Thank You, Father, for the Thorns

by Ted Kyle

It was George Matheson, the once well-known blind Scottish preacher, who said: "Dear God, I have never thanked you for my thorns. I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but not once for my thorns."

What on earth was Matheson thinking of? Who ever heard of being thankful for thorns? Well, a couple of prominent names occur:

Job, at the end of his affliction, acknowledged the good which God had done for him through all his troubles. "(Before,) I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee" (42:5). He gained a precious understanding of the majesty and glory of God, which all his earlier, happier, experiences with God had failed to reveal.

And we must mention Paul, who wrote: "And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure…. 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" (2 Cor. 12: 7, 9).

If you were to ask Job and Paul if they were thankful for their thorns…well, you know what their answer would be. And many another child of God, down through the ages, would say the same: "Thank God for my thorns!"

There are many reasons for this-perhaps as many reasons as there are children of God-for we are all individuals, each with different needs, different strengths and weaknesses; and thus we all have different trials to refine and purify our faith. My thorns are not your thorns, nor yours mine. But our gracious heavenly Father administers to each, according to his or her need.

Yes, we need our thorns! Without them, we would fail to grow up spiritually. We would remain childlike, babies in the faith, always needing to be spoon-fed with milk, unable to swallow the meat of mature faith. We would remain ever takers, instead of growing up to become givers.

Isn't it time, then, that we began "giving thanks always for all things" (Eph. 5:20)-for the thorns as well as the roses God sends our way?

Hear George Matheson once more: "Teach me, O Lord, to glory in my cross. Teach me the value of my thorns. Show me how I have climbed to You through the path of pain. Show me it is through my tears that I have seen my rainbows."

Amen.

George Matheson quotes from Streams in the Desert, devotion for April 8 (Zondervan, c. 1997)