By the grace of God, we as believers no longer have to live as slaves to the mistakes and pain of our past. Our present has been transformed, and now we can look toward the future with hope. Even as we look forward, however, our thorns stay with us. The apostle Paul had his own thorn: “To keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.” (2 Corinthians 12:7)
I don’t know what Paul’s thorn was, but I’m all too familiar with my own. My thorn is the people I’ve hurt over the years. For the rest of my life, I will remember the faces of those I’ve wounded and the pain I’ve caused them. That thorn remains in my flesh as a devastating reminder of what I am capable of doing outside the Lord’s will. I no longer pray that God will release me from the backlash of my poor choices. Now I think, Paul had a thorn—why shouldn’t I?
Perhaps your thorn is more physical in makeup—a chronic pain in your knee or your neck, or headaches that never cease. Maybe your thorn is a nagging repercussion from your own poor choice from long ago, or maybe it’s a financial situation, a strained relationship, or a compulsion to pick up that bottle or pop that pill. Perhaps your thorn is your memories—those times when a thought, a smell, or a song takes you back to a place in time you never wish to return to.
As painful as they are, our thorns keep us humble. They remind us of the places we should never venture again and the people we once were and should never again desire to be. But as we look toward embracing the future God has for us, we need to remember that our thorns are intended to keep us humble and continually turn us back to God, not to hold us in captivity.
It is only when we have surrendered ourselves to God that He can plant a vision inside us. In His mysterious, redemptive ways, God can take the broken pieces of our past and the transformed pieces of our present and weave them together into a beautiful calling for our future.
The theme verses for my life are the same as my “brother” David’s:
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me—
now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
and they will return to you.
God has purified me, removed my guilt, cleaned my heart, and restored my joy. And now He has given me the calling to be a teacher and to share the redemptive work He has done in my life. And so I dare to live each day as one called by God. Yes, my thorns are in tow, but they are now only brilliant reminders of my newfound, condemnation-free life in Jesus Christ.
If I could, I’d reach out and squeeze your little cheeks into submission as I looked you in the eyes. I’d say to you, “Listen to me, dear one. If He can give me a calling for the future, He can certainly do the same for you.”
Hear Kasey’s story this Tuesday on LIFE TODAY. Excerpted from Named By God by Kasey Van Norman Copyright ©2012 by Kasey Van Norman. Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Used with permission.