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Of course, it stands to reason that the day you choose to expound a theme on life’s vexations, the ponderous upgrade on your computer program consumes a full six hours of work time! Just thinking about the barrage of troublesome aggravations clustering around our feet and impeding everyday progress is enough, it seems, to bring that pack of spiteful street dogs running.

“It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out, it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” (source unknown)

Life’s big issues are no joke, but the thing that can really tip you over the edge are the blind-siding little annoyances. Inevitably, you’ll break a shoe-lace as you’re racing out the door, late for a meeting. While still exulting on that hot sale on car tires, the next morning your battery is dead! You’ll be six cents short of cash when there’s ten people behind you at check-out, watching. Like the endless string of commercials you have to endure to watch your favorite show, these vexations are just part of the package of being human.

Learning to deal with the perverse, deviant, contrary elements of life, however, is the discipline of maturity (additionally, I’ve also found great comfort in primordial scream therapy). We don’t always handle situations with the respect we should, so we pick up slivers. Everywhere, mental and emotional thorns of our own insecurity and fear abound; thistles, hidden briers and jagged edges that pierce unexpectedly. There are spirits of vexation, sent deliberately by a malicious enemy to make life as bitter and difficult as possible. It’s all too easy to fall into Satan’s snare and become totally embroiled in toil and trouble, diverted from what is important. How many times have we been side-tracked; our courage and energy drained by the constant onslaught?

Lately, I’ve been enforcing a word in my spirit and circumstances that is bringing me joy unspeakable and full of glory.

And there shall be no more a pricking brier unto the house of Israel, nor any grieving thorn of all that are round about them, that despised them; and they shall know that I am the Lord God. Ezekiel 28:24

When a verse far from the beaten path keeps crossing yours, you know the Lord is trying to tell you something. What is He saying? Apparently, His eye is on the myriad of difficulties I encounter being faithful to the ministry entrusted to me. He’s acknowledging the stumbling stones in my path that have bruised and broken me on an unrelenting basis. He's about to clear the decks!

For decades now, one of my major thorns has been a rampant spirit of chauvinism in the Church. You expect it in the world, of course, but it’s doubly pernicious within an environment that should honor the unique contributions of each sex. The chauvinism, prejudice, sexism and Old Boys Club hide deep under layers of politic and propaganda and grind at you continually. To point out the inequities and get acknowledgement you have to make a complete nuisance of yourself. Add the burden of being single to that, and getting traction in any kind of ministry, especially as a speaker, takes years. Just when you think there might be progress, the beast rears its ugly head again. My weariness cannot even find words.

The really interesting thing is that you may pray long and hard for thorns to be removed, but they won’t be…not before their time. Even though they may come from evil, they are the tools God uses to shape our character, vintage our maturity and sharpen our focus. Nothing is more marvelously effectual in preventing us from becoming full of pride and ego than this constant pricking. When we’re grappling with the pangs of a thorn, they force us to build dependence on God’s wisdom and presence. Justice becomes important. Paul expresses it better than anyone.

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 2 Corinthians 12:7

Currently, I find myself entrenched in a battle of spirit that engages very perverse strongholds of power and control. I’ve been here before, but never with this much clarity and conviction. Apparently, the bitter thorn has achieved its purpose. What have I learned? “Don’t kick against the goad” or against the thorn. It's actually getting you somewhere.

But the sons of Belial shall be all of them as thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands: But the man that shall touch them must be fenced with iron and the staff of a spear; and they shall be utterly burned with fire in the same place. 2 Samuel 23:6-7

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