by Elena Tafone
“In order to keep me from becoming conceited. I was given a thorn in my flesh…” wrote the Apostle Paul in a letter to the Corinthians. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Thousands of years later and biblical scholars still debate exactly what Paul’s “thorn” was. Whatever it was, Paul contends that, while painful, this thorn was a gift in disguise, one that kept him humble. God gives us all “thorns”—trials ranging from minor grievances to serious struggles, like a diagnosis of cancer or a lifetime battle with addiction. But why? Here are some thoughts on why God puts thorns in our lives…
“Thorns have purpose. They keep bugs from climbing the stems to damage or destroy the flower. Our personal thorns, though unwanted, can be used by God to protect us in ways only He knows.”
“Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil, and let us see what we are made of.”
“No matter what the thorn or where it might come from, one thing is for certain: God never wastes pain and suffering. He is an expert at taking tragedy and using it to produce a harvest of love, faith, and goodness in our lives and hearts.”
“The encounter with a thorn becomes transformative when we choose to view it as guidance, rather than punishment. A poke invites us to take a deeper look at our lives and ask: Are we headed in the direction of our best life? When we allow the poke of a thorn to awaken us, it is transformed into a blessing.”
“The real problem is not why some pious, believing people suffer, but why some do not.”
“Suffering — how divine it is, how misunderstood! We owe to it all that is good in us, all that gives value to life; we owe to it pity, we owe to it courage, we owe to it all the virtues.”
“A satisfying answer to why we suffer has never welled up in my spirit. This I know: Pain exists. Love exists. I am present for both. In grief, pain and love are welded together. When I sit still long enough in any difficult situation, I discover both pain and love; the thorn and the bloom. The bloom doesn’t erase the thorn. Conversely, the thorn cannot destroy the bloom. Pain cannot destroy love.”
“[Trials] are not meant to make us fall; they are meant to make us soar. They are not meant to defeat us; they are meant to be defeated. They are not meant to make us weaker. They are meant to make us stronger. Therefore we should not bemoan trials; we should rejoice in them.”
“When some people experience a particularly difficult trial, they feel as though God owes them an explanation. If God did not need to explain Himself to Job—a man who experienced the worst trials imaginable—He does not need to explain Himself to us.”
“God wants us to know that life is a series of beginnings, not endings. Just as graduations are not terminations, but commencements. Creation is an ongoing process, and when we create a perfect world where love and compassion are shared by all, suffering will cease.”
“But for pain, bodies would be broken to pieces on the slightest shock.”
“I don’t know why life isn't constructed to be seamless and safe, why we make such glaring mistakes, things fall so short of our expectations, and our hearts get broken and our kids do scary things and our parents get old and don’t always remember to put pants on before they go out... I don't know why it’s not more like it is in the movies, why things don’t come out neatly and lessons can’t be learned when you’re in the mood for learning them, why love and grace often come in such motley packaging.”
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