Thriving With Thorns
“There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 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.” – 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
A thorn in our flesh is such a vague description of something we are going through; addiction, health, relationship struggles, financial hardship, grief and loss, or unexpected life changes. They can be our own personal thorns or a secondary pain from a loved one. Either way we look at it, we all have one. Each and every one of us. Some of them are secrets we dare not whisper. Some we voice loudly and with fervor, because we need to see a change.
What we need to realize first and foremost when we become aware of this thorn is that they have never been punishment or abandon. Christ has remained with us through it all and he has borne the pain himself. Our thorns were wrapped around his head so that we may not suffer for them.
Margaret Clarkson- “The thorns that seem to hem us in are in reality placed there to close us in to God himself, to protect us from evil, to provide us with sanctuary in the midst of a troubled world.”
What if these things in our lives- addiction, abuse, illness, death- what if they aren’t things God “let happen to us” but rather things God is using to guide us? You see, it is a thorn placed in your side causing you to shift your walk slightly to the right. Your path has changed. You’re headed in a new direction.
The death of a loved one isn’t to bring you pain but to bring you purpose.
Stories of addiction or abuse don’t happen to cause you fear and doubt.
Sickness and troubles aren’t striking you as punishment for anything.
This wasn’t placed in your road because He has left you. He’s moving you.
Your story has the power to change the trajectory of another’s life. The power that created the oceans and raised the mountains, the power that defeated death lives INSIDE you!
You DO have the power to change the course of your life or someone else’s, if only you let that emanate from the Creator of life himself.
“The will of God will never take you where the provision of His Grace will not protect you.” -Unknown
“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”- Romans 8:11
At 15, my parents divorced. At 16, I got saved. At 17… I got pregnant. At 18, I delivered twins.
Here I was; a single, teenage mother who had graduated high school early and was an undecided major at community college. This was not the way I saw things going for my life, at all! I was so lost and had never felt farther from God. I had already disappointed him in my relationship and felt as though He had given up on me. Why would He do all of these things to me or how could He let them happen to me. I was convinced that I had ruined my salvation and God was going to write me off as a lost cause. My story could have ended here. I could have walked away from the little I knew and believed.
But if you ever think you have ruined God’s plan for you, rest in this friend; you are not that powerful.
And while I hadn’t prayed for the removal of the guilt and thorn, I had punished myself. I hadn’t sought out the purpose for the events that took place and it took me many years but eventually, I made a passive peace with it. I convinced myself that I wasn’t to blame, just a victim of circumstance. Maybe a bad decision or two but it wasn’t anything that God caused to happen to me.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”- Romans 8:38-40
Let’s fast forward 7 years; I’m married and my twins have a little sister. I’m going to bring in to the world a little boy soon. He completes our family, we’re elated. We are approaching the end of our time living in California where my husband was stationed and are preparing to move to Florida.
Shortly after our arrival here in Florida, we started to attend a new church, Sopchoppy Southern Baptist. There was this pull (or push maybe) to drive the distance to the church and I have never looked back. I had been there only a few weeks when I met a woman and her daughter. Lauren’s little girl had a condition she couldn't hide and I was holding on to the secret of Hank’s. I asked her age, and as God would have it, Ellie was 1 day younger than Hank.
Hear me clearly; 2,197 miles away from each other we were delivering children with exemplary needs. Both of us unaware. To find each other at a church that sits nestled in the backwoods of a rural town in northern Florida on what is called the “Forgotten Coast.” You won’t ever convince me that there was not a divine plan here.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” - Jeremiah 29:11-13
“In God’s marvelous plan, divine providence uses the tiniest twigs to do good works.” - BL Pier G. Frassati
I was still holding on to Hank’s condition as a secret, one that quite frankly I wasn’t handling well. Lauren and I sat together in the nursery and she began to tell me about sweet Ellie. Ellie has a rare condition called 9p minus, or Alfie Syndome. She tells me about her and their journey and how she had been to a revival shortly before Ellie’s birth where she prayed for Christ to make her more like Him. And into her world is placed a little girl who will need exceptional love and patience and care. One who will face a world that is unkind to those who are different. I asked her, “Have you ever talked to a counselor?” to which she replied, “No. Because I have Jesus. I’ve talked to him.”
That conversation ingrained itself onto my heart.
I shared my story with her and while we shed some tears together, I knew that this is why I came here. I was brought here because I was not alone here on earth and that was my saving grace.
At alter call that day, I walked forward to the associate pastor, Brother David Allen, and I gave him the short version of what was going on with Hank. He put his hands on my shoulders and pulled me in and he whispered, “We’ll love him anyway.” 4 words that held me tight. There was my final push. I had a choice to make right there.
I was either going to carry this burden alone, with my own will power, or I was going to kneel down and place that load on the foot of the Cross for Christ to take.
When I stood up, I felt free. I knew that from that moment I would never face this alone.
By October of 2015, my son was diagnosed with a congenital Cytomegalovirus infection. And as a result of this virus, Hank has a brain malformation called Polymicrogyria, which literally translates to “many small folds”. His brain has an extra-spongy look. He has spastic quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, is non-verbal, and completely dependent on others or equipment for his needs- everything from sitting and standing to feeding and drinking. His life expectancy is rather short and while it’s hard to talk about everything, it’s very much necessary.
In June of 2016 we were rushed to UF Shand's Health in Gainesville for MRI’s and an urgent visit with an ENT. Henry was found to have a rather large mass in his throat and the initial differential (best guess) was a tumor. 1 week later we were booked for surgery to remove his adenoids and get a better look at this thing. As I sit in the hospital, I receive a message from Brother David. He and 3 men from our church have driven down to be with us. They were brought back to the waiting room where I sat with Henry and they loved us. Truly loved us.
They prayed for the surgeons and the team that would care for Henry and they prayed for me. They waited for me in the waiting room and were there to keep me uplifted. When Henry was done, they came back with me to pray over him again for a fast recovery and quick healing. My heart needed that immensely.
In those moments I found Paul’s letter to Philippi. Throughout his trials and tribulations, of which there were many, Paul remained hopeful.
He says in chapter 4 verse 12-13, “ I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
In moments like these, where I have no power or strength or ability to do anything, I find myself drawn closer to His word. I can feel myself being pulled in to His arms where He is patiently waiting for me to put down the burden I picked back up.
In 3 years my heart has endured and come through, but I want more than to just survive life. I want to thrive! I want to radiate light and joy and hope. I want to shine so brightly that you can’t help but to ask me how.
I want to tell everyone that this thing that keeps me standing strong when I could list so many reasons for laying down defeated, is nothing short of the grace and goodness and love of Christ.
George Mueller- “The only way to learn strong faith is to endure great trial.”
Trial and obstacle and scare after fear and heartbreak and hurt have occurred in these last few years. Rare brain malformation, deaf, vision problems, no sitting or standing or walking. No communication, feeding difficulties, blood work issues. Abnormal Xray or CT or MRI or visual exam. Surgery. Botox injections. Extensive therapies, equipment for every need, and travel and research. Financial strain and relational problems. Loneliness and worry.
Life. Man, it gets you down and kicks you while you’re there.
But by Grace, through Faith, wrapped in immeasurable love and unfathomable miracles, I have survived and I am here in front of you now, thriving.
Thriving despite the thorns in my flesh.
These thorns have not stopped me and I will not let them. They have redirected my path and given me purpose. My thorns no longer hold power over me, they power me forward.
Tell me friends, do you have a thorn?
What will you choose to do with it after today?
Light and Love,