full bloom that weekend. It was lovely for our outdoor parties prior to his wedding. That seemed to be a short lived experience. Since then we were lucky to have six blooms all summer. A few summer's ago I decided to dig up the rose bushes and try something else. Even equipped with garden gloves that thing got me again, again and again!!!! Prickly thorns in the flesh are very painful!
Did you know that people can also be a thorn? Have you ever said that so and so is a "thorn" (or maybe the entire rose bush!) in my side or somewhere else? Why do we say this about people? We say this about some people because they simply irritate us. These people may criticize us, talk about us, make life difficult for us, cause problems for us and our families, or even try to disgrace us in some manner. In other words, they make our lives miserable, exasperating, infuriating, maddening, annoying and we don't like it.
We all have thorns in our lives. Many people have faced the thorns and made them roses. Thorns can also be the form of sickness, such as cancer, leukemia, diabetes, heart attack, or stroke. We can have thorns that incapacitate us: loss of a limb (hand, foot, leg, arm, finger(s), or toe(s). We can have the thorn of blindness or deafness. The thorn of paralysis, paraplegia or quadriplegia. Some thorns in life are easier to cope with than others. Thorns can bring about positive or negative changes in our lives.
"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me" (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
The thorn Paul spoke of was not a rose thorn but a stake capable of impaling flesh. We are given no specifics about this physical thorn. Its purpose was to humble, not humiliate him. A thorn is something we cannot pull out on our own. It is painful and invasive. It may involve the body, emotions, will, or intellect - any harmful invasion of life. Such thorns are messengers from Satan. They have the power to destroy our trust in God and render our service ineffective. They have power to embitter, to cause us to be unforgiving, resentful, and ungrateful. Thorns torment and buffet believers. This is a strong word that means being boxed around or beaten with fists.
Paul prayed three times that God would take away this painful thorn. He received two answers, First, "My grace is sufficient," Paul's suffering was neither over, nor would it be short. Second, "My power is made perfect in weakness." In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote, "If we are ever going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed - you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed" (Chambers 1992, Sept. 30).
Paul told the Ephesian elders: "In every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me: (Acts 20:23). Have we rejected the idea that the perfect will of God for our lives may involve hardship?
The thorns of life are many, but the grace of God is sufficient in our weakness.