Recently I spent some time in a local park that features a colorful rose garden. Like me, I suspect that image brings to your mind the classic metaphor “every rose has its thorns”. An even better, personal response would be, “instead of grumbling that roses have thorns, I am thankful that bushes have roses”.
Bugs vs. Blessings
While admiring God’s handiwork in the garden, another thought sprang into my mind: “When life gives you stink bugs, remember what they’re sitting on.” In other words: Yes, there are troubles, but life overall is beautiful, and our blessings are too numerous to count! For me, the greatest joy is my relationship with Christ: roses also remind me of the thorns He bore and the blood He shed in sacrificing His life for me. My second greatest gifts are family and friends, who have been so supportive as I’ve faced various challenges over the years.
Many others like myself suffer through chronic pain, medical issues and other physical challenges, and have been quite literally sorely tempted to give up. To give into despair or even rail at God for letting this happen, much less continue. At times, even I have wanted nothing more than to curl up into a fetal position and bawl my eyes out. Honestly, I’ve done that a few times in my life, because I’ve learned that it is more healthy to acknowledge and (safely) express your feelings than it is to pretend everything is okay. However, my wallowing doesn’t last long. After a “good cry”, I get right back up and dust myself off, remembering the pain Christ went through for me: a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3), He knows my pain and hears the cries of my heart (Psalm 38:9). In addition to prayer, sometimes those cries (and joys) come in the form of journaling, dancing and writing poetry. If you don’t already have ways to help work through your own “thorns”, I encourage you to find your own healthy expressions. Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Let the Lord heal you; if not physically, then emotionally and spiritually.
Poem of Prayer
I’ve learned the thorns in my life keep me humble, and God uses them to bless others. I recently wrote this poem to the Lord; a prayer of commitment to follow and serve Him by sharing His infinite love with others:
Won’t let my resolve simply dissolve
Lord, I’ll ever be true to You.
Whether in want or gain, sun or rain
I praise You for seeing me through.
My closest friend, Jesus, You mend
every hurt and dry all my tears.
Strengthened by grace in Your sweet embrace,
drawing close, all fear disappears.
Sheltered and warm through every storm;
In You I’m kept humbly grounded.
Yet filled with joy that none can destroy,
the hope in my heart is well-founded!
Let some call me crazy – never lazy;
working hard at the pace of your grace.
Heart resolute, Your love, my pursuit;
Serving in second place wins the race.
Steadfast in my assertion, no desertion,
no shrinking back from the call today.
Onward I endeavor, Yours forever,
encouraging others along the way.
© Ladeena Ashley
Follow the Son
Perhaps you don’t have some sort of chronic illness, but we all deal with relationship struggles, challenges at home, work or school, and it is impossible to ignore the escalating violence, cynicism and general unrest in the world today. These are not new, and Jesus Himself warned us that we’d have troubles in this world, but He continued by saying that we should be encouraged, because He has overcome the world (John 16:33)! We can focus on the thorns, or we can trust the Master Gardener: following the Son, blooming where we’re planted, spreading and cultivating His love and hope with others right where we are.
© Ladeena Ashley
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