Everyone has some burden to bear, and although, at times, I could rhyme off a list of things that cause me grief, this is not where I am on this blessed, snowy day. Rather, what I would like to focus on is that singular thing in our lives – the thorn in our side perspective, if I may — that has discouraged us from fully reaching the potential the Lord purposed in our hearts whilst we were still in our mother’s womb. The one marker – whether internal or external, real or perceived, evident to others, or not — that too often keeps us from reaching the level of perfection that apostle Paul speaks about, when writing to believers in Philippi. Therein, Paul (seemingly from prison) writes:
“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect … but I follow after [press onward] [so] that I may apprehend [lay hold of] that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but [this] one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth [moving forward] unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you …” (Philippians 3:12-15)
Admittedly, laying hold and reaching forward toward our high calling of God in Christ Jesus may be a foreign concept in this modern age of selfies, but nevertheless, most of us recognize there are times when our inner self wants to shout out to one and all, letting the whole world know we exist and have validity, only to be held back some “external” barrier or “self-imposed” blockade.
In this context, my block was most certainly self imposed. Note the past tense because at this point in my life I recognize that our faith is a journey wherein we take baby steps until we learn enough to stand firm. And yes, I realize that even considering my issue to be a “thorn” will appear shallow and superficial to many in a world whereby real atrocities and genocide against people happens far too often. But bear with me for a moment, because the lesson is in understanding the bigger picture, and not necessarily my personal example.
For me, the thorn has always been those tortuous, dilated, elongated spider veins that are commonly seen in people’s legs, otherwise known as varicose veins. I should note that in my case, the spider veins have been so big at times that if I were to colour the lines with a black marker, I could be mistaken for a huge spider web entering the room 😉
To be fair, some days, this abstract to others but very real to me blotch on my leg does go into hiding, carefully tucking itself away from public display behind the skin. On other days, and these are the days when concealer makeup for varicose veins would be awesome, they are bubbling over, with giant size veins protruding from one’s leg in such a way that potential skiers might mistake these hills for slopes. And no, there is no rhyme or reason to what these veins will do each day, but the one thing I can say with confidence is this. If there is an important gig that requires fancy dress (and dress being the key operative here), those varicose veins of mine will be the star of the show, for one and all to behold.
[For those who may not know, our circulatory system is made up of a complex web of arteries and veins. Our arteries carry oxygen rich blood to the different parts of our bodies. At the same time, the veins are designed to pump oxygen poor blood back to the heart. A series of one-way valves, if you will, prevents the blood from flowing backwards into the vein. When these leaflet valves which prevent the blood from flowing backwards do not meet as they should, the valves stop working properly. This allows blood to flow backwards, enlarging these veins even more. Normally, these occur in the superficial veins and are not generally a health risk. There are also medical options these days to prevent varicose veins from expanding, or getting worse, but that is best left to a qualified medical practitioner to decide.]
However, contrary to what many have believed about these, my varicose veins first surfaced when I was young. In other words, I did not have to put much life behind me for them to emerge. And, perhaps, peculiar to me, my veins like to be pampered. Cuddled to the point that these become a focal point to be reckoned with. As such, I have learned that these veins will (mostly!) behave if I consume sufficient calcium or fish throughout the day, or take the maximum dose of vitamins to keep me on an even kilter.
And yes, I am very fortunate because I only deal with one patch of spider veins. The other leg is in good shape, and, as I have been told, quite attractive if I wear a dress. Still, one can’t exactly put on a dark pair of leotards on one leg. Or, don a patch that will hide the imperfections in one part of our body. There isn’t any quick fix, and from what I know, there is no makeup concealer designed to cover the multiplicity of purples and blues that make their way to the top of the skin. Indeed, even if a foundation could do the trick, it couldn’t rid my leg of all those rickety bumps, that go along with the — (again, my self-imposed humiliation) associated with varicose veins.
Thus, herein lies the dilemma. My inward perception of varicose veins is a thorn that I have created inside my being (because most people look at one’s face when conversing, and not their legs). Still, over time, it has become easier for me to cover both legs with whatever suits my fancy, including long socks (at times when it is too hot to even wear socks) than to simply be cheery regardless of the “blatant, ongoing, never ending web-like eyesore” on my leg. After all, it isn’t like it is going to go away any time soon!
Please note that in this scenario, I used my varicose veins as an illustration of a thorn in my flesh. There are many other examples too. And, most notably, these thorns are not always external, but can be longstanding and rooted within our very souls. We only need to look to the numerous support groups within our communities to understand how far our own image of ourselves can impact how, and more importantly, whether we reach for His glory and purpose in our lives.
As I pondered this thought further, I began to ask, “what does the Lord say about this?” After all, God made men in His image, and women are a consequence of the Lord’s surgical hand, creating us from Adam’s rib.
Should we allow self-deception and the lying spirits who would lead us astray, wherein our own heart deceives us — to win? (James 1:22; I Timothy 4:1; II Timothy 3:13; Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 44:20; Obadiah 1:3; Proverbs 16:18)
If we do, then how can we be rightly led into the freedom and liberty that has been so willingly offered to us free of charge in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour?
How then can we become equipped in His Word which transforms us from the inside out, giving us a sound mind and heart, so that His glory shines as a beacon of Light to a lost world if or when we as believers in Jesus choose to wallow in an earthly place, or worldview that exhibits everything BUT victory in our Saviour?
Thus, instead of focusing on the downside of having a thorn that won’t go away, and how these thorns have the potential to negate everything the Lord intended for us to be from the very beginning, let me focus on David for a moment. Because David has a story to tell.
David was the young man in the old covenant who defeated the giant Philistine Goliath with a sling and five small pebbles from the stream. At the time, Goliath was strutting and boasting about his size and strength, mocking David’s God, and the Israelites. When David decided to go against Goliath, those around David were concerned about his welfare, and tried to robe his body in lots of armour. But David wanted none of it. Instead, David believed in his heart that his faith in God would win the day.
So, when the Philistine looked round about, and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance. And the Philistine said unto David, “Am I a dog, that thou come to me with staves?” And the Philistine cursed David by his god, mocking David, saying, “Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.” (I Samuel 17:41-51)
But what Goliath did not know is that this young boy David was not coming to fight with a sword, or a spear, or a shield: but rather, he was coming to fight Goliath in the Name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom Goliath had been defiling. In other words, the battle was not David’s but the Lord’s. David was the tool which the Lord used to show us that even in our frailty, our human weakness, our lack of understanding about the thorns that try to defeat us and make us believe we are less worthy, our faith in Jesus Christ is sufficient.
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life!
Therefore, as believers in Jesus, we need to rise above our perceived weaknesses and/or the thorns that have kept us bound and entangled in the things of this earth. We need to understand (and yes, me too) that there is a form of perfection – even in varicose veins (or whatever thorn you experience in the day to day) because these have made us unique, and in my case, humbled – although many I know may argue that point.
Nevertheless, as the Lord so rightly said to Paul when he complained about the thorn in his flesh, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (II Corinthians 12:9-10)
We need to remember that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and there is nothing that will happen to us that the Lord doesn’t already know. Even so, it was after His kindness and love that He chose to pursue us as His bride by willingly becoming our Saviour on a cross, shedding His precious blood for you and I. (Psalm 139:14; Titus 3:4-7)
This is our hope through faith in the Lord’s Christ that we can know Him and the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, and the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:7-14)
Keep looking up!