“Thank you for the thorns that never leave.
-For the thorns that have pushed me to my knees.
-For the thorns that will cling to the worn and the weak.
These thorns do teach me that your grace is all I need.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
“So to keep me from becoming arrogant because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, with insults, in neediness, in persecution, and in distress. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
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God has made this passage real and true to me over the past few months. It all started when I found music over christmastime that set 2 Corinthians 12:9 to music. When I started realizing just how broken I was, I sang this verse to myself over and over again for reassurance. (Listen to the song here) God gives us oh so many promises! But it is up to us to be familiar enough with His Word to be able to call them to mind in our moments of need. Well, this promise is one that I just clung to, while searching the Bible for more to hang onto and put hope in.
Empathizing with Paul
Yes, this promise of God was spoken to Paul. However, in reading the whole passage, I found a lot of encouragement in realizing that my situation is not all that different, perhaps, from Paul’s. I do not know what his “thorn in the flesh” was. But, what I was coming to realize through my weakness and need this past season, was that there was a deeper root to my brokenness. –One that will never truly go away either.
As I’ve been reflecting on my painful or hard experiences over the past eight or so years, the pain often stems from disappointed or nonexistent hopes for a need of mine finally being filled. -A need that has not been met for a very long time. Something that God created to be present in His perfectly designed order. Something so many people take for granted.
…Not wanting to be completely vague, I’ll give just a bit more of a glimpse into what God has been leading me through. Like many other people in this broken world, what my family consists of is just a shattered picture of what was God’s plan for His creation. God designed the family structure and relationships for a reason. The stability and security -the unexplainable, often undeserved, innate love and supportive relationships within a family are to mirror and be a tangible example of God the Father’s and Jesus’ love for us. But when the brokenness of sin’s effects on this world take away even such an important part of life as close family ties, well, that leaves a hole that can never be completely filled.
But I can only imagine how many others have similar holes from what life has dealt them. Even if your family is still outwardly in tact, have sin’s effects –selfishness, addictions, disease, mental illness, abandonment, neglect, etc.– stolen from you the needed love and care and supportive presence that should have been?
Thorns that never leave
For me, I see this hole in life as similar to the “thorn in the flesh” that Paul spoke of. It is a very real neediness and weakness. And in reflection, I’ve seen how it has kept surfacing in different seasons of life, as I’ve caught myself putting hope in different things or relationships to try to fulfill or numb that need. For me, this is a very real “thorn in the flesh” that will be present throughout the rest of my life.
But you know, ALL of us have these unmet needs and unfulfilled desires. And many of them will NEVER find fulfillment on this earth -EVEN in the things that we THINK will satisfy. So I know I am not alone with having these continually surfacing “thorns.”
We have a Father
But, for those who have put their hopeful trust in God, we have the assurance that, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.” (Psalm 103:13) God is the author and designer of all that is good and right in the world. And He knows and sees the holes in His perfect design that this broken world has left us with to endure in this life.
Jesus, himself, even gave us a glimpse of his father’s care for us when he shared: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)
In weakness, He finally gives strength
These passages gave me such comfort and reassurance. So, through my brokenness I began to pray for my Father’s pity, and for Him (who longs for us to be whole and to have our very real physical or emotional needs met, just like any good father would!) to be enough to fill my need each day. In finally realizing and admitting my neediness and weakness, I began to turn my dependence on God in a way I had not quite done before. It was like I was forced to look at my professed faith in God and prove through prayer and praise that I truly believed that He would be enough to satisfy.
And can I just say – HE HAS!! My last post was only the very beginning of all the ways that God provided — So Very Specifically– to satisfy (at least for this season) the need that I was pouring out to Him. And just as the song above says, I can say I am thankful for the “thorns” that never go away, forcing me to admit my weakness and neediness, and turn my dependence, again, completely back to God. And my Father’s compassion and provision in this season has been more than I ever imagined!
I hope sharing all this will provide hope and encouragement for others who may be in a similar season of brokenness or emptiness. Here are just a few more passages and songs that bring me encouragement and hope. (Can you tell I am really appreciating the music of Forever Be Sure?!)
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Encouragement from scripture:
It really is true, what David points to in all his psalms – that filling our days with praise to God for who He is, all He has done, and all He promises to do is how to find God’s peace. This is reinforced in Phillipians (4:6-7): “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication —with thanksgiving— let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
“Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.”
Encouragement from song:
Such beautifully powerful reassurance:
“I am not alone without a helper. I am not alone while on my knees. For when my feeble prayers fall silent, with groaning deep the Spirit speaks for me. No not alone without a Teacher, no not alone without a guide. I understand what once was mystery. -The spirit gives to me the mind of Christ.
“I am not alone without a promise. Not without a claim on heaven’s prize. Because the spirit dwells within me, now everything in Christ is surely mine. No not alone without a witness. The voice within has testified: “You are a child of God the Father.” How clearly I have heard His silent cry.
“I am not alone without his power. The God who saves will sanctify. The Spirit grieved and I awakened. Now with that very power he purifies. No not alone without a boldness, replacing fear with love and might. Oh what a gift the Spirit gives me -to bravely stand and boast of Jesus Christ!”
“I am not alone without a Comfort. I am not alone to face the storm. The Prince of Peace has sent his Spirit. Oh what is there to calm or comfort more? No not alone without his presence. Though all forsake, He still remains. Who could have known when Christ departed, just how much closer now my God became.”
“This is my father’s world, Oh let me not forget,
That though the wrong seems oh so strong, God is the ruler yet.
Someday all will be right!
Someday the darkness will be shattered by the light!
Someday our Creator will be king forever!
Jesus will reign someday!
This is my father’s world. -Why should my heart be sad?
For He is king! Let the heavens ring, and let the earth be glad.
This is my father’s world, and while on earth I roam,
What’er my lot, it matters not. For God is on throne!”