Roses have thorns. This isn't an earth shaking revelation. Certainly any gardener who has ever picked up a pair of pruning shears is well aware of the fact that roses have some serious spikes protruding from their stems. But when you look at a picture or drawing of a delicate rose with its soft petals and brilliant color it's easy to forget that right beneath those dainty buds and blooms on the top of the flower there's a not so sweet surprise just waiting to poke the unsuspecting hand. All of those pictures are so deceiving, the soft focus on the blossoms, rarely exposing the presence of the thorns. Yet, you and I know the truth. The rose, no matter how gorgeous...well, it does indeed have thorns.
With the coming spring, I began this morning thinking about roses. My heart skipped a beat when I visualized the beauty that awaits those of us who have been tucked away in our winter state of hibernation. Right around the corner we will behold the leaves on trees start to take shape, shades of green popping up seemingly overnight. Soon we will wake up to the sound of birds singing, sweeping into our homes through the open windows. And before too long we will be greeted with the pinks, reds, oranges and yellows of the blossoming flowers. Bulbs, hidden in the cold earth, will once again begin to show their friendly faces just in time for Easter.
And the roses will be here before you know it. The trellis framing the gate of my white picket fence will be abounding in plentiful rose buds. The sweet fragrance of God's creation will waft across the front lawn, providing a feast for the nose as well as the eyes. Is there anything more brilliant and hopeful than the first sight of a rose after a long, dreary winter?
But, dear Reader, in all your excitement over the budding bushes and blossoming flowers, don't forget to watch out for the thorns. The long winter might cause you and I to forget that beneath the beauty of the bud is a pesky little terror just waiting to cause a cut and a sting. The thorn lies underneath.
I can't help but wonder why would God cause such a beautiful creation to be attached to something so bothersome? For all the charm of a rose, why ruin it with an array of daggers protruding from the stem - the very part of the rose our hands could hold without disturbing the intricate blanket of perfectly placed petals?
Thankfully I didn't create the rose. For if I had then I wouldn't have made it with thorns and therefore, the rose would have never survived long enough for you and I to enjoy its beauty. God, in His abundant knowledge and understanding, knew that when He created the rose He had to give it thorns for its own protection. The purpose of the thorn is to detract predators. Animals don't like to eat thorns, just like you and I don't like to touch them, so hungry wildlife choose not to feast on the luscious blossoms of the rose. The sharp prickers on the stem are God's built-in security system for the precious petals. You and I get to enjoy the brilliant color and delicate design of the rose because God has protected it with the thorny stem below.
The handiwork of God is miraculous, isn't it? He is limitless in His understanding, even His understanding of botany and the appetite of ravenous animals. When He created nature, plants and animals, He did so knowing what characteristics would be needed to preserve that creation so that it could stand the test of time.
God has that same understanding and knowledge of you and me. When He created each us He saw in His infinite wisdom what would be needed for our protection. For some of us, that includes some thorns.
There is no doubt in my mind that God has given me specific burdens for an express purpose. He has placed thorns in my life for my ultimate protection. My struggle with my health and the reoccurring symptoms that plague me are a perfect example. These thorns continue to poke me, causing me to wonder what purpose God could possibly have for such unwelcome intruders.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Paul writes about his thorn in is side with these words, "Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
As bothersome as that thorn was to Paul, He saw that God had given it to Him for His own good. The thorn in Paul's side kept him humble and dependent on God. Paul had no strength of his own to rely upon, no power of his own in which he could puff himself up. That pesky thorn kept him on his knees before God - right where he was meant to be.
There is no denying that God uses thorns. He uses them in nature to protect the beauty of His botanical creation and He uses them to keep His beloved children close to His side. Through the pointy daggers of the thorn His kids are kept coming before Him for healing, help and protection. Because of those thorns, you and I are continually brought back to the feet of God.
So next time that you reach for a brightly colored rose, the big and blossoming beauty just waiting to be picked, don't forget the thorns. Let them be a reminder that you and I, just like the rose, are protected and secured through the blessing of the spikes that we find in our own lives. God can use the thorns in our flesh to draw us closer to Himself, continually humbling us in His presence. By the power of His love God will shower us in His grace that is all-sufficient and able to overcome all the pain and suffering endured through the presence of those pesky thorns.