When I lived back at the old neighborhood before moving to the swamp, I had a huge and beautiful bougainvillea bush. I bought it as a ‘baby’ and it grew to cover half the fence in the back yard, and into the neighbor’s yard as well. Bright fuchsia flowers when it was in bloom practically lit up our little street, but even when it wasn’t flowering, the green leaves kept the chain link covered and looking very pretty.
It needed steady pruning and I had to take care whenever I did clip here and there. I also had to take extra care whenever I worked near it or mowed around it. That is a beautiful bush, but man those thorns stick out up to an inch and are sharp as a tack. And they hurt like heck to get poked or scraped. It was when I got that plant that I realized that Jesus’s crown of thorns wasn’t just some annoying thistle type thing and the thought of them driving it down on his head just makes me cringe and tear up.
But back to the bush in my old yard… it made quite a pretty, and painful hedge because of those thorns beneath the beauty. If you don’t know what a bougainvillea thorns looks like, just imagine roses with one inch spikes all up the stems.
Thorns. The Bible talks about them, and there are a lot of folks in Scriptures whose circumstances could be describing thorns. The most familiar story however is Paul who talks about having thorns and asking the Lord three times to remove it…
The Book of Job describes what could be thorns as well with all of the things happening to him in such a short period of time. Thorns hurt like heck and they are an extremely uncomfortable, constant irritant if they get lodged under your skin.
Everyone suffers from ‘thorns’ at one time or another, some, like Paul and many others in the Bible never did have them removed. Sometimes we find ourselves rid of ours… but in many cases, we find ourselves in a whole hedge full.
A friend from my church recently gave me a book that he said made him think of me, and I’ve been reading a little every night before bed. It’s an incredible book, not a self help, but what the author describes as a survival guide to living with thorns.
As I mentioned in last week’s heart bits, I’ll probably be drawing from the book over the next while as many things are laid on my heart and mind, because so many things have to do with the thorniness of life, that can help us to trust God as we live with them, even if we don’t always understand why we have them.
As it is with many of my heart bits I write, what I intend to write about doesn’t always happen as God directs my thoughts in other directions, sometimes scattered all over, but always leading to similar things. This article was meant for something else, yet still a thorny issue, one that I might be able to write down when my brain is a little quieter and less full than it is now. For now though, I just want to throw out a couple of thoughts as you consider some of the thorns you’ve had, or may have had for a long time- and maybe still do. Maybe your thorn is something that you’ll always have. We don’t know, but it is sometimes something to wrestle with as we consider God has reasons for them sometimes and doesn’t always remove them.
How about when we find ourselves hedged in? Surrounded by wicked looking bougainvillea thorns? Do we trust in prayer that God will remove them and heal us? What if He doesn’t? Does that mean our faith is weak, or could it be that God has us surrounded for our good as He changes us?
Hosea 2:6 Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths.
God put a thorn wall up around Israel to keep her from following dangerous, idolatrous and adulterous paths, because He loves His people. He also loves His children. We see from Paul how having the thorn remain gave him the Lord’s strength to endure, and it’s a part of why he was one of the greatest missionaries of all time. His epistles and admonitions, love and encouragement to the people of the early churches were given from personal experiences but also authority through maturity as one encouraging another for enduring when he had to endure as well.
As the author of the book I’m reading describes, often times during the midst of our thorny trials, God will give us a rose, and other times He gives us a bouquet among the thorns. There are always blessings He wants to shower us with, even when He’s working on us in mighty uncomfortable and painful ways- and begging Him to remove the thorn(s) just may make us miss out on some incredible roses. Other times, we are the roses He uses to help others through their own thorny times.
Our thorns come in many different ways, and none of them are easy, all of them are painful, even if some aren’t quite as painful as others. The things that He teaches us though, develops us, much like Paul, and men like Job, as they handled their thorns in ways which glorified God. Scriptures never tell us that God will keep us from pain, and the truth is, thorns that we have, or develop will come, but He always protects us and loves us through them whether He removes them or not.
When you consider your thorns, especially if you’ve been surrounded by a hedge, remember that God may just be protecting you from other things that would hurt a whole lot more. As painful as thorns are, there are plenty of things in this world and life that hurt even more.
Consider too what God might be working in you, because we can be sure He is always using every circumstance to work in or through us. We can be reminded as Paul was, that His power is made perfect in our weakness.
Have a safe, blessed and beautiful Monday and week all.