Sometimes it takes a thorn to show us how healing is just not enough.
We all have thorns. And I’m not talking about the kind that shows up on roses in your garden! I’m talking about the kind of thorns that show up in our lives. Situations that hurt. Circumstances that are hard. Difficult things in our lives that don’t seem to come or go away on our timetables.
For me, blindness is a never-ending, constantly-challenging, fatigue-inducing thorn. I can’t deny it: It hurts. I’ve often longed—and prayed—for it to go away. It hasn’t yet.
This whole “thorn” concept came from the apostle Paul. Paul asked God to remove what he called his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:8). He evidently struggled with some difficult circumstance that he really wanted to be changed.
His thorn could have been anything: physical, emotional, spiritual. The Bible doesn’t clarify exactly what his thorn was. Why not? Maybe so that we could all better identify with what thorns bring with them no matter what they are: pain, discomfort, and a longing for them to be removed.
I wonder if Paul felt like his thorn was unfair? We do know that Paul asked God to remove it over and over—many, many times (2 Corinthians 12:8).
God answered Paul. But God didn’t answer Paul’s prayer in the way Paul hoped.
God, who is always fair and is well qualified and very good at “thorn removal,” answered Paul with something even better than healing, release, or deliverance.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
We can imagine how Paul must have felt. We tell ourselves, “If only my thorn would be miraculously, instantaneously removed, that would be enough for me.”
“If God would just heal my eyes,” or “If God would change my circumstance,” or “If God would deliver me from this hard situation … that would be enough for me.”
But as much as we’d like to convince God that thorn removal would be sufficient, God knows best that only one thing is sufficient: His grace.
Deliverance is not sufficient.
Restored relationships are not sufficient.
Finding a life partner is not sufficient.
Material provision is not sufficient.
Fame and popularity are not sufficient.
Perfect health and a sculpted body are not sufficient.
Each of these things are fabulous blessings that God often gives us, but, in and of themselves, they are not enough.
If healing or “thorn removal” in and of itself were sufficient for the apostle Paul, then surely heaven would have granted it.
But God had something wider, higher, deeper, broader, more miraculous, and more enduring in mind. Paul wouldn’t get what he asked for because he didn’t understand what he needed most. If he had simply and instantly been healed of his malady (whatever it was), he would have missed something far greater than he could have conceived.
Healing can’t be compared to the grace of God, alive and at work in our lives. Comfort and stress relief and health and paid bills can’t even be recorded on the same ledger with the power of God surging through our brokenness, want, and need, and becoming perfect in our weakness.
Grace is what we need most. The grace of Jesus Christ is better than anything. God’s lovingkindness is better than life itself. Sweet sister, don’t settle for a merely adequate and temporary answer to your prayer, when God may be granting you the lasting and deeper gift of grace.
And sometimes, perhaps even most times, that grace is best realized in our thorns.
Grace will not take you away from the pains and disappointments and limitations and heartaches of life on a broken planet. But it will sustain you, deepen you, strengthen you, change you, and overflow in your life in a way that simple deliverance from pain or hardship never could.
My friend, no matter what you are dealing with today, you can lean hard into God’s grace. His grace will be enough for you.
Lord, for the ones who are weary today, be their strength. For the ones who can’t keep holding it all together, hold them up by Your grace. For the ones who just don’t know how they’ll make it one more day, make this day a day full of hope for them. Amen.
This post originally appeared on JenniferRothschild.com and was republished with permission.
Jennifer Rothschild has written 14 books, including the bestseller Lessons I Learned in the Dark and Me, Myself, and Lies. She’s been featured on Good Morning America and Dr. Phil and is the founder of Fresh Grounded Faith events. Jennifer became blind at age 15 and now helps others live beyond limits.