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What is your “thorn”?

“It’s a constant battle between frustration in the present, fears for the future, and one’s belief that God is in control. It’s not a battle that is won once. It’s a daily struggle.”

A dear friend recently wrote that to me as she was sharing about the particularly difficult battle that she and her family are going through right now. They are both strong in their Christian faith and have been through all kinds of battles in the past, but this new one that they now find themselves fighting is one that impacts every aspect of their life on a daily basis – and it will probably be so for years to come! Although I have not personally had to fight her battle, there have been many others that we have fought through the years. We ALL from time to time find ourselves in the middle of a spiritual battleground of one kind or another – we KNOW it is inevitable as a part of our Christian walk here on earth.

Our battlefield may be the work place where others around us continually work AGAINST us because of our Christian beliefs…..

Or it may be a physical battle against our body that constantly brings pain and suffering that saps our strength and steals our joy…..

Perhaps it is the battle to dig our way out of debt or poverty that brings never-ending worry in spite of years of hard work and doing without….

Or it could be fighting the ever-recurring temptation to fall back into a sinful craving that we have finally been able to overcome….

Then sometimes we find ourselves suddenly in the midst of a ferocious battle we never saw coming, that turns our life upside down, and makes us disoriented, not knowing where to turn for help. It is so easy to look through the smoke of the battle and see our enemy as those people who are pushing against us in the confusion. But Peter reminds us to stay focused on who our REAL enemy is: “Control yourselves and be careful! The devil is your enemy, and he goes around like a roaring lion looking for someone to attack and eat.” 1 Peter 5:8 (ERV)

As Christians, at such times we often find ourselves praying for God’s help and strength to get through it all. Of course Our Heavenly Father promises to do just that, and we can be encouraged by the many bible verses that tell us so. But it is also good to remind ourselves of how we can fight spiritual warfare as so well detailed in Ephesians 6:10-18. Our weapon is the Sword of the Spirit (which is the Word of God) and the Name of Jesus (at which EVERY knee must bow – including Satan’s).

In 2 Corinthians 11:23-33 we can read the long list of terrible sufferings and experiences (battles) that Paul endured, which included beatings, being stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked and left adrift in the sea for days – and even having to escape from a city in a basket! Such a long list of suffering certainly reminds us we are not alone in our battles and suffering, and helps us put things in perspective.

But I find it interesting that if we continue to read on just a few more verses into chapter 12, we find that Paul confesses to having to fight an ongoing, never-ending battle that was so bad that he begged God three times to deliver him from it. We have no idea what it was, but Paul calls it his “thorn in the flesh”. So in spite of all the “major battles” Paul fought, there was one that was a continual never-ending struggle for him. One that he was so very familiar with and had to deal with constantly on a daily basis. One that must have worn him out struggling to overcome and be set free from, in spite of his incredible faith and knowledge of resisting Satan! I’m sure that Paul himself could easily have written the quote which I shared at the beginning of this piece.

No matter what our particular “thorn” may be, we are all actually facing the same battle – it is the battle of our faith! We DO believe God’s Word and KNOW He hears and answers our prayers. We TRUST He is with us and will help us through it all. We YEARN to reach that point where we will be able to experience victory over every battle because our faith has matured. Yet we still have to live through the emotions of fear and anxiety as we experience heartbreak, hear bad news, and try to overcome our nagging thoughts at night! We battle to find peace – especially if deliverance does not come as we would like. But we read that Paul eventually learned how to deal with HIS “thorn”.

“But I must not be too proud of the wonderful things that were shown to me. So a painful problem was given to me—an angel from Satan, sent to make me suffer, so that I would not think that I am better than anyone else. I begged the Lord three times to take this problem away from me. But the Lord said, “My grace is all you need. Only when you are weak can everything be done completely by my power.” So I will gladly boast about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can stay in me. 10 Yes, I am glad to have weaknesses if they are for Christ. I am glad to be insulted and have hard times. I am glad when I am persecuted and have problems, because it is when I am weak that I am really strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (ERV)

Lord, please help us as we each confront and endure these spiritual battles. We know others are fighting on different battlefields that maybe we cannot fully understand or empathize with, but ultimately we are all actually dealing with this same battle for our faith. Help us to be encouraged by Paul’s words and realize that because YOU are with us through it all, we CAN endure our “thorn in the flesh” and we ARE strong. Help us to see that our victory is not so much to climb atop a pile of rubble and raise a flag, but rather to just get through the battle and still have our faith in you. Amen.         

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