The photo above is of one of three shrubs beside my house. I hate them. If I even go near them with gardening gloves, I am somehow left with the sting of a thorn, Why does it feel as if there’s something in a thorn that continues to burn even after we work to protect ourselves from their damage? So it is also with the difficulties of life.
I am very open about my shortcomings. At least, I try to be. It’s no secret that I have been managing anxiety for as far back as I can remember.
I use the term “manage” because severe anxiety and panic attacks are rare for me anymore. For the most part, I have learned to recognize my triggers and see them coming. This doesn’t stop the anxious thoughts, it prepares me for them so I’m ready when they come – giving them much less power over me.
It’s taken years to get to this point.
Thursday last week, something minor happened with one of my children. To anyone else it wouldn’t have caused a blip on the radar. Really, no big deal. However, I recognized it as something that would eventually spiral into anxious thoughts and send me down a bad road. That’s what anxiety is, right? Thoughts that people normally dismiss – and we just can’t.
After calmly handling the issue with my child, I texted my husband to ask him to pray for me because I could feel it coming. I prayed, read Scripture, and really stayed ahead of the anxious thoughts. The next morning, I woke up never having to truly fight anxiety. It felt like a victory. I beat it.
But I let my guard down too soon. Over the weekend – I could just feel it there. Not doing much damage, but I was in constant “on guard” mode. I was okay with it – but it’s just not my favorite feeling. I was managing – which is much better than losing.
I did what I normally do if I’m in this battle and I picked up my prayer journal and my Bible. Usually pretty sure in my direction, starting in the Psalms, I randomly turned to 2 Corinthians 12.
Paul, probably the most famous convert of the Bible, known for his horrific abuse of Christ-followers before following Jesus himself, talks about his own thorn. The following is a bit hard to read; a Scripture that’s easy to wrestle with.
So to keep me from being proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. (2 Corinthians 12:7)
I can’t even begin to speculate what Paul’s thorn was. Some say it was a vision problem. I couldn’t guess…but my goodness, for me personally, this speaks directly to anxiety.
Each time he [the Lord] said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses…For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Our weak state is the perfect place for God’s strength to reside.
I have accepted the fact that I may manage anxiety my entire life. I don’t have to succumb to it, let it get out of control, or rule over me, but it might be my “thorn.”
How do I accept this?
What is the salve to the thorn of anxiety?
It reminds me to lean into God’s strength and power.
Let’s be real – when things are good it’s too easy to forget that we are existing only on the strength and power of Christ. Anxiety reminds me to communicate with the God I love.
It allows me to encourage others.
No one wants to talk about it publicly, but friends, so many of us feel this way. If I can use my shortcomings to walk with others through the mire and closer to Jesus, I am so honored to do that. Then, I do not suffer in vain.
It keeps me humble.
I never want to think I have “arrived,” that I don’t need to grow, or that I am better or above any single person on this planet. Openly discussing this truly ugly side of my life, reminds me that I have a long way to go, and I’m okay with that.
Don’t give up. If you are praying for God to take your thorn away, do not be discouraged. God’s business is bringing beauty from ashes (Is. 61:13). He makes all things new (Rev. 21:5). He can use you, thorn and all.
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