As I sit on my balcony in beautiful south Florida, drinking this dreadful concoction recommended to me by one of my nutritionist friends, I find myself wrestling with God. Today is one of those days that we don’t like to talk about in the Christian realm; it’s one of those days when the demons of your past rear their ugly heads and remind you of past mistakes. It’s one of those days when the sting of past sin is all too real, and it is a challenge to find rest in God’s hands.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians about the thorn in his side – his weakness that God used to remind Paul of his desperate need for a heavenly Savior. We are not told what this thorn was, and I’m fairly confident that Paul opted out of this disclosure for a purpose. The details aren’t important – what matters here is that Paul had a thorn that may or may not have been related to Paul’s previous life B.C. (before Christ).
Brief Summary: Paul (one of the most prominent figures in Christian history) used to be Saul (one of the most notorious killers of Christians). The Lord came to Saul on the road to Damascus, blinded Saul with His glory, and brought Saul into the family of God. Saul became Paul. (Acts 9)
Okay, so Paul was redeemed. He was made whole and became a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17) in Christ. Yes, he would be persecuted (beaten, arrested, flogged, etc.), but what about internally? Surely this paramount figure in the Christian faith wouldn’t be weighed down by sin, internal struggle, or his previous life… Right? Scripture seems to say otherwise:
“Therefore, 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 on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:7b-10)
Yes, even “super-Christian” Paul struggled! Just because he was a strong, godly man did not make him exempt from struggle! The further that I come in my walk with Christ, the more susceptible I am to believing the lie that I am somehow more immune from struggle – especially from struggles that I had before coming to Christ! Friends, the weight of this fallen world is heavy. When we come to Christ with all of our baggage, He does take it and sort through it in order to provide us rest (He is the Comforter after all), but we are not able to hide from the past. Sins that we engaged in prior to coming to Christ will in some way, shape, or form reappear in order to discourage us.
First and foremost, we must understand that this is NOT from the Lord, but from the great enemy (satan). Second, we must recognize that it is absolutely okay to struggle! I know that may be a controversial statement to make, but it’s entirely true! Coming to Christ does not mean that we stop struggling with sin, or stop feeling the affects of sin. Being a Christian means that even though I struggle, I am okay, I am loved, and I am accepted despite my messiness. Finally, we have to accept that God loves us in spite of our suffering.
So what does this have to do with Paul, a thorn in his side, and dandelion tea? Well, just like Paul, you and I have and will continue to struggle; we may pray like Paul did for the Lord to take it away from us, and He chooses not to! Until you and I enter into the coming Kingdom of God, we will keep struggling. You and I will always have a thorn in our side simply because of the broken world that we live in. But, guess what?! God is going to use that! While God is not the One who causes this sin and struggle, He will use it for our good even when we don’t understand it.
So friends, today is one of those days where I am incredibly aware of the thorn in my side (hence my dandelion tea). But you know what? God says that His grace is enough for me. So, while I may hate that I still am plagued with the consequences of past sin and I must live with this thorn, I know that it’s okay. I can rejoice with this thorn because it means that I am weak, and therefore I am strong – and so are you.