“Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off” (Isaiah 55:13).
When I was a little girl, I once got a thorn stuck in the palm of my hand. I don’t recall how it got in there. But I remember it went in lengthwise, across my palm in a way that was visible but unreachable. It was so painful to the touch that I couldn’t bear to try to remove it, so I left it in there for several days. My hand became red and swollen, and the pain increased greatly. But eventually the thorn worked its way out the side of my hand enough for me to twist and pull it free. It healed without further incident, or so I thought until recently.
This memory came back to me after I had been through an intense prayer meeting with some friends at church. Someone in the meeting had commented there was a thickness surrounding me, but she didn’t know what it was. I went home and prayed more about what it might mean. God brought a passage of Scripture immediately to mind, and I turned to read it:
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among the thorns, which grew up and choked the plants” (Matthew 13:3-7).
This is one of the parables Jesus taught to the crowds gathered around him. When I got to the part about the thorns, I instantly knew in my spirit this was the “thickness” described around me in the prayer meeting. Jesus had said the thorns represent the “the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). This is the moment when the thorn memory flashed in my mind.
These thorns were holding me back. I saw for the first time how, as a child, I had internalized a lie in my experience with having the thorn in my hand. I internalized the lie that I had to take care of myself. Even further, I believed I could take care of myself. I had a vision that morning of Jesus before me; the little girl pulling the thorn from her swollen hand. Jesus stood before me wearing His crown of thorns. He said, “I wore these for you. You don’t have to hold onto your thorn anymore.” I saw my small hands reach up and firmly press my thorn onto His crown of thorns. It is difficult for me to adequately describe the flood of emotions I felt in that moment. There was awe and worship of Jesus is the glory of His great mercy and majesty. His tender compassion and love toward me as a hurting child so moved me in the depths of my soul. There was joy and new inner freedom. I felt unhindered; free to run to Him and move in power within His will for my life. I also felt deeply humbled and repentant in the sobering knowledge of how blind and wrong I had been for so much of my life.
The apostle Paul spoke of thorns too. He acknowledged he had a “thorn in his flesh”, whom he called a “messenger of Satan” sent to torment him (2 Corinthians 12:7). Three times Paul pleaded with the Lord to take it away from him. But the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Paul knew he had a thorn in his flesh and was helpless to remove it on his own. I also knew I had the thorn, but I thought I took care of it myself years ago. God answered both Paul and me with His same, all-sufficient, perfecting grace. He gave Paul the grace to believe that even his thorns of weakness, hardship, and difficulty were working together powerfully for his own good and God’s eternal glory. His grace gave me a final resting place to lay down the burdensome thorn I blindly carried for so long.
All is grace. The thorns we must endure, and the thorns we were never meant to. Do you know which kind of thorns you have? Thorns like Paul’s glorify God by revealing His power in our weakness. Thorns like mine choke our faith, making us unfruitful. Jesus is the Lord of the harvest. It is to the Father’s glory that we bear much fruit. Nothing is too thorny or difficult for Him. In Him, we can bloom as cypress or myrtle instead of a thorn. Don’t let the bitter circumstances of your past define you, or keep you from your purposed crop.
Jesus wore the thorns for you too. Crown Him with many crowns by humbly giving Him the thorns He never meant for you to carry. Glorify Jesus by acknowledging that He wore the thorns to heal yours.
“I am the Lord who heals you” (Exodus 15:26).