“. . . a thorn was given me in the flesh . . . I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me . . . for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (selections)
We all have thorns in the flesh – those things that hang on and bug us, the things that we most would like to change or at least alter. The apostle Paul wrote the above passages in his second letter to the Corinthian church, and he told them that he had asked God three times to remove the thorn from him, but God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
Whew! I really have to work through this one! My thorns prickle, poke, and downright hurt me, and I REALLY would like to get rid of them! The long-lasting (maybe everlasting) thorn that I deal with is my weight. I have been overweight since puberty, and I have also been on diet after diet after diet, succeeding in losing and gaining, losing and gaining, a vicious cycle. Some people call that yo yo dieting.
The problem is that being overweight not only affects how I feel physically, but it affects my self-esteem. I want to look nice, but most of all I want to be healthy and reduce my risk of all the diseases that go with being overweight. I know every excuse in the book, and I have tried nearly every diet there is to try; I think I’ve been on Weight Watchers at least eight times. By the way, Weight Watchers is a great program, and I lost weight every time I was on it, but I couldn’t sustain the loss – it was my fault that I gained it back. Lack of GOOD exercise also contributed to the return of the weight, and it comes back with a vengeance, making it even harder to take it off.
So the thorn I’ve lived with the longest is being overweight, but a new thorn has emerged over the last four years – hypothyroidism or under-functioning thyroid. When I started taking medication for this, I figured the meds would fix everything. However, I’ve discovered recently, that hypothyrodism is far more insidious than I originally thought. Along with the slow thyroid comes fatigue, hair loss, inflammation, forgetfulness, foggy brain, a host of other possible complications, and – you may have guessed it – weight gain. In fact, some of the materials I have been reading say that trying to lose weight with a group can only be discouraging since those of us with hypothyroidism will lose MUCH more slowly than the others. I can attest to that.
At my last physical, several months ago, I learned that I now am also pre-diabetic. It’s interesting. I always thought that, if I heard that diagnosis, I would charge into action, change my diet and exercise routine, and be very pro-active in making the health changes I needed to make in order to keep diabetes at bay. But instead, I went into a depression, feeling like everything was going downhill, and that I had destroyed my health with all the life style patterns from previous years. It was one big pity party.
Even reading all the books was discouraging, and I think I went into overload because I accumulated so many books on diabetes, hypothyroidism, and losing weight that I starting become confused about what would actually help me. I’m still sorting it through, but I finally took out some boxes and began packing the weight loss books into them for the book sale we are having at one of the churches next month. A friend of mine who is a nurse told me to focus on just controlling my carbs and increasing my exercise.
So, as I read this passage from 2 Corinthians, I have to stop to think about the message of being strong in weakness. If God’s grace is sufficient, and power is perfected in weakness, then maybe I can learn a whole lot more about trusting God to help me figure all this out. My weakness is my strength because it is God who lifts me up and carries me as I trust in God’s presence with me. I cannot deal with the thorns on my own, and I have assurance that God is my companion on the journey, giving me thoughts and ideas, providing me with a conscience, helping me to find answers, helping me to persevere even in the face of discouragement.
I want to be healthy and live a long life, but maybe the message here is also that I need to keep my purpose in sight. So that leads me to ask, “What is my purpose?” I think that is what I will ponder over the next weeks and months. “Where am I headed?” “What would God have me do with this new as well as continuing challenge – these thorns – that keep reminding me how human I really am and how much I need God in my life.