Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” …2 Corinthians 12:8-9a NLT
You have a thorn. You’ve asked God to take it away. It isn’t going away. Now what?
Unlike Paul, I haven’t had a direct revelation from the Lord. I didn’t hear his voice saying “My grace is all you need,” All I know is that every day is a struggle and sometimes I become very low. It seems to me that there are three common responses to a thorn that isn’t going away.
In 1875 after recovering from a fall Mary Baker Eddy wrote a book Science and Health that became the foundation of the Christian Science Church. She taught that sickness is an illusion that can be corrected by prayer alone. In other words, she taught people to deny that they were sick.
Strangely her teachings caught on in recent history in a different form. There are preachers who teach people to deny that they are sick and to express their faith in the healing power of God simply by making positive declarations. They claim that if you “Speak health” you will be healthy. They say that your sickness is simply an illusion brought on by Satan and that if you speak your words of faith (and send them money of course) that you will be healed.
Of course, this sounds great. You can declare “I have perfect health in my body” and your cancer or diabetes or whatever you have will simply vanish. This works fine until the preacher who is teaching such things gets old, gets sick and dies.
With apologies to those who believe such things I have to say that I don’t believe this is true. I don’t believe it works and I don’t believe that the bible teaches this kind of magical thinking. While it is true that having a positive outlook is a good thing and it is also true that there is a connection between mind and body that can produce good results when properly engaged, Your words, your declarations do not carry power to heal you. If you want to hear more of my thoughts on this and the New Age “Law of Attraction” see my post Lie To Me.
Wallow In It
To roll the body about indolently or clumsily in or as if in water, snow, or mud.
Thinking about your thorn is a very natural reaction. Pain can be spiritual, emotional or physical. The end result of the different types of pain is the same. Pain is pain. It reaches out and grabs you. You can try to ignore it but sooner or later it breaks through your best efforts. When we are in pain we reach out to others. We want them to acknowledge our pain. We want them to feel sorry for us (as if that will help.)
When do we cross the line into wallowing? When we begin to feel entitled. When we feel that we have a right to bad attitudes. We say things like “You would feel this way if you were as sick as I am” or “You don’t know how I feel.” We become grumpy and very self-centered even to the point of being rude to the very people who are trying to help us.
“God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
Genesis 3:5 NLT
When your pain becomes the center of the universe you make it into a god. You give it power over your activities, thoughts and relationships. Now that you have created an idol out of your pain it will naturally attack the one true God. When you read the bible you will think “Jesus healed those people… why not me?” Just as the serpent in the Garden of Eden lied about the character of God, implying that God held back good things from the man and woman, you will begin accepting lies in your mind. Maybe God really doesn’t love you (forget about John 3:16). Maybe God is the one causing your pain. After all He can do anything right? Why won’t he stop your pain? If you wallow in your pain you will begin a downward spiral. Your thoughts will build on one another until you are ready to throw away the one relationship that can truly save you.
The hardest choice of all is to simply accept your pain. This does not mean that you don’t do everything possible to stop it. You go to doctors and counselors, you listen to them and do what they say. Sometimes, even when you’ve done everything you can, the pain persists. This is the pain of the thorn. I think Paul learned how to accept the thorn. Why? Look at what he said.
“So now I am glad”
Glad? How glad are you Paul?
“I’m so glad I’m Glad Glad.”
Yes, in the Greek text Paul uses the word hēdeōs twice, we might say Paul was “Mega-Glad.” Hēdeōs means “sweetly” or with pleasure. We get our English word Hedonism from it. Hedonism is a pursuit of or devotion to pleasure, especially to the pleasures of the senses. Somehow he learned how to find sweetness in life, even with a thorn.
“That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT
Paul learned how to change his perspective. He learned that even with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles that when he was weak in himself, he was strong in Christ.
Acceptance is not simply accepting defeat. No, rather it is a declaration of war on the pain that seeks to destroy your life. You won’t deny it, you won’t wallow in it, you will bring it to the feet of Jesus and lay it there. You will find strength in your weakness and even the grace to suffer for Christ.