Embracing the Thorn

I’ve been airing a bunch of dirty laundry lately on the internet. Infertility. Divorce. Infidelity. A google search of my name pulls up links that make my life look like one long train wreck. While they are not my favorite stories, I don’t mind telling them in hopes that they will encourage and strengthen someone in the thick of their own mess.

I am comfortable sharing them mainly because they are resolved. They are finished and polished and can be woven into a moving story of victory which cause people to cry in the middle and smile in the end.

In all this sharing of big trials overcome, I’ve noticed something about myself. Maybe this is true of you too? I find it easier to trust God with the catastrophic events than the everyday irritations. The thorns. This is partially because the large-scale disasters are infrequent and also because they are clearly out of my control. I can’t do anything about infertility. I have no choice but to trust. Being nice to my family when I’m hungry though? That’s another story. That is something I can power through and I should be able to fix if I try hard enough.

Here’s a sampling of some thoughts that like to run around my head:

He can surely bring us safely through marriage trials but can He help me be less negative? Probably not. I’m so thankful God brought us two kids perfect for our family after all those years of infertility. Too bad He can’t give me a breakthrough with my anger issues though.

I realized recently why He hasn’t answered me. It was a huge epiphany over an embarrassingly basic concept. I’ve been begging for Him to fix me so I could go on my merry way a lighter, happier me. I want Him to fix it once and for all and frankly I have been more than a little irritated that He won’t since I know He can.

It never occurred to me that maybe He wanted me to realize I need to depend on Him on a minute by minute basis. My prayer has been for change precisely so I don’t HAVE to depend on Him.

The thing about God: He wins. My white flag is raised. I’m also going to cry “uncle” just for good measure.

Turns out, I’m not the first person to realize this! In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul realized that the thorn kept him dependent on God and that it was actually a (very uncomfortable and sometimes infuriating) blessing. According to Paul, the thorn does several things for us:

• Keeps us humble (v.7)
• Helps us understand grace (v.9)
• Brings us to the true source of strength (v.10)

And so, like Paul, I am going to give boasting in my weakness a try. I am going to quit praying God would remove my irritating tendencies and start depending on Him to get me through tough moments instead. I bet it will work. Don’t you?

Is there a thorn in your side you could choose to embrace rather than scorn today?

12 Comments

  1. Kimberly Todd April 22, 2015

    I love it when something I read makes me say out loud, “Wow, that was really good.” This is insightful, Emily. I’m primed because this passage and its implications have come up several times for me in the past week. Thanks for writing.

    1. Emily Thomas April 23, 2015

      Ha! I love that it made you speak out loud.  I’m so glad it was applicable.  Isn’t is awesome how God is able to drive points home to us?

  2. Elizabeth April 22, 2015

    “He can surely bring us safely through marriage trials but can He help me be less negative? Probably not. I’m so thankful God brought us two kids perfect for our family after all those years of infertility. Too bad He can’t give me a breakthrough with my anger issues though.”

    I laughed out loud at this! I could really relate! Especially about not being nice to my family when I’m hungry. . . Thank you for starting my day with such humorous honesty. 🙂

    1. Emily Thomas April 23, 2015

      Yes!  “Hangry” is a real thing around the Thomas house. 🙂

      1. ErinMP April 23, 2015

        I’m definitely using that word next time I need to apologize for hunger-induced shortness.

  3. Casey April 22, 2015

    This really hit home! Great thoughts, Emily!

  4. Monica F April 23, 2015

    Thank you for sharing your stories Emily.  I recently listened to you on the Mud Stories podcast- Jacque is one of my very close friends!  I’m sure many felt blessed through your sharing.  It’s fun to meet up with you here on VA.  We all have our stories, so be encouraged and know that your honesty and understanding is an inspiration to all!

  5. Emily Thomas April 23, 2015

    You know Jacque!  What a small world!  Her AND her podcast are just wonderful.  Thank you for your kind words.  I appreciate it.

    1. Monica F April 23, 2015

      Yes, Jacque and I have known each other for years, and she’s always been a wonderful supporter and encourager of ours.  She has been wanting me to share my Mud Story too… we’ll see:)

  6. ErinMP April 23, 2015

    Definitely! For me I sometimes had thorns that were in part me not letting go of worldly things I was clinging to, so kind of different; I had things as idols, or I “needed” to control my surroundings or overly-control my body instead of (here is correlates) trusting in God. Choosing to be dependent on Him instead of our idols is hard but so rewarding; and God won’t let us down like they will.

    I love your point about wanting to be freed from our thorns so that we won’t have to be dependent, and that is one reason they are still there for us. I had never thought of that! That made it click for me, and I’m going to use that thought process to examine some of my still existing thorns… and re-read that chapter in the Bible. Some of my thorns I guess I should embrace (haha)–my low immune system/migraines, my bouts of sadness, and my anxiety/guilt angst. Thanks for sharing your stories!

  7. Marie April 26, 2015

    Dear Emily, please turn off the hidden camera feed from my home (and heart and mind) into yours. You know, the camera which you used as fodder for this blazingly amazing blog post? How did you know my struggle down to the dots above the i’s in “irritations” ???

    My family will be including you in their last will and testament for understanding what it’s like to be living in our home, for putting to words what they wish Wife/Mommy could just surrender to Jesus. What they don’t know is that there is no “i” in surrender. So that’s my problem. Thank you for the timely reminder from one of my favorite theologians. I’m going to go and ask the Lord to help me to remember this teleplay which you wrote about so skillfully, the next time I’m huffing and puffing about something super silly. And as for any royalties you will make from “MY” story (I mean, our story) …. we’ll talk! =)

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