Friday, August 19, 2016

Thorn in the flesh

The best that is in us, and the worst that is in us—thank God!—are both hidden from the world. This is both a condition of the natural order of things, and also a work of grace. What defines and divides the good man from the wicked is the desire to tamper with this condition, to override it, to glory in the best we have and are, and to conceal the worst in us. Though we are all guilty of tampering in this way, when we obsess over it, we paint ourselves into a corner from which there seems to be no escape.

Everyone has a signal obstacle to happiness, or what he thinks will make him happy, in this world. It is something he cannot, or should not, have or be or do. It is God’s answer to original sin, His firewall against total infection, His preventative medicine against our final dissolution and death. It is called by Paul a ‘thorn in the flesh.’ Some people think this is a punishment from God, or something bad, but it is actually the opposite. Medicine can taste bad, but if it is the right medicine it can cure whatever ails you.

God is faithful. He also grants our requests before we ask. He knows all about us, and He has no need to wait for the right moment in time. Just as He was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world for the sake of sinners who had not yet been created or fallen into sin, so His tender care, so watchful, so sheltering and healing, is prepared for us even before we ask for it. When I discovered what my signal obstacle was, I prayed to the Lord, asking Him to never let me be in a time and place where I could be felled by it.

I am still standing, though lesser things have felled me, because He remembers my prayer, He hears me before I asked, He knows me before I was born, He follows me in my wanderings, He surrounds me with songs of deliverance even before my ear was opened, He is the faithful and the true Witness of my every thought, word and deed, He is my just but merciful Judge, He is there with me when I will close my eyes in my last sleep, and He removes forever from ‘this body of death’ the fortuitous thorn that nailed down my flesh.

Glory to You, O God, glory to You!

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