Several days ago, I pulled a wooden basket off a shelf and quickly realized the handle had deposited a splinter in my finger. It hurt, but not enough to slow down preparations for a family dinner. However, the next day, my finger demanded attention. I worked on it with a needle and some pressure and was rewarded with the ejection of a small sliver of wood. I applied antiseptic and assumed all was well. However, the next morning, my finger was red, swollen, and painful. Clearly, I still had a “thorn in the flesh.”
While my splinter was a literal “thorn in the flesh,” often our irritants are figurative. Perhaps your thorn is a chronic health condition, an addiction, a challenging relationship with a person who knows exactly what to do to get under your skin, or a person you are forced to interact with on a regular basis who is just plain annoying.
Here are some insights into dealing with life’s thorns:
Ignoring Isn’t an Option
When you have a situation or condition that is ongoing, or people who rub you the wrong way, pretending there is no issue isn’t an option. Like my splinter, the situation demands attention and wishing it away doesn’t change reality. Think about your thorn in the flesh. Are you angry because you can’t change it? If your thorn is a person, what is the underlying emotion. Are you frustrated, exhausted from continued challenges or repeated patterns. In a different type of scenario, are you annoyed by someone because you are jealous? Ah, there is something to think about! Are you envious of the person’s self-confidence, success, or accolades and pricked by a sense of unfairness? Confronting a thorn requires courage and honesty.
Expect Some Pain
I can’t think of a time when a splinter worked its way out of my flesh without some probing. It’s the same with figurative thorns in the flesh. In order to work out your thorn, you have to do some digging. As with a splinter, you need vision enhancement, glasses and a strong magnifier, along with a sharp probe. Then, you may have to peel back a layer or two, and locate the offender. You can expect some pain because digging into offense, hard relationships, or the root of anger is never pleasant. You have to examine emotions, and the biggest challenge is allowing yourself to see your part in thorny situations. But once you dig through and uncover what lies beneath, you’ll begin to notice some relief.
Sometimes a Thorn is for Correction
At times, God uses a thorn to cause us to examine a habit or character trait and to initiate course correction. Often we’re blind to negative elements of our personalities or destructive habits. Instead of seeing what we’re doing to ourselves, we blame others. That annoying person or health condition or frustrating situation may be placed in your path to help you identify changes you need to make and course corrections you need to initiate.
Learn in the Process
Don’t be so quick to rid yourself of a proverbial thorn that you don’t glean from the discomfort. Every difficult circumstance is a learning opportunity. While you may always carry a scar at the place the thorn pierced you, healing will occur, and lessons can be learned.
Don’t be so quick to rid yourself of a proverbial thorn that you don’t glean from the discomfort.
In scripture, the Apostle Paul spoke of his thorn in the flesh, and wisely, understood his experience was to keep him from becoming too impressed with himself.
“To keep me grounded and stop me from becoming too high and mighty due to the extraordinary character of these revelations, I was given a thorn in the flesh—a nagging nuisance.” 2 Corinthians 12:7 (VOICE)
Unlike a splinter, a figurative thorn provides an opportunity to learn, grow, and maintain forward motion. Take time to look beneath the surface and discover the real purpose of your thorns.