A Scottish Theologian from the 1800's by the name of George Matheson wrote a popular hymn called 'O Love That Will Not Let Me Go'. This hymn was written during a time in his life when intense sadness and heartbreak threatened to overwhelm him. Matheson himself wrote of the composition:
"I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. I have no natural gift of rhythm. All the other verses I have ever written are manufactured articles; this came like a dayspring on high."
More interesting than this hymn that he wrote, which is a beautiful piece of poetry, is a prayer that he wrote in conjunction. He writes:
"My God, I have never thanked Thee for my thorn.
I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses. But never once for my thorn.
Teach me the glory of my cross, Teach me the value of my thorn. Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of my pain.
Show me that my tears have made rainbows. Amen."
If you can't find this prayer beautiful, then maybe you have never had a 'thorn'? Curious to know where the term 'thorn' and it's usage came from? Read in the Bible 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Paul, one of the most influential Christians in the world, writes of his own 'thorn'. He doesn't specify what it is exactly (some think it was a physical ailment or spiritual problem), but he says the same thing as George Matheson; Thanks, God.
So many events in this past week in my life have culminated and brought me to this revelation of the 'value of a thorn'.
I started with the prayer that George Matheson wrote; I found it so beautiful and touching – I prayed the same thing exactly a week ago. I used the same words as Matheson penned, however I ended it with 'Thank you for my thorn.'. Even as I spoke it, I knew in my heart I didn't mean it. But I wanted to mean it! I wanted to be truly thankful for my thorn! Somehow, there was no feeling behind it, so I retracted my statement and reiterated the 'teach me' part. I guess I don't learn that quickly.
I believe a 'thorn' can be anything really. For Paul, it was something that kept him humble and reminded him where his great strength came from. For Matheson, it was blindness and heartache that drove him into an amazingly intense and intimate relationship with his Lord. If you examine your life, past and present, you may see that you have been provided with a thorn of your own. I know I have at least one (there's probably a whole garden of thorny rosebushes in my life) and it has plagued me in every aspect of my life for as long as I can remember. As I have matured (a little) into adulthood, I see how it affects me so much more than physically. It has taken hold of my mental and spiritual being and threatens all my hopes for growing in those areas.
Also, like Paul, I have pleaded with the Lord to take it away. Some have told me it's only a matter of faith. That I suffer needlessly. That I can be healed in the spirit if I'm believe enough. I wish to quote the Bible again please: it says that 'even faith as small as a mustard seed can move a whole mountain'! If the Apostle Paul, who was worthy enough to be taken to the 'third heaven and told inexpressible things', things that he wasn't even allowed to repeat, who wrote at least 13 books in the bible, who was tortured and eventually beheaded for his faith, did not have faith at least the size of a mustard seed (which is only 2 mm by the way – I bet you don't even have a ruler with mm on it….), then I don't know who does.
So, I now pray, instead, that I can appreciate the 'glory of my cross', and know the 'value of my thorn'. There is an ultimate purpose for my suffering and it does me no good to suffer if I don't know the reason. Through the scriptures and through my personal and intimate conversations with Jesus, (yes, we talk a lot) I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He has the power to easily lift this burden from my life, but it is not His will.
Later on in the week, I generated a disturbing attitude toward a rough and awkward situation I found myself in. I was immediately ashamed of myself but, despite my desperate prayers, could not rid my mind of these horrible thoughts and feelings that I had. I was tempted to give up and let the memory of the situation, along with all my angry feelings, fade out and try to ignore them. I knew this would ruin many weeks to come and, ultimately, would never resolve itself. It would always be a 'thing undone'. So I struggled forward, fighting the guilt and resentment that had manifested so strongly in my soul. I have made progress, but even as I write this, I feel the pangs of gloom threatening to overtake me again.
Good thoughts in… bad thoughts out! Good thoughts in… bad thoughts out!
None of this has been in vain, nor would I ask God for a 'redo'. I have been taught, the hard way (usually the only way I learn…), the value of a 'thorn'.
You cannot win a race unless you run –and run hard! You cannot overcome without a conflict to begin with. You cannot have a victory without a battle.
Let's try this again: God, I thank you for my thorn. For 'when I am weak – then I am strong. Amen.
(I encourage you to read up on George Matheson, of his story and the hymn. Wikipedia and CyberHymnal both have great articles. Paul has some great stories in the Bible of overcoming hardships and triumphing in his battles as well)