Thursday, March 21, 2013

Can the Thorns of Affliction Really Be A Gift? The Paradoxes of Living Life with Jesus

“Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish”
(Isaiah 38:17).

A paradox is a statement or situation that seems to be contradictory but is in fact true, and Scripture is full of them.  In dying to self, we gain eternal life; in humbling ourselves before others, we will be exalted before Christ; in becoming a slave to Christ and His commands, we are free to live as we were created to live; in our weakness we see God’s powerful strength; although poor by the world’s standards, we have eternal riches.

The thorns of affliction touched many Biblical characters.  How many times have we remembered Job when life seems too unbearable?  Could Paul have written such words to spur us on if he had not had a thorn of his own?  And the crowning thorns of affliction were placed on the head of Christ himself.  Without that affliction we would be eternally lost. 

Psalm 119 says God allows affliction that we might learn His decrees and see His faithfulness.  James tells us that earthly trials bring eternal reward as well as perseverance and spiritual maturity now. Affliction forces us to rely completely on God and His strength, trusting Him to bring us through no matter how overwhelming our circumstances or how excruciating our pain. It brings a depth of character that nothing else can. We may think that we would prefer less character and maturity, but God knows what joys and blessings await us as a result of them.

The thorns of a rose bush cause great pain but the roses themselves bring great beauty.  God is using the thorns of affliction to show the most beautiful paradox of all – in dying, we live.

Prayer:  My God, I have never thanked thee for my thorn.  I have thanked thee a thousand times for my roses, but not once for my thorn.  I have been looking forward to a world where I shall get compensation for my cross, but I have never thought of my cross itself as a present glory.  Thou divine Love, whose human path has been perfected through suffering, teach me the glory of my cross, teach me the value of my thorn.  Amen.  (George Matheson).

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