I’ve been thinking a lot about the thorns we each deal with in life. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul states that he was given a thorn in the flesh and sought the Lord three times to take it away from him.
7 …there was given to me a thorn in the flesh…
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, 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.
10 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.
Paul came to believe that his thorns actually had the power to bring him closer to God. All of us can empathize with him, I’m sure, because who hasn’t dealt with some type of thorn?
We all have a thorn or two (or four or five or fifty) that poke, sting, and torment us. These could be tiny addictions like being susceptible to watching too much television or gaming for hours every day instead of spending time in more productive pursuits. Our thorns might be gossiping, yelling at family members, judging others, withholding service, laziness, or procrastination. Some thorns are extremely long and sharp, stabbing instead of poking; these can inflict severe internal damage. These might include pornography, unnatural affections, immorality, addictions, failing relationships, anger, and a myriad of others.
Whether you have one of the more dangerous, piercing thorns, or a small goathead in your foot, its sharp sting hurts, and your spirit wants it out!
From a talk by Elder James E. Faust in 1991 entitled Crown of Thorns, he explained that:
Adam was told that the ground is cursed with thorns and thistles for our sakes (See Gen. 3:17-18). Likewise, mortality is “cursed” with thorns of worldly temptation and slivers of sin so we can be tested and prove ourselves. This is necessary for our eternal progression.
He goes on to explain that the worst thing we can do with a splinter or thorn is to deny its existence. The Lord cannot heal our souls from the pricks, tears, and piercings of thorns inside us if we don’t admit they’re there. Elder Faust goes on to say:
Too often we seek bandages to cover the guilt (of sin) rather than removal of the thorn causing the pain. How much we resist the momentary pain of removing a sliver, even though it will relieve the longer-lasting pain of a festering sore. Everyone knows that if thorns, briers, and slivers are not removed from the flesh, they will cause sores that fester and will not heal.
Christ suffered the worst thorns and afflictions that only could be endured by a God. A crown of thorns was placed upon His sinless head and the people lifted Him upon a cross. Jesus Christ willingly suffered all the mocking, pains from nails, whips, spears, and a crown of thorns so that we would not have to suffer and be lost forever. Faust put it this way:
By wearing the crown, Jesus transformed thorns into a symbol of His glory.
Because He focused on giving and taking upon Himself all the world’s pain, sin, suffering, and infirmities, Jesus Christ knows intimately how to endure and overcome each thorn in the flesh we might experience. Again Elder Faust puts it so eloquently:
In His agony, He became acquainted with all of the thorns, slivers, and thistles that might afflict us
The process of healing—removing thorns before they fester and torment—is known as repentance. It isn’t easy to remove the thorns of pride, thistles of selfishness, slivers of ego, and briers of appetite…but it is vital that we do all we can to eliminate these from our life and not purposely step on more, and then rely on our Savior to heal us of that which can put our spirits and souls in peril.
There are many plagues and spiritual epidemics in the world today. Selfishness, dishonesty, unfaithfulness, bitterness, and contention are a few. Others are listed below, along with resources to help either pull out these thorns, or educate ourselves (and family) on ways to endure them until the Savior puts everything to right. Paul’s thorn in the flesh wasn’t taken away after three pleas. His thorn probably festered and hurt, but no matter whether our thorns are taken away or not (like Paul), if we put our trust in God and follow Him and keep His commandments, everything will be set right in His time and according to His will.
Modern Plagues and Epidemics
Addictions (drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, etc)
- https://addictionrecovery.lds.org/ (12 step program with videos and stories to aid in addiction recovery. Any sin or negative trait can become addicting if we don’t repent. Addicts definitely need the help provided in this site, but anyone can use the steps. It’s an in-depth repentance program, and will bring people closer to God—the Healer of our souls.
LGBT issues (same-sex attraction)
- https://mormonandgay.lds.org/ This is a prevalent issue today. This site contains videos and stories (different cases from different walks of life) that helps raise awareness of this issue and promote love and acceptance. Though our Church teaches and believes that God only condones marriage between a man and a woman, we also teach tolerance and love of those who do not accept our beliefs. The only label that matters is that each of us is a Child of God.
Immorality (fornication, adultery, children born out of wedlock, adultery, unchastity)
- https://www.lds.org/youth This site has resources, videos, and articles for youth to help them stay true to covenants and increase faith in God.
Breakdown of Marriage (adultery, divorce, no marriage, mocking traditional marriage)
- The Family: A Proclamation to the World – I love this sacred revelation from God. It reminds us that when the world cries out for impure practices, it doesn’t matter whether it is politically correct or not, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is not a politician who caters or bows to the wishes of the noisy crowd. Truly brave people stand up for God, not their own selfish desires or wishes, and brave people usually get mocked for doing so instead of celebrated. But standing with God will bring true happiness and joy. Following the crowd won’t.
- LDS.org – Go to Families and Individuals Tab – This has tons of resources on strengthening the family.
Loss of Religious Freedom
- https://www.lds.org/religious-freedom Videos, articles, ways to get involved, why this is important and how you can be a ‘freedom fighter.’
Turn Thorns into Crowns of Glory
Though we will each deal with our own thorn in the flesh (maybe even one or some of the major ones above), if we trust in God and stay true to our covenants, He will bless us and grant us joy in this life. Joy cannot be found when we leave God out of the equation and do our will, instead of His. To conclude, I’ll leave you with this quote by Elder Faust that begins with words from the prophet Ezekiel:
And thou, son of man…though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid.” (Ezekiel 2:6) In our constantly changing world, may we continually cling to those things that do not change: to prayer, faith, saving covenants, love of families, and brotherhood. By removing the slivers of sin and the thorns of worldly temptation in our lives, and by denying ourselves and taking up our own cross and following the Savior, we can change a crown of thorns to a crown of glory.