I think there is a good reason that the apostle Paul never names his infamous “thorn in the flesh.” By not giving it a name or a condition, we can all place our own suffering experience into the text and relate to his pain. Although I am not an expert on the subject of suffering, I certainly can relate to a thorn in the flesh. Mine happens to be in the form of joint instability and the pain that goes with it. I too have asked for my thorn to be removed. Although I hope that one day I am healed, for now, the Lord is slowly teaching me that His grace really is sufficient.
My “thorn in the flesh” journey began about six years ago. A year or two into the journey, I remember a day that I took a walk in the woods. As I walked, I was thinking and praying, and honestly feeling pretty sorry for myself. Any time I took a walk my dog, Todd, a black lab mix, walked with me. He was so enthusiastic, running ahead, chasing all the smells and noises, but constantly making sure that he was near me. He would double back around to check in with me, before chasing the next smell.
I was contemplating how faithful my dog was to me, when I felt the Lord impress on my spirit that He was the same way. I might be going through suffering, but I would not do it alone. The Lord was with me, and He had given me a family (and dog) who loved me and would walk with me on this journey.
As time passes, even though I feel that I grow wiser, somehow I find that I need to be reminded of truths that the Lord has taught me before. Flash forward to this week, when the Lord did a similar thing for me again. Last week I was experiencing more pain than usual, and with the pain came worry, insecurity, and fear of the future. One afternoon I took a walk and was praying about it. By praying about it, I mean ugly crying and once again having a pity party. As I walked and cried, a phrase from Psalm 91 came into my head: “I will be with him in trouble.” I stopped walking, and pulled out my Bible app to read the whole verse:
“When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.”
Once again, the Lord reassured me that although I was experiencing pain, I was not in it alone.
The promises of Scripture are so rich. When we suffer, we can hold on to God’s promises more tightly, exploring the depths of them more fully. We serve a dependable God. He is the same today, tomorrow, and forever. My feelings and circumstances change, but His grace and faithfulness don’t waver. I’m so thankful that when our perspective is skewed by pain and fear, He reminds us of His faithfulness.
Pause: Find space in your day that you have time to read, pray, and journal. Look for promises in Scripture about suffering and God’s faithfulness (or whatever else pertains to your current life situation).
Renew: Write these verses down in a journal so that you can revisit these promises when you need a reminder. If there are one or two verses that really stand out to you, put them on a 3X5 card and carry them with you or put them in a place that you will see them often.
Next: Take opportunities throughout this week to bring your thoughts and feelings to the Lord in prayer. Take time to listen for His voice and to spend time in the Bible meditating on what you read there. The Lord has the power to re-frame our perspective about our circumstances.
May you have the reassurance that the Lord goes before you, behind you, and with you, always.
Pause, Renew, Next!