Monday, May 9, 2011

Thankful for the thorns...

I got this amazing story in our church's adult ministries newsletter. I thought it was too good not to share.

So often we look at our hardships, struggles, or disappointments as a "why me, God?" I know I have been so guilty of this in the past. But in reality if we could just see past those "thorns", we would see a God who wants nothing more than to comfort us, hold us in the palm of His hand, and allow us to trust Him even among our despair.

May this story bless you and be the word you need today.

"Sandra felt as low as the heels of her shoes when she pulled open the florist shop door, against a November gust of wind. Her life had been as sweet as a spring breeze and then, in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a "minor" automobile accident stole her joy. This was Thanksgiving week and the time she should have delivered their infant son. She grieved over their loss.

Troubles had multiplied. Her husband's company "threatened" to transfer his job to a new location. Her sister had called to say that she could not come for her long awaited holiday visit. What's worse, Sandra's friend suggested that Sandra's grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. "She has no idea what I'm feeling," thought Sandra with a shudder "Thanksgiving? Thankful for what?" she wondered. "For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended me? For an airbag that saved my life, but took my child's?"

"Good afternoon, can I help you?" Sandra was startled by the approach of the shop clerk. "I . . . I need an arrangement," stammered Sandra. "For Thanksgiving? I'm convinced that flowers tell stories, " she continued. "Are you looking for something that conveys 'gratitude' this Thanksgiving?" "Not exactly!" Sandra blurted out. "In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong." Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the clerk said, "I have the perfect arrangement for you."

Then the bell on the door rang, and the clerk greeted the new customer... "Hi, Barbara, let me get your order." She excused herself and walked back to a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and what appeared to be long-stemmed thorny roses. Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped: there were no flowers.

Sandra stammered, "Ah, that lady just left with . . . uh . . . she left with no flowers!" "That's right," said the clerk. "I cut off the flowers. That's the 'Special'. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet. Barbara came into the shop three years ago, feeling much as you do today," explained the clerk. "She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had just lost her father to cancer; the family business was failing; her son had gotten into drugs; and she was facing major surgery. That same year I had lost my husband," continued the clerk. "For the first time in my life, I had to spend the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too much debt to allow any travel."

"So what did you do?" asked Sandra. "I learned to be thankful for thorns," answered the clerk quietly. "I've always thanked God for the good things in my life and I never questioned Him why those good things happened to me, but when the bad stuff hit, I cried out, 'Why? Why me?!' It took time for me to learn that the dark times are important to our faith! I have always enjoyed the 'flowers' of my life, but it took the thorns to show me the beauty of God's comfort! You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we're afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others."

Sandra sucked in her breath, as she thought about what her friend had tried to tell her. "I guess the truth is I don't want comfort. I've lost a baby and I'm angry with God." Just then someone else walked in the shop.

As that customer paid the clerk and left, he said to Sandra, "I highly recommend the Special!" "I don't know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life" Sandra said to the clerk. "It's all too … fresh." "Well," the clerk replied carefully, "my experience has shown me that the thorns make the roses more precious. We treasure God's providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember that it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love....Don't resent the thorns."

The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. "I'll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you would like to read it first."

It read: "My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I
have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never
once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear;
teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have
climbed closer to You along the path of pain. Show me that,
through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much
more brilliant."

We often try to fix problems with
WD-40 and duct tape. Just
remember that God did it with nails.
May you always find beauty in the thorns, and thank God for
them! As we learned from Adam Hamilton in this last study:
God walks with us through the tuff times as well as the good.