Autumn has returned—with its brightly woven cornucopia of holidays, harvest fruits, bittersweet memories, and beautiful trees. This year finds you, perhaps, a little sadder, hopefully wiser; maybe you are entering a new phase as you begin homeschooling for the first time or your oldest child leaves for college.
Autumn holds many lessons for God’s people, but it especially bears a testimony of grace. You’re probably familiar with the passage in 2 Corinthians 12—one of the most often quoted passages on grace—where Paul writes of his “thorn in the flesh.” No one knows for certain what that thorn was, but if the man who uncomplainingly endured shipwreck, beatings, and imprisonment called it a “thorn,” it must have deserved the title.
And what was God’s response to Paul’s earnest prayers for relief? “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (1 Cor. 12:9). God gives him no explanation as to why this particular thorn, how long Paul will have it, or what it will accomplish. The apostle was simply told “Trust Me. It is for My glory and your good.”
We often think of God’s provision of grace in relation to the “big” things of life: losing a loved one, financial struggles, physical difficulties, etc. After all, Paul wouldn’t have prayed about a mere annoyance, right? (At the very least, he wouldn’t have written to the Corinthians concerning those prayers.)
Yet, what do we know of thorns? For rosebushes, thorns are usually all that’s left on the stems when autumn chills away the foliage. And while they vary in size, thorns are generally small and not known to be a cause of death. But they can cause insistent, niggling pain—even infection—if not removed.
What about the “little” thorns in our daily lives? What about things like the washing machine breaking down, missing another week of schooling due to sickness, or losing those last few stubborn pounds? Just because these are things the world might not consider “big,” doesn’t mean they’re insignificant. If they matter to us, they matter to God.
If we trust that His sovereignty directs important things like finding jobs, providing for our needs, and guiding the fates of nations, we must trust that His sovereignty also directs in things like missed alarm clocks, forgotten grocery lists, and broken cell phones. Each inconvenience is a thorn in its own way. But it’s a thorn that shows God’s strength—if we allow it. His grace enables us to continue our tasks in the face of countless “thorns.” And through that grace-in-action, the world gets a clearer glimpse of the depths of God’s love and character.
So as you face a new day of homeschooling and watch the leaves fall from trees and rosebushes alike, just remember that each disturbance, each frustration, and each setback has a purpose. No, it’s not enjoyable to be thorn-pricked, but each thorn brings a choice: accept it for what it is and grow or ignore the lesson and miss the blessing it brings. But don’t forget to ask yourself this question: if experiencing today’s thorn helps you and your family draw closer to the Lord, isn’t it a thorn well planted?