Thorns and Mangled Fingers
If you’ve spent time with me in the last week or so, you probably know I had a run in with an electric hedge-trimmer wherein I was the definitive loser. And while nothing was severed (thank God), the tip of my left ring finger was badly injured requiring some stitches and my finger nail is in two pieces. It’s been a rough week. The pain is intense and not having full use of my hand makes everything more difficult. I wasn’t able to post last week because I was on heavy pain meds and although it would have been funny, it probably wouldn't have been my best writing. I know I spent a lot of time talking about how “curvy the roads around my house were”. A closer look and they’re all pretty straight after all.
Once my mind was clearer, something else kept popping into my head. It was that verse in the Bible where Paul mentions having a “thorn in his flesh”. I don’t know if it’s because my own flesh is mangled, but I kept thinking about it. I didn’t recall much about it, so I decided to look it up.
In 2 Corinthians 12:6-10, Paul shares about his “thorn”:
6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 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.
I looked into it a little and scholars have no idea what this “thorn” was. There’s chance he was referring to persecution or something mental or emotional, but most tend to think he was dealing with a physical ailment. It was significant enough for him to ask God three times to have it removed, but God answered, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
First, it’s important to say, I’m not comparing my clumsiness while gardening to anything the apostle Paul dealt with. Clearly, his situation was always harder. He’s constantly in prison or getting run out of town. And he just mentions the thorn in passing. If I were writing, I’d probably go into great detail about the nature of the thorn and how it affects me on a daily basis. See above if you don't believe me.
But for some reason, this random verse kept popping in my head. I found myself asking, what is God trying to teach me in all this? And this is what I think:
1. If Paul needed a physical affliction to keep from becoming conceited, I could certainly learn a thing or two about humility. Paul was a humble guy. The more he understood the perfection of God, the more he understood his need for a Savior.
“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” -Ephesians 3:8 (ESV)
“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15 (ESV)
It’s easy to feel like I can do it on my own some days. I try really hard to keep things in my household under control, but I’m not supposed to be the one controlling things. God is. And sometimes, it takes a thorn in my flesh to remember that.
2. It was good for me to experience for a week what others experience all the time. I have so many friends with chronic illnesses that keep them from having a normal life. This week helped me understand a little better what that must be like. Some of you reading this may be thinking, “It's just a sore finger, seriously, can you stop whining already?” And that attitude is what people with chronic illness encounter all the time. It was an eye-opener for me. I hope to never be as callous as I have been in the past with my friends who are suffering.
3. I know His grace is sufficient for me and His power is made perfect in weakness. This is an area I have no problem comparing my situation to Paul’s because God gives him the answer. And it’s an answer I needed to hear. God didn’t take Paul’s thorn away because it was in Paul’s weakness that God’s power was made perfect. I have prayed for God to take the pain away this week. And my hand will heal ultimately but it didn’t happen automatically like I wished it would. Digging into this scripture made it pretty clear that I’m to allow my weakness to highlight the perfect power of God. His power showed up in the love and care my friends and family gave me. It showed up when there was no infection. It showed up when my husband loved and served me day and night during a very busy work week.
I’ll sign off for now, but let me say something first. If you’re like me and experiencing a time of weakness, allow it to change your heart. Use it to rely more on God. Allow His power to be made perfect in you.