My thorn has become a spring of joy to me.
I found myself looking upon some of my friends with jealousy the other night. “Why do they get to do such and such? Why do they get to be with so and so? Why now? Why not me?” Very quickly, I saw this jealousy give way to my own self-pity: “Woe is me that my God has given me among all my friends this heavy burden to bear. I must be obedient, I must endure — and then the good will come.”
I thought enduring was what I was supposed to do. I thought being obedient was all that God required of me. But then God spoke:
Just as faith apart from obedience is dead, so obedience apart from faith is dead.
Now you may say, “Of course I have faith, how would I ever obey if I didn’t believe?” Let me say this very carefully: I believe we, as Christians, often have faith in the promise and the certainty of the promise but not in the intentions of the Promiser.
In my own life, I see my tendency to look upon God’s “gifts” as malicious burdens that I have to bear rather than good gifts that I get to receive and rejoice in. I believe in the Goodness of God, but have a hard time applying it to the here and now. For me, the Goodness of God is some kind of distant hope that comforts rather than an ever-present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1).
Biblically, we can look at 2 Corinthians 12:7, where God sent a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass the apostle Paul. Imagine being in his shoes. Harassment from God? That must be malicious. He must be testing me. He must be testing my endurance and my strength. He must have something really good in store for me if I simply preserve through this cruel momentary harassment.
But that is not what Paul says: his thorn was a gift. It was given to him to keep him from becoming conceited; to keep him from sin (v. 7). It was given to him so that Christ’s power might be perfected in him (v. 9) It was given to him that he might learn to boast in his thorn as a good gift from a Good God who lovingly gave him his thorn for his good.
The thorn that was pitiable in the eyes of the world was beautiful to Paul. Because Paul had the eyes of faith.
Or consider Job. When everything in this world was stolen from him, he cried out, “The LORD gives and the LORD takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) Job didn’t have any promises to look forward to but the trust that the intentions of his God were good. The Lord isn’t “still” good despite what happens, He “is” good because of what happens. Blessed be the name of the Lord for doing things this way. Blessed be the name of the Lord that his thoughts are greater and his ways are higher. Blessed be the name of the Lord because He knows what is best for me.
The God that Job’s wife told him to curse, Job worshipped. Because Job had the eyes of faith.
Only children who have the Sovereign King as their Father can “consider every trial as pure joy” because they believe two unshakeable truths: (1) God is completely in control of this world and my life, and (2) He is always, undeniably, unquestionably good. And everything he does is good. Even the thorns, even the discipline, even the wilderness.
It’s a life-transforming truth: I’m not enduring cruel wrath, I’m receiving loving discipline. From my Father, for my good.
My thorn that was once bitter has become a spring of joy to me.