The Thorn in My Side

I was pretty stoked: God had given me an out! I had discovered the Bible verse that indicated anorexia was something I could struggle with my whole life.

Now, that sounds discouraging, but then, as someone who had fought the battle with anorexia for over a decade and continued to lose, it seemed like a welcome release. Perhaps I didn’t need to fight so hard, maybe this was something God had given me; my personal struggle. Maybe God wasn’t going to heal me or rescue me, maybe I could quit hoping and waiting and trying because this was just “my thing”.

Second Corinthians 12:6-10 says, “Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. 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.”

See, I thought, even Paul had something that he struggled with his whole life.

But as I prayed about this and tried to find the peace that proved I had found the solution to my struggle, it wasn’t there.

Paul’s thorn served a specific purpose. In the preceding verses, Paul says that the thorn was given to him to keep him from boasting in himself; it was not a random affliction such that “everyone has one”.

Paul had become an untimely apostle, having seen the risen Jesus after his ascension. After that, with many visions, his extensive schooling in The Law, his dual citizenship and rightful authority and notoriety as an evangelist, Paul had good reason to be proud. God gave him this “thorn” as a reminder that he was not self-sufficient and perhaps even as a physically humiliating attribute that kept others from idolizing him.

My eating disorder can never be compared to Paul’s thorn in the flesh. First, the Bible says that God tempts no one. I believe that my anorexic behaviors were evidence of idolatry—worshipping myself. God frequently commands us to have no god besides Him. He will not “give” me an idol.

Second, Paul closes this passage by saying that he rejoices in his weakness so that the power of Christ might rest on him. To resign myself to an eating disorder as simply “my thorn” does not express the power of Christ and honor Him as the supreme one and only God, as The Redeemer.

Indeed, my eating disorder kept me on my knees before Jesus, more aware daily of how much I need Him. However, His power is made evident in my surrender to Him, not in my resignation to anorexia.

This article was first published at FINDINGbalance.com

Fragile Behind The Able

I wield this life of bone and marrow

Fending off foe and sorrow.

I plunge the sword of tongue and fist

Into threats and fears.

I galvanize my feet to tread on staunchly.

Painless – I insist.

I’m cloaked in mail, firm, steadfast

I ride the wind and waves of fate

With resolute bearing.

But one brutal clash and this life breaks,

Shatters in my hands.

Pierces soft palms with shards of hope, handle, poise.

Gory this, this mess of me.

Till stumbling blind and wounded

You pluck me up.

You hang the fragments of armor aside.

And gaze at my broken spirit.

There palms matched flat, your breath to mine

Pressed too close, I can’t escape.

Though weakness binds me, too.

Beneath the weight of all your love

I suck in life-breath once again.

You offer no recovered mail, or weapons made of earth.

But humble now, so vulnerable

I rise to stand in shadow

Fragile behind The Able.

Law of the Harvest

Think fast, word association: Rain?

Sunshine?

Patience?

Let me take a gander at your first reaction. Rain: dull gray skies, cold wet feet, messy floors, mud, potholes, dreary people, painful seasons of life

Sunshine: beaches, smiles, suntans, newness, brilliance, light and hope

Patience: grit your teeth and bear it, a virtue, waiting and waiting and waiting, a tough place – your kids? your spouse? (-:

Four girl friends and I are wrapping up Beth Moore’s study on James called Mercy Triumphs. We recently came to a verse that I have scanned over in previous readings.

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.” (James 5:7)

What do you make of that? Does it mean we have to wade though the rainy season to hopefully reap the precious produce of the soil? We’ve been talking about the privilege of pain. Beth calls it the “Law of the Harvest.” Ancient farmers (and modern ones as well) anticipated the early and late rains. However stormy those seasons might be, the rains are vital for the growth of the precious produce of the soil.

In James 1, he reminds his readers of what they already know, the testing of their faith will produce endurance. Pounding rains strengthen thirsty, fledgling leaves. There may be hail and lightening. Perhaps flash flooding. Perhaps the farmers have to plow and tend their fields in the midst of mud. Would they ask to be relieved of the rains? In life sometimes, pounding circumstances strengthen young faith. Eventually flooding sorrows seep into the soil of our hearts and press the precious produce of our souls through the surface.

It’s the law of the harvest.

A few other writers have thoughts on this passage too:

http://shannonsauer.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/between-the-rains/

http://www.heatherlilly.com/?p=5952

http://keeplifefresh.blogspot.com/2012/03/be-encouraged-between-rains.html

Let Me Be the Weakest Link

A common Christian misconception is that we will spend most of our lives battling our weaknesses. We bemoan our weak faith and idolize the super saints. We wish we had a bigger testimony. We wonder what we are doing wrong that God doesn’t remove our limitations, heal our illnesses or enable us to be more generous.

If only I could get a better job! Then I could send my kids to good Christian schools and support the missionaries at church. If I had gone to college I  could get a real job, then I could be so much more effective for God. Instead, every spare minute and penny goes right back into just staying afloat.

I wonder what I did wrong to deserve this cancer? I spend half my life in and out of the hospital. When I am home, I’m too weak to be effective. God, I’m so sorry, please, please make me more useful to you.

Ever had thoughts like these? Last week, I stumbled across a verse that surprised me. I think I read it wrong to begin with. Mentally, I replaced a “you” with an “I”.

“And call upon me in the day of trouble, I shall rescue you, and you will honor me.” Ps. 50:15 God tells the author that he will call upon God, God will rescue him and the author will glorify God. That’s where I found my weakness lie: God is pleased with my strength as a Christian. 

The truth, according to Psalm 50:15, is that God is honored when He rescues me. God is shown to be the great, awesome, super natural, astonishing, against-all-odds, Savior that He is. When I am beyond all hope and God activates His favor on my behalf, then His character, His greatness is on full display. But God shows more than His power in my weakness. He shows his everlasting love. When God rescues a weak, hopeless, failing, impotent mortal He shows His absolute power and His absolute goodness.

Here’s the secret: the more aware you are of God’s grace, the more humble, prayerful, thankful, patient, gracious, content and joyful you will be. And you are more aware of God’s grace when you are weak. – John Bloom

So be careful as you analyze your life. Continue asking God to search you and know you, to try you and know your thoughts. Then be willing and ready to hear Him. Confess your sins because He is faithful and just to forgive. (Ps. 139:1-2, John 1:9) But don’t confuse your weaknesses with sin. They are different.

Remember the blind man to whom Jesus restored his sight? The disciples wanted to know who had sinned so that this man had been born blind. Jesus told them that the man’s blindness was not a result of sin – it may have been a limitation, a weakness but it was not from sin. And in the man’s healing Jesus was identified as the Christ.