I have a cross necklace that’s always been one of my favorites. It’s designed with a blooming rose and three rosebuds. There’s more to this cross than just the roses that remind us of love.
There’s a legend that claims the rose had no thorns prior to the fall of man. Now, let’s first remember, the Bible doesn’t tell us that and we can’t say for certain that there were roses in the Garden of Eden. However, there is some logical reasoning to this legend of a thornless rose in God’s first Garden and in His perfect plan.
We know that when Adam sinned, God quickly judged him and imposed the penalties for his sin. God also proclaimed a curse upon the earth, and that curse included thistles and thorns:
Genesis 3:18 Both thorns and thistles it [the earth] shall bring forth for you,
Therefore, it’s reasonable to think that all the trees, flowers, bushes, and all other plants, were without thorns prior to the fall of Adam.
Now, think about a thornless rose bush. Would it be any more beautiful? Would we enjoy its fragrance any more than one with thorns? The flowers on the bush would still delight us in the same way, but we can certainly agree that it would be much easier to pick a rose and handle it by its stem if there were no thorns to prick us.
When we look at a rose bush in bloom, we seldom focus on the thorns. The beauty of the bush’s flowers captures our attention. But some rose bushes are not very beautiful. A rose bush can be harmed by blight or affected by weather in adverse ways. The tender buds can dry up or never bloom at all. The thorniness of such bushes is evident and the lack of blooms is a reminder of the effects of the disease or the weather conditions, which are both a reminder of the fall of man and the curse on the earth. The bush still has roots, the stem is still alive, and the foliage might still be green, but the beautiful flower has failed to thrive or it has withered.
The Thorns of this World
The same is true for us when we experience the “thorns” of this world. Whether they are the consequences of our own sin or we experience trials, tribulation, and suffering as the collateral damage of another’s sin. We feel the pain and we often describe it as “a thorn in the side.”
Paul spoke of having a “thorn in the side” in 2 Corinthians chapter 12, but he also understood a purpose in his having this “thorn.”
2 Corinthians 12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
The Bible does not clearly reveal what Paul’s “thorn” was, but it does tell that the thorn caused Paul to seek the Lord and to ask that it be removed.
2 Corinthians 12:8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
Paul’s thorn was not a personal sin. The Bible tells that it was a “messenger of Satan.” It was something external that that “pressed into” Paul and was a keenly felt irritant. And, this thorn was given to him to keep Paul humble (2 Cor 12:7).
The thorn, the “messenger of Satan” was given to Paul? Given to him how? By whom?
Since Paul knew God is in control of all things, it was either given by God’s providential will (bringing something about), or by His permissive will (allowing something to come about). And, because God is in control of all things, we can know and rest assured that God has a purpose and a plan in all things that he brings about or allows in our lives.
I suggest that we all have “a thorn (or thorns) in the flesh.” We all have things in our lives that trouble us and cause us irritation or even great pain. Just as Paul’s “thorn” had a purpose, so also do ours. Just as Paul’s thorn was given to humble him, we also should allow our thorns to humble us and we should find our peace in knowing that God is in control.
When people look at us do they see a beautiful rose on a withered bud on a thorny stem?
The answer is dependent on the strength of our faith. Blooming roses or withered buds are both attached to a thorny stem that connects them to the root that sustains their life. The difference is the unhealthy bush has suffered from the elements, pests, or diseases, and the healthy bush has grown strong and withstood them. This can be applied to Christians. We are all rooted in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no doubt that He sustains our lives and provides nourishment for our souls. How we appear–like a healthy rose bush with thorns or as a thorn bush with withered flowers–is dependent on how affected we are by external elements (trials and temptations), pests (the devil), and disease (lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life; read Are there only three sins? What are they?)
The Root Produces the Fruit
Strengthening our relationship with Jesus (the Root) will grow our faith and produce a beautiful “rose,” thorns and all. The Root enables us to “bloom” and overcome trials, temptations, the devil and our own sinful desires. The Root helps us to weather the storms of life and to deal biblically with all life’s thorns. With strong faith, our thorns will serve as a reminder that we are connected to the Root (Jesus) and we are to seek the Lord in all things. Seeking the Lord first in all things will keep our “rose” healthy and blooming and it will minimize the irritant of the “thorns.”
“Lord, Please Remove My Thorn”
Of course, it’s okay to ask God to remove a specific “thorn.” Paul did so, and so can we. Sometimes God will remove a “thorn,” but other times He will let it remain. When Paul’s request that his “thorn” be removed was denied, the Lord gave him something much better. Jesus gave Paul an assurance of His steadfast love and the strength He would give him:
2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Finding Christ in the midst of trials, tribulation, suffering, and pain–all those things that feel like “thorns in our sides” — is so much better than having a “thorn” removed. Paul actually found joy in his “thorn,” as revealed by his response to Jesus’ promise of sufficient grace:
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 …Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
The next time you are feeling the irritation of a “thorn in your side,” let it be a reminder of Jesus’ promise, “My grace is sufficient for you…” Let your “rose” bloom as a sweet fragrance to the Lord, and as a testimony to others of the beauty of Christ’s strength in you. Find purpose and meaning in whatever you are facing, knowing that in weakness, Christ is strong for you.
And, remember, one day all “thorns” will be removed and every “rose” will fully bloom forever and ever.
I like this cross so much that I also purchased it in gold (and one for my daughter). If you like it, you can buy it in silver or gold at James Avery Jewelry. Check out all their beautiful Christian jewelry. (This is an uncompensated endorsement. I have just liked and bought their jewelry for many years and I can attest to the high quality of craftsmanship.)
Remember, silver symbolizes redemption and gold symbolizes God. (Read also: The Meaning of Colors in the Bible)
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