The thorn factor

I don’t think that God intended any relationships to be perfect. I think of it as the “thorn” factor that He allows into the equation—that element that we shrink from, but that He knows we need. You may wonder, Why would we need differences of opinion, sensitivities, misunderstandings, jealousies, resentments, comparing, sacrificing, arguments, emotional upsets, fears, heartbreaks, and adversity? Those things don’t sound like they would build a very strong relationship.

This reminds me of the adage, “It’s your attitude toward adversity that counts.” If we didn’t experience the trials of life, we would have a hard time learning to exercise the qualities that make us better people—patience, understanding, and forgiveness.

Misunderstandings, disagreements, hurts—even wrongs—force us to respond to them. We can choose to stretch, to become better, to reach out to God for more of His love, to forgive, to make a conscious decision to learn what we can from the situation.

It’s how we face the circumstances that come into our life and what we do with them that counts. Will we learn from our difficulties and become better or will we become hardened? Will we become humbler or prouder? Will we become creative in solving problems or will we sink under them in despair? Will we do whatever is necessary to become what we should be in order to handle the difficulties, or will we become accusatory and critical? Will we become more committed, or will we be tempted to quit when the going gets difficult?

Even when we do our best and we grow and learn and mature, there are always more challenges ahead, because that’s the way God intended for life to be. We overcome one difficulty and then we go on to another one. But each victory is a step forward. Each victory is fulfilling. Each victory takes us farther along the road of progress.

But what about when we feel we can’t overcome something and it seems that we’re doomed to permanent frustration in some area? If we’ve done what we can, God’s Word promises that we will eventually be victorious: “Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will still be standing up.” [[Ephesians 6:13 TLB]].

God may know that these rocky paths are actually more beneficial to us in some way than a smooth road would be. As we communicate with Him, He will motivate us to do better in the areas we need to, encourage us for the good we are doing, and help us find strength and grace to meet each challenge.