A thorny subject

It is said that a pessimist decries the fact that roses have thorns, while an optimist rejoices that thorn bushes yield beautiful roses.

We gardeners just take the thorns in stride. We invest in special gloves that aren’t punctured easily and wear long sleeves in hot weather. We ignore the strange looks we often get, as if folks wonder who pushed us into the tiger’s cage at the zoo.

If it is true that my blood, sweat, and tears have gone into my garden, most of the blood spilled was from getting too close to the roses. A healthy, mature rose bush can have sharp, curving talons of a fearful size, depending on the variety. It can cut your hand open more quickly than a doctor’s scalpel.

Possibly worse than the slicing and dicing type of thorns are the shorter, hairier versions of roses such as the Rugosa Rose. Known for its high content of Vitamin C in its rose hips, the Rugosa is wicked to the touch. The fine, thin thorns are so numerous that they appear as if the stems are covered in hair. But beware! No silky touch with this fur. The sting they give will hurt for hours, or even days.

Technically, roses do not actually have thorns. Oh, there are nearly-thornless varieties like “Peggy Martin” or “Zephirine Drouhin”, but the sharp protrusions on the branches and stems of roses are actually outgrowths of the cortex and epidermis of the plant stem. A botanist would insist that you call them “prickles,” as the technically correct term.

But we all continue to understand the spiky, dangerous growths as “thorns.” We understand what Paul meant when he said, “There was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself” (2 Corinthians 12:7b, NASB).

The apostle Paul was given some kind of pain, whether physical or not, that would prevent him from thinking too highly of himself.

Pain can push a person two ways, spiritually. One way will be to go to God for help.

“Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

The people gathered at the temple on Pentecost had just heard Peter preach his first sermon, which included the doomed state of their immortal souls. Their hearts were pierced with the pain of what they had just done by rejecting the Messiah that God has sent to them.

But there was hope! In the very next verse, they were given the answer. “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Not all will receive the word of God gladly to relieve their pain and guilt, however.

Stephen preached much the same message to a group of people who felt as if they were wounded and cut by his words. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him” (Acts 8:54). But this pain of guilt did not cause them to ask how to be saved. They instead drove Stephen outside the city and stoned him to death.

When we recognize our guilt before the holy God, we will feel pain. What we do with that pain will determine our eternal destiny!

Don’t let it become a thorny subject….or a prickly one.


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