The Thorn

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: . . . and a time to heal" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3b).

The pain in my daughter's palm was first apparent while practicing her piano lesson for school one day. A small discoloration and swelling was visible, but they seemed insignificant against the healthy flesh. As time went on, however, I observed the difficulty my daughter had while holding her pencil during schoolwork. I applied my own home remedies to help with the discomfort, but they brought little change. Eventually, a cyst was diagnosed by a specialist, and surgery was scheduled to remove it.

The night before her surgery, my daughter and I got home late after spending the evening roller skating with a group of homeschooling families. As I came to say goodnight, I looked at her hand one last time, since she had fallen and bumped her hand while skating. Amazingly, a crack had appeared in the swelling. Gently pulling the skin apart, I could just see the tip of something. Grabbing my tweezers and a flashlight, I proceeded to do "surgery." I stared in amazement as the cyst turned out to be an inch-long cactus thorn.

The incorrect diagnosis of my daughter's pain made me realize that we also misdiagnose the emotional problems in people's lives. Many times we fail to address the deeper issues of why a person is acting a certain way and simply respond to their outward displays of unloving behavior. Perhaps if we saw their problem through the eyes of the Great Physician, we would know how to help their healing process. Christ's actions illustrate this best when He didn't debate or argue with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:7-26. Instead, He saw into her heart and addressed the pain of her failed relationships with men and the need she had to be forgiven and loved.

Is there a prickly person God has placed in your life? You know, one of those people who can't be pleased no matter what you do. The behavior he is displaying could be the result of many hidden, painful experiences. Instead of reacting negatively or avoiding him, respond in love. If you ask the Lord for wisdom to see into his true problems, He will show you the loving surgery that may help heal his pain.

Father, please help me to love the unlovely people You've put into my life. Give me understanding to see the real thorn that is causing their pain and the desire to reach out with Your love. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Comments(24 comments)

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TIFFINEY H 12/15/2008 09:45:57

This devotional has trully blessed me and I look forward to sharing it with my husband and family this evening. Thank you for showing me that we need to look through the eyes of our Father to trully understand what's happening in the lives of others.

NIKKI P 12/12/2009 19:31:39

I, too, appreciate this reminder. It is way too easy to get caught up (even if initially) in the outward behavior of another and miss the underlying thing. I have a stepdad who we believe has a personality disorder (possibly Narcissistic to some degree, with some OCD thrown in for fun). Thanksgiving ended up being a dysfunctional gathering at the end because of this. Our compassion and understanding do have limits, when we fail (and we will) to respond the way we should (as pilgrims), we have to pray for the Father to help us to understand, and to renew our compassion and give us wisdom.

REBECCA C 12/12/2010 08:42:30

Thank you so much that is just what i needed to hear right now!!!! Thank you thank you! Rebecca C

Dalila B 12/12/2010 13:18:25

This devotional is just a confirmation from the Lord in which I prayed a similar prayer about two weeks ago and he made himself manifest in my life. He also gave me an overflow of emotion as he teaches me how to love my brethren that I see, no matter what the situation and in that I am showing my love for him.

Georgina G 12/20/2010 17:08:16

Oh my goodness. I am having loads of trouble with a non-believing brother. I needed this soooo much today. I don't know how to handle him, but this devotional has made me see that I shouldn't continue with cutting him out of my life and the lives of my children. Now I guess I need to take the question to God again and hope that this has softened my heart enough to hear the answer this time.

CARLA W 12/12/2011 05:37:45

What if this person continues to bring hurt to your family. When is enough?

TERESA G 12/12/2011 07:17:01

How does God do it? He is always on time. He is always there. I had asked the question, just last night, "What are we going to do about her?" Thank you, Jesus! You always have loved the unlovable and so should I. I'm so sorry for the things I've said. I knew they were wrong. I will correct myself and show love where irritation is present. I will show patience where intolerence is shown. I will love the unlovable also. I will handle any future problems with understanding and gentleness.

MARY W 12/12/2011 07:51:22

Amazing how HE always knows what we need to hear. A difficult morning, with kids arguing, screaming, doors slamming. I could see the pain in my 12year old's face was more than about cereal. Holidays have not been easy. This marks our second Christmas without his father and his father's birthday is coming up on December 22nd. Lots of tears and hugs this morning.

SUE B 12/12/2011 08:09:12

I am a homeschooling grandma and just talked to my husband this morning about this issue. He and my daughter (a single mother) clash often and his attitude needed a little improvement. He is ususlly not open about such things and I prayed over this issue before confronting him. I thank God for preparing his heart. I refered him to James 3 & 4. This will be a wonderful supplement to our discussion. I think that he needs to take the first step regardless of how he feels about her job as a policewoman and all the irregular shifts she must work. The boys basically live with us most of the time and God, in his wisdom, has planned it that way for their benefit. I am confident of that and truly blessed in having them.

JAYNE A 12/12/2011 08:10:04

This is also timely for me too. I have tried to show love to my mother-inlaw now for 19 years. She is not a Christian. She has hurt me terribly through the years through words and actions. I have forgiven her, and have tried to show her love. I have prayed and prayed. My husband and his sister tell me that she will never change, she will never admit to what is troubling her (we all know what it is). She is extremely prideful. This Thanksgiving was no better. She upset me again. I gracefully continued to show her love, but she, again, ruined my holiday. If this had been anyone else other than my mother-in-law, I would have distanced my self from her. Any ideas on how to deal with this situation? I have tried talking to her. She is extremely bitter and usually changes the subject, or walks away. It is impossible to talk to her without her reacting in anger. At the beginning of our relationship I had to assert position in my house because she wanted to take over (opening mail), etc. I know that keeping my distance from her will affect my husband and children, but she is now making me bitter. I have lost any feelings I had for her, even though I know why she hurts (her bad choices in life). Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Coud God be telling me to distance myself? This is driving a wedge between me and God. Thanks, and God bless to all

POLLY J 12/12/2011 11:00:18

Before today I would have casually read this daily focus but today is a brand new day for me. I agree with you whole heartedly. There is such a woman in the midst of me and I told someone that she had deeper issues than what we see with the natural eye. This person had no compassion for the woman and thus dismissed what I said to her but God...God gave me an overwhelming revelation about such people...He said to see them as He sees them when they exit their mother's womb, they are not tainted or polluted but life does something to us all, positive and negative. He said this woman has endure trauma, that's the word He used, trauma. and I just wanted to say to you thank you. I am in a place of hearing God more clearly but entering into a place of responding to what I hear from Him, getting direction from Him and walking in who He has called me to be. I will definitely pass on this testimony, giving you credit LOL, but giving God the Glory.

LAURA S 12/12/2011 13:22:53

Thank you for this wonderful Devotional it hit home today.

MOLLIE D 12/12/2011 13:45:33

Wow! The wonders of our God. I needed this. If I could see past the bitterness and the awkward silence and try..I could be an instrument that God can use. I know, I failed yesterday. Pray that I get it right next time. My children are watching..her children are watching. Sister-in-laws we are, please Lord heal the hurt. Show me how to be the sister she needs. All who read please pray for me. Sin and Sadness can not be the thorn that hurts are family any longer.

KATHY R 12/12/2011 17:56:30

Wow, this has brought tears to my eyes, because I am the unlovely thorn in my husbands side. He thinks that I\'m full of hate when all I want is for him to honor me the way he honors his family. I am always wrong about everything and they\'re always right. They can say whatever they want about me but I\'m not allowed to express how unwelcome they make me feel. So I\'m a hateful thorn. Prayers are very much welcomed.

SHANA M 12/12/2011 19:05:54

WOW..all I can say is WOW! God is good, He is never too early , nor too late. This message was very timely!

GWENDOLYN P 12/12/2011 20:55:34

This was a blessing to me. Thank you for sharing.

CHRISTINE M 12/13/2011 12:25:44

Kathy R., praying for you! A tough place to be in. This is a great word, as I have been feeling frustrated with one of my children. She is usually happy and easy going, and has become quite a little complainer--always focussing on what everyone else has, being ungrateful, discontent, etc. Will spend some special time with her today to see if I can lovingly get to the root of the problem!!

TERE G 12/14/2011 23:55:50

Thank You.God heard my prayer even though i didn\'t pray,if that makes sense.You have blessed me tremendously.Praise the Lord

TONYA H 12/12/2012 06:57:57

This was an absolute answer from God, what I literally just prayed 10 minutes ago. My focus needs to be on the reason (pain) behind the actions of others and not take them personally and get defensive. God is my Defender! A gentle answer turns away wrath and love always wins!

MARYBETH N 12/12/2012 07:11:12

Wow! Like many others, this was a very timely message! We moved my parents to live closer to us due to medical issues and I\'ve been their primary caregiver now for about seven months. My mom is so negative and really hard to be around. I\'m sad to say she\'s ungrateful most of the time and there is no pleasing her. Nothing anyone does is good enough or right. I make all of their doctor appointments and bring them to the appointments, take them grocery shopping, pick up miscellaneous items for them, do all of their laundry, and review their bills with them. This on top of homeschooling my daughter who has Tourette\'s Syndrome and other comorbid issues. I decided yesterday that I can\'t do their laundry anymore (a still small voice told me to let this one go) and I have to tell them today. I was just talking to my husband about all of this and how unhappy she is; then I came downstairs and read this! My sister had told me a couple of days ago that I need to be firm with my mom and give her extra love even when I don\'t feel like it. She also told me she thinks my mom had a hard childhood which could be the \"thorn\" in her. I would like to just be able to enjoy my parents for the time they have left but it\'s hard to do that now. Thank you so much for this, I needed it.

ALEZA J 12/12/2012 08:03:22

Marybeth, a lot of times when someone gets older and have to rely on someone else for everything they get resentful because they still feel on the inside like they can do all those things. Or they feel unneeded and in the way. Maybe try to find ways she can feel significant again .

CHARITY L 12/12/2012 11:58:28

Dear Jayne A, I had a mother in law like you are describing. From the beginning of my marriage there was always a conflict, but more in her body language to me and anger if we didn\'t go to her house for the holidays. I never felt like she liked me, nor did I feel like she accepted my children. I had a hard time wanting to go and visit. It really wasn\'t until she was in the hospital room, helpless and sick did I look at her with the eyes of Christ. I had compassion for her and forgave her for all of her offenses against me. The only advice I could give you is to love her as Christ so loved the world(John 3:16). We were not deserving of his sacrifice but while we were still sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) Loving your mother in law when she is unlovable is your spiritual act of worship. It is your love to her that will lead her to repentance just as it is Christ\'s love for us that leads us to repentance. (Romans 2:4) Luke 6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Also do not talk bad about her to your husband. Any offenses against your take to God. You can not change your mother in law, you can only change your response. Seek Christ, He is your strength and strong tower. The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still. (Exodus 14:14) Charity

BIRGIT B 12/12/2012 22:38:44

I would like to comment on Carla since nobody else did. She stood out to me because for a long time I too asked that same question. Yes, people are hurting on the inside and therefore lash out on the outside but that doesn\'t mean we are supposed to become a doormat. The bible says that we are suppposed to imitate God and in psalm 45:7 it says that he hates evil. If we tolerate evil, especially if the offending party claims to be a Christian, then we are playing right into the enemies hands. We need to be discerning when we confront people about their sin but if we are scared to confront someone because it might hurt their feelings or it might cause problems then we are looking for the approval of men and not of God! If we are scared to confront someone on their sin, even though it is hurting the entire family (especially children), because of the consequences it might bring then I suggest that person get on their knees and ask God for forgiveness and help with their unbelief in the almighty God who has everything under control and honors it when we do the right thing. If the person is truly a Christian then the Holy Spirit will deal with them after they\'ve been confronted. If the person is not a Christian it will most likely drive them away. Jesus never chased after anybody (example: rich, young ruler Matthew 19) but he let them decide which direction they wanted to go. And yes, we are supposed to turn the other cheek but nowhere does it say we are supposed to come back for more!

Judy Cartmill 12/14/2014 14:58:14

When we look at others it is so important to keep in mind that we ALL have a story. A story that is rife with sin and humanity. We may know where we stand with God, but if we are judging others, if we are being the martyr in difficult relationships, aren't we still judging? We do not have the authority to judge another. We do not have the authority to tell others what or how to live their lives. When we realize that, and bow to our Merciful God with the confidence of knowing that He is in control, He knows the beginning and the end of all of our stories, it frees us up to love. To simply love others in spite of everything. He sees us as the creatures he created. Spiritual beings. When he looks at us he sees His reflection. He doesnt see the fallen dirty humanity of it all. That is how He can have such tender mercy on us. If we relinquish judging others, hateful haughty attitudes to Him it is so very simple to realize that we are all traveling this same narrow path and that we must help one another to stay on it. All it takes is love.

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