When Life Gives Us Thorns


Truths and roses have thorns about them. Henry David Thoreau

One of my first outdoor jobs each spring is to clean out the protective coat of oak and ash leaves piled on the rose bushes in our yard. The plants seem to like shedding their winter coats and I enjoy looking for new green shoots and branches. Plus, the rose bushes are a special blessing as they provide beautiful flowers all summer.

Roses also offer great life lessons as I learned one day. I had reached between two branches to pull out some leaves when a thorn pierced the top of my hand.

My hands are not my own these days. They’re my Grandma Bessie’s hands, full of spots and wrinkles and clearly marked with veins. The thorn stabbed me between two blood vessels. Pricking either one would have produced a fountain of blood instead of a sharp sting.

Thorns are first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 3. They were part of the curse Adam lived under for disobeying God, and they are still a curse. Ask any gardener, farmer or rancher.

And the poor roses must feel the pain of carrying all those uncomfortable thorns. When the wind blows and the leaves rustle, they certainly are pierced by their own thorns. I wonder how you say “ouch” in rose language?

Even though we don’t like thorns, they are necessary. According to http://plantopiahub.com, they offer plants a defense against predators similar to the claws and teeth of animals. They give plants structural support. Also, they’re protection from extreme weather, such as hailstones that might get caught on thorns rather than hitting tender shoots.

We human often have thorns in our lives, too, and we don’t like them very much. They slow us down and sidetrack us from our plans. Or so we think. But what if the thorns in our lives were meant to defend, support and protect us?

In his book Desiring God, John Piper discusses the thorn in his life. “It makes almost everything harder, daily dogging me as I carry out my family, vocation, and ministry responsibilities — nearly everything I do. It weakens me. I often feel that I would be more effective and fruitful without it.”

Thorns and thorny situations take the pride out of us and force us to do what we should be doing anyway: relying on God. When we accept our thorns  and trust him, he will defend, support and protect us.

Saint Paul asked God three times to remove the thorn in his flesh. Finally, Paul relayed, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” That story is found in II Corinthians 12.

Do you have a thorn in your life? Ask God to remove it! But if he doesn’t, then perhaps it’s time to work with it rather than against it. That’s what roses do. In accepting their thorns, their true beauty is shown.


Writing Update

What a fun time we had at Turtle Days in Turtle Lake, North Dakota. Book sales were brisk, we met a lot of great people, and we got to watch the national and international (!) turtle races. If you’ve never gone to a small-town event, I highly recommend finding one to attend. It will remind you of what America is about.