The thorny side of life

By | May 30, 2019 9:57 am

By Topher Wiles

What keeps you on your toes?  While I was out for a sunrise run recently, I was shocked when I planted my heel firmly on the concrete sidewalk to hear a CRUNCH and felt a mild discomfort in my left heel.  The remnants of a glass bottle had conveniently decided to take up residence in my shoe, pricking the sole of my foot.  I was only a quarter mile from home, with the glass firmly lodged in the heel of my shoe, so like any silly guy would do, I kept on running.  Since putting weight on my heel wasn’t an option, I leaned forward in my stride and made sure every footfall contacted the pavement on the forefoot.  I ran the rest of the way home on my toes.

According to the professional running websites, contacting the ground with your mid-heel or forefoot is much more efficient and produces less injury than running on your heels.  Up to this point, I had always been a “heel-striker” as evidenced by all my shoe tread wearing out on the rear first. This time, however, due to the glass shards lodged firmly in my shoe, I enjoyed running with proper form all the way home.  I noticed that my knees were taking less impact, my footfalls were lighter, and my pace was quicker as I focused on running on my toes.  I was somewhat thankful for the little intruder in my shoe as I realized I learned a more valuable lesson than just proper running form. I learned the lesson of the thorn in the flesh.

Thorns in our lives can often spur us on toward better things.  Those thorns come in a lot of different shapes and sizes, depending on the lesson God desires us to learn.  For instance, at the end of Judges chapter two, the Lord informs readers that He let some small Canaanite nations remain unconquered so that Israel could be tested and learn from their mistakes.  The result of these thorny countries antagonizing Israel was the appearance of faithful judges who would call Israel to repentance.

In James chapter one, the brother of Jesus encourages those who were being persecuted to take joy in their troubles because they would be more complete with patience and perseverance in the end.  Their persecution was much harsher than the minor discomforts we are accustomed to today.  Many of them were homeless, jobless, and displaced from their normal support network – rather large thorns if you ask me.  Yet God allowed this situation for them to develop a level of richness in faith that money couldn’t buy.

Paul even admits in his second letter to the Corinthians that he was given a thorn in his flesh to keep him from being proud and boasting.  Some have named his thorn blindness, while others have theorized it as another bodily illness.  Whatever the thorn was, Paul asked the Lord three times for this nuisance to be taken away.  It’s tough to understand that it was out of wisdom and goodness that the Lord refused to remove Paul’s thorn, but Paul understood well what the score was.  Here’s what he wrote.

(8)“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. (9) 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. (10) That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10.

Your thorn could be different from Paul, James, or the Israelites, but don’t doubt for a minute that God can use it to help you learn and grow in life.  It could be the sudden loss of a job that challenges you to go back to school for more learning, thereby bettering the world and your future.  Perhaps your thorn is a sports injury that has humbled you when you became a little too proud and boastful of your abilities.  Is it possible that God has allowed an illness to persist while you learn to appreciate the friends and family who have loved and cared for you?  Maybe it’s just a small one, such as a little glass in the shoe which provokes one to pause and meditate on the spiritual truth of thorns.

Whatever your thorn is, strive to see it as a blessing rather than a curse.  May we learn to take joy and appreciate the little thorns in our lives knowing that our Father allows them to make us stronger, healthier, and better runners in the race of life.  Be open to God’s goodness, and He’ll always keep you “on your toes.”

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1b-2

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