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Appreciating the Thorns

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Authored by Steve Hearts

While fixing our eyes on a beautiful rose and smelling its fragrance, it’s easy to forget its sharp, prickly thorns.

When I was little, my mother gave me a rose to feel and smell. While studying it with my fingers, enjoying its softness, and sniffing its fragrance, I was poked by one of the thorns. I was startled to tears. My mother held me close and gently explained that all roses have thorns.

“Life will have lots of thorns,” I remember her saying. “Though you may not appreciate them at first, you will come to appreciate them later on.”

I was too young to fully understand the meaning of her words, but as time passed and life continued its course, the meaning of her words became clear.

Seldom does it come naturally to appreciate the “thorns” in our lives. It almost always takes some type of awareness and effort. Paul the apostle had his “thorn,” which served to keep him humble. In 2 Corinthians 12:7–9 he said, “In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given 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.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest upon me.”1

I would say that the biggest challenge in my life was coming to terms with my blindness. I was different from most of those around me. While others could use their eyes to read, I had to learn to read with my fingers. Unlike all my friends and peers, I had to walk with a cane. I also needed more help and assistance with day-to-day life than most people I knew.

My parents were aware of what I was going through and showed me those very scriptures from Paul. I was especially amazed to find that, although it’s not known for certain what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was, a common theory is that it had something to do with his eyes. I had done my share of praying for deliverance from my blindness—and many others have earnestly prayed for me as well. But as time went on, it became clear to me, and to those who prayed for me, that God had allowed me to come into this world blind in order to fulfill a specific purpose. Therefore, He would give me sufficient grace to live with my blindness and would use it for His glory.

This revelation gave me a new lease on life—completely changing my outlook and the way I thought. Instead of complaining about life’s obstacles, I set out to look for opportunities. The more I looked for them, the more I found.

I became determined to follow the example of Dr. William Moon, who, after suddenly losing his sight prayed, “Lord, I accept this ‘talent’ of blindness from You. Help me to use it for Your glory so that when You return, You may receive it ‘back with interest.’”2 He was inspired to invent a special reading system for the blind, known as the Moon alphabet, or Moon type, with which blind people could read using their fingers.

I concluded that if God wished to use my “talent” of blindness as a testimony to glorify Him, I would say yes for His glory, just as Moon did. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told how my testimony has encouraged, challenged, and motivated others. I often wondered if I’d be as much of a testimony were I able to see. God only knows.

Be that as it may, I have not only come to appreciate my “thorn” of blindness, but I no longer see it as a thorn. I’ve accepted it as a tool that the Lord has chosen to use in order to serve a yet unseen but wonderful purpose.

A drama story I used to listen to as a boy tells of a high school marching band that was traveling by bus one rainy, stormy night to another city to participate in a parade. As soon as they began their journey, they found that one of the band members had been followed onto the bus by his dog, Barkis. The boy was mortified, and the rest of the team greatly annoyed with having a dog on the bus with them.

They arrived at a river crossing, and nearly slid right into the water after discovering, almost too late, that the main bridge was broken. While the skilled driver averted a terrible crisis, they still ended up stuck in the mud and were unable to free the bus despite their best efforts.

Barkis abruptly hopped off the bus and headed straight for the river before anyone could stop him. He crossed over to the other side, found a farmhouse, and scratched on the door with his paws. The couple inside the house thought the sound to be nothing more than branches blowing against the house. Then they heard barking and realized it was a dog.

They opened the door to invite him in, but Barkis refused to enter and instead alternated his gaze between the man and the river, as if he was trying to tell him something. The husband kindly got his raincoat on and headed out with the dog, in hopes of finding out what he wanted.

He followed him to the river. Once there, the farmer heard the sound of voices on the other side and saw the school bus stuck in the mud, with several of the boys trying to push it out in vain.

He took the dog and hurried back to the house to get his tractor, and headed across the river over another little bridge just a little ways downriver.

When they arrived at the school bus, all those on board were overjoyed to see both the farmer and Barkis—who, by this time, was considered a hero instead of a nuisance. When the bus was free, the farmer took the whole group back to his house, where his wife served food and hot drinks for them all.

When everyone profusely thanked the farmer and his wife, they said, “Don’t thank us. Thank Barkis. If it hadn’t been for him, we’d have never known of your plight.”

They arrived at their destination in time for the parade, where they placed their new “hero,” Barkis, right at the head of the band.

Is there something in your life that seems like a nuisance or a thorn? It likely is serving a special purpose designed by God. You may not understand what that is right now, but you may someday. And when you do, you will come to truly appreciate that “thorn,” whatever it may be.

1 New International Version 2 Matthew 25:27; Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings

Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2015 by The Family International

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