“Thanks for Thorns”
Dear Members and Friends of our ELS:
Interesting ironies appear in Scripture. For one, there is the first promise of the Savior (Genesis 3:15). The wily serpent thinks he is able to strike a lethal blow to the woman’s Offspring by his venomous bite into the heel. In reality, the death of the Promised One delivers the deathblow to the devil’s reign over humanity. Or take another twist. The high priest Caiaphas unwittingly prophesies what Jesus does through his death when he maliciously advocates, “It is better…one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (John 11:50, 51).
There’s another great twist. We see it in the way the Apostle Paul speaks of his “thorn in the flesh.” We don’t know what it was. Probably a physical ailment of some sort. Suggestions have been offered, including eyesight troubles. Whatever the “thorn,” he describes it as a “messenger of Satan” meant to torment him. But what a healthy surprise! The trouble he was experiencing, even while praying fervently three times for its removal, was turning out by God’s providence to be a messenger of grace! Remember the Lord’s answer? “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Paul easily could have been conceited. He was a popular missionary. He had inside information—receiving visions from the Lord. To ward off any egocentric temptations, the “messenger” he identified at first as evil contained a twist for good, woven by his gracious Savior-God.
Does this happen for you? Is there a deeply challenging stress, one that easily could lead you astray, but by God’s grace has been miraculously twisted to bring you even closer to him? No matter what the “thorn in the flesh” is for a believer, each of us, like Paul, can view it as God’s gift to keep us in the true faith—holding only to His grace in Christ alone for the forgiveness of our sins and for the gift of eternal life awaiting all who trust in His promises (Romans 8:28).
Job showed a twist. Satan’s intention was to have him curse the Creator. Through the tragedies he endured, God in his mercy moved Job to “bless” and not curse. Joseph endured pain and loss from his brothers. God in his mercy had him look back and assess: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
We have a crucified, risen, and ascended Savior! Shall we be surprised if he weaves an interesting twist into the experiences of our lives? He has everything in his loving control.
So… thank Him also for thorns.
Rev. John A. Moldstad, ELS President