Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why Thorn Removal Is Not the Goal (Part 2)

Yesterday we considered the testimony of the man with no arms and no legs.  He is an inspiration to never give up.  In many ways he is a model of what this entire series is about; namely, rather than spending your entire life trying to   remove the thorns enjoy the rose as it is, prickly and yet beautiful. 

Yet at the outset I must confess that I, and I doubt I’m alone, almost wish that my “thorn” was an obvious physical malady.  I say that because nobody rightly expects the guy to “get it together” and grow himself a pair of arms.  Nobody (at least nobody sane) believes that he is this way because of personal choice and sin.  It’s not so clear cut with someone who has bouts with a dark melancholy and deep seated shame as their thorn. 

While it is true that some depression, anxiety, and shame are a result of things that we really ought to be shameful for, and things that really ought to cause grief, it is also true that some of it stems from things that have happened to us.  The lines between real shame and guilt and that which is false are often blurry.  This makes the prospect of thorn removal tricky.  In as much as our “thorn” is the result of rebellion and pride it’s removal is not an option, it is mandatory. 

Yet, what if there is an element of our melancholy that is not a direct result of personal sin but merely the results of living in a fallen world? 

What if melancholy is part of our lives because this is the painful method the Lord has chosen to use for His glory and our eventual good? 

What if, like Paul, we pray and fight and labor to be done with this demonic thorn and all we hear is, “My grace is sufficient for you”? 

It is understandable and right to long for and pursue redemption.  It’s not wrong to pray that the Lord removes this thorn.  But it is sinful and wrong-hearted to be unsatisfied in grace and to be fixated on thorn removal.  And that is my point. 

There must be a place within the Christian faith for those that limp around with a life-long thorn and yet keep a white-knuckled grip on the cross of Christ.  And that place is not necessarily one that is to be relegated to the back of the bus, quarantined off from the smiley-faced believers that are “good” witnesses to redemption. 

Tomorrow I want to consider how the “prosperity gospel” and the many forms that seem to have been swallowed by American Christianity offers a hope for the depressed but actually ends up wounding tremendously. 

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