It was a lovely Saturday morning.
I was still in my robe enjoying a second cup of coffee when the phone interrupted my tranquility. It was a good friend whose daughter’s world had just been shattered. She had come home from work the night before and found a note on the table from her husband who was leaving with an abrupt announcement that another woman was the most important person in the world to him. Their children didn’t matter anymore. Church friends didn’t matter. He had already filed the divorce papers. The family was devastated.
I was still reeling from that announcement when the silence was broken again by another phone call. This time it was a church member asking us to pray for her family. Her 26-year-old nephew has just been found dead in his bed. He had battled drug addiction for many years, but it had finally claimed his life. Once again, a family was shattered.
Again, that morning, another phone call brought more bad news. A good friend of our daughter, just 40 years old, had suffered a heart attack and was in critical condition in the hospital.
Interruptions like these in our lives, problems that we cannot foresee, are like thorns. They reach out and grab us when we least expect them. We all suffer from them. It may be cancer, it may be a wayward child, it may be sexual abuse, or it may be a difficult marriage, an addiction, financial worries, or depression. Sometimes these circumstances are used by the Spirit to bring a person to the point that he recognizes his need for a Savior. During a recent missions conference, one of our guests shared her testimony about severe depression which began when she was in her teen years. Through the years it grew so severe that she was unable to leave her house or care for her family. When she became so miserable that she wanted to die, she finally cried out for deliverance to the Lord and she was saved. Today, she is on deputation to go to Italy as a missionary.
If you are a Christian, you pray that God will change your circumstances, knowing that He is able to do anything. But many times, the answer that you expected from your prayers does not come. You are left with “silence.” There may never be an answer as to why, but we can know Who allows us to live with these conditions.
Jesus identified with all our pain and suffering when he wore a crown of thorns. He was indeed a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). That’s why He took on human flesh. That’s why He came. He wanted to be able to say, “I know what you’re going through and I understand.” He doesn’t always take away the sting of the thorns, but he makes them bearable.
As I read through the Psalms, I am constantly reminded of how much David cried out to the Lord to remove his enemies. For more than fifteen years he was a fugitive. He suffered from loss of family, friends, and home. He was often cold, hungry and lonely. Yet, from those experiences, one can observe a progression in the Psalms of his knowledge of God. He learned to put his confidence in Him. He learned to trust Him. He learned that God is faithful. He learned that He is a hiding place. He learned that the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart. He learned that salvation comes from God.
Three years ago, our eleven-year-old grandson, David, became sick with what was thought to be the flu. But the “flu” turned out to be a ruptured appendix, and by the time he was rushed to the hospital, he had gone into cardiac arrest. Doctors at Riley Children’s Hospital performed emergency surgery after which David was put onto life support. Several pastors and family members gathered and prayed for the Lord to spare his life. This did not happen, and David went to heaven. This has been one of those thorns that left an indelible imprint in my life. The pain is still there, but the Lord has given me Romans 8:35-39:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come…shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I know that our Lord loved David, and that He loves us and was in control of this situation. There will be thorns in your life, but as you pray to God to change your outward circumstances, remember, He may be using the circumstances to change you at your core. Thorns are painful and never welcomed. But God can use them to make us stronger, more dependent upon Him, more sensitive to the trials of others, and more hopeful of a future time when there will be no more thorns. If, and when, you are called upon to endure thorns of sorrow and suffering, remember the truth of these lines of Robert Browning Hamilton:
I walked a mile with pleasure
She chattered all the way
But left me none the wiser for all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow,
and ne’er a word said she.
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
when Sorrow walked with me.
Written by Ellen Slutz. This article was published in the Spring 2011 edition of The Beautiful Spirit magazine.
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