In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul is speaking about the thorn in his flesh. Over the years there has been much speculation as to what that “thorn” might be. The beauty of not knowing what his thorn was, is that, we can insert our own “thorn” into our situation. Since we truly don’t know exactly what it was, it is easier for us to receive the wisdom from this section of scripture into our own lives.
God has used the story of Paul to impact the lives of believers around the globe for countless years. Paul can sometimes be a difficult writer to understand, but one thing is for sure. The man had stories to tell. In his life, Paul was:
- Converted to faith by a voice from heaven and a light that blinded him. He remained that way for some time.
- He had been a staunch persecutor of Christians, and yet he became one of God’s strongest messengers.
- He was put in prison (for his faith no less) and flogged countless times.
- He was shipwrecked 3 times (think Castaway).
- He was stoned once.
- He was tired, in pain and often went without sleep.
These are just a few of the trials that he suffered. But those trials are not the only story line in the life of Paul. He is revered as one of the most faithful men in scripture, a strong teacher, Godly man.
As our own lives play out, a story is being written.
I have done some reflection on the story of my life. And there are some ugly chapters. Some twists and turns that I wish had never happened, chapters I would never want to “re-read”. Some painful, heart breaking chapters. But they are all part of a larger story. They are not the only chapters. There are wonderful chapters. There are chapters of great joy! Chapters that tell about adventure and excitement! Chapters that weave a thread of purpose and fulfillment!
I have come to understand that, without the ugly chapters, the power of the wonderful chapters would be lost. Without wandering, I would not have found my way. Without brokenness I could not fully appreciate the healing. God does that for me. He writes my story.
And He is writing your story too.
The best books I have ever read are the ones where the characters have depth, the story is unpredictable, and there are plot twists throughout. Isn’t that true of our lives as well?
Right now, think of someone you know and admire for their faithwalk. Did that person have an easy life? Did their situations that work out the way that they desired the first time they tried? Was life always easy and joyful for them? I bet not.
And yet, that’s how we always try to script our own lives. The “If only” things we think about. “If only I’d gotten that job?” “If only I’d been given what she was given” “If only I had her situation”. We want to believe that if we do all the right things, if we play by the rules, avoid evil, and embrace good, that God will surely bless us with a trial free life. We may not actually say that out loud, but if we’re honest, it’s what we think.
Insert Paul. He faithfully followed God, taught and lived to show people the God they needed. He humbly took abuse for the sake of Christ glorified. His story is remembered as one of faith. God uses the ugly chapters in Paul’s life to draft a story that is worth sharing. One that brings Him glory.
I know God can do the same for you and me.
I have seen some chapters in my life close with beautiful endings. Some of them are still open, but I trust that they too, will have a God-filled purpose and end with flair and beauty. I trust this because I have seen it many times already.
So when I am in a place where life isn’t right, though I still don’t “love it” and I may wish things were different (easier, less painful, more secure) I can know that He is not done with that chapter. How life looks today, is not how it will look someday. Better chapters are coming.
Though it is normal and human to ask God to smooth the difficult things of life for us (Jesus did this in the garden), when He doesn’t, we can know that He is still at work. His pen is active on the pages of our hearts. Our story is still being written. When life is painful and feels heavy, like an ugly chapter in a book, know that The Author is busy at work, creating a beautiful ending.
God is writing our stories, and they are filled with hope and possibility. And mostly purpose.
What story is God telling through your life today? If it’s not good, it’s not over.
Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay