Why Thorns and Gold?

I don’t know exactly what I will be writing in my blog, but I suspect there will be a few posts on illness, suffering, and what it means to have a Christian perspective on these things.

Why thorns? Because they are a Biblical metaphor for suffering (Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh, 2 Cor 12:7) and they remind me that God’s power is made perfect in weakness.  And because they remind me of the crown of thorns that was on Jesus’ head as he died; when I am suffering, I need to remember I know a suffering God.

Why gold?  In 2005, I was in the middle of a very busy term working with students as a Christian minister.  I had been feeling a bit tired and run down for the past few weeks, but I had continued on anyway.  Then one day I woke up exhausted and I found that I couldn’t read anything anymore – the words were swimming on the page in front of me. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had M.E., and this was my first relapse.  All I knew was that I felt ill, and I didn’t know why.

A wise friend said something to me then that I have found very helpful.  She said, ‘Look for the gold.  There’s a lot of muck and rubbish here and much that is hard,  but God will still be at work, so look for the gold.’

Job, when he was undergoing great suffering, said, “But he knows the way that I take.  When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)  I know that in the global scheme of things, I cannot even vaguely claim to have been through great suffering: I have not experienced any major bereavements, I have not been sexually abused, I have not endured poverty or beatings or persecution.  I am aware of that, and I am thankful.  But I am also someone who is struggling with the ‘minor’ suffering that is part of my daily existence: a body that does not work properly.

To the limited extent that I suffer, I want that suffering to be productive, to bring about holiness and a purity of character.  I am grateful that the Bible is honest about the bad in this world: the bad is bad.  Too often Christians seem to want to say that because God allows suffering, that suffering is somehow good in itself.  This is not true; God is good, but sin and suffering are not.  They are not what God intended for this world and they will not be there in heaven.  But God does have the power to bring good out of bad (which is not the same as saying that a bad situation is inherently what God wants), and He is able to work in all things (good, bad and ugly) for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28).

So the ‘gold’ part is my prayer.  I must confess, I don’t feel that I am remotely any more holy or nicer as a person since I have been chronically ill. But I pray that I will be able to look back over it some day and say, ‘oh – there’s the gold!’

Thanks for reading! Do say hi, introduce yourself, comment, tell me your story – I’d love to hear it.


21 Responses to Why Thorns and Gold?

  1. Georgia 6th November, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    Hi Tanya!

    My name is Georgia and I’m a 16 year old living with an autoimmune disease and a follower of Christ, as well! I saw your post in Relevant after a friend shared it on Facebook. I think you’re really inspiring and it is so evident how our God is working through you to minister to others facing similar trials or even to those who know others dealing with “suffering.”
    Its amazing how God works – I have began to have a flare after about a year in remission since I was diagnosed three years ago with vasculitis. I was feeling really down and questioning where God is leading me and how this could be happening again. I do know that God has a plan for me, but I tend to question where “the gold” is behind all the “muck”. I have always tried to put on a brave face and trust God throughout my trials, but, at times, its really hard.
    It’s can totally relate to feeling like you just need someone to “weep with you” and not say that God is using your illness to glorify Him or something along those lines. One of my dearest friends always reminds me that Jesus felt the pain and suffering I am dealing with when He died on the cross, which I find so comforting – that even though no one in the world can truly know how I feel, the most important person in my life does and that’s enough.
    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how God used your article to show me at the perfect time and how much God is speaking through you to someone like me. So thanks for that!
    I will be praying for you, hope you are doing okay! :)

    • Tanya 11th November, 2013 at 9:36 am #

      Thank you SO much for this wonderful encouragement, Georgia. This was so lovely to hear.

      I’d definitely encourage you to read my post, “Get angry at God, Job did” (in Must-read posts), because I can definitely relate to that season of disappointment and questioning that comes following a flare-up, and it really helped me to read Job in the midst of that.

      I’m so glad that God ministered to you through my writing at just the right time – I love it when God does that!

      Thank you so much for your prayers. I will be thinking of you, too!

  2. Shirley 28th October, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    Hello sister – we have the same dad! My favourite verse is “For I know the plans I have for you”, says the Lord, “plans to prosper and not to harm you; to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
    I’ve had ME for 8 years now, developed it following ‘flu. In any week I used to cycle 60+ miles, run 2, swim 1 as well as go to the gym, do weights, circuit train. Then one day I could barely walk. I have to plan what I do carefully and factor in resting, else I’m a bit stuffed. My family (husband, 2 adult children) are incredibly supportive of me. I’ve been able to stay in work – 3 days a week as a trainer in the NHS, but pay for it by having to rest as soon as I get home, and sit on Thursdays. I paint as well – that’s helped stave off the depression; its something I can still do unless I’m exhausted. I’ve had to stop doing so much – running a youth group, working with homeless people on the streets of Manchester on Friday nights, and some of my aspirations, but I’ve also gained much, most of that in unexpected ways.
    Anyway, that’s enough about me, thank you for writing what you so,
    Shirley

    • Tanya 11th November, 2013 at 9:33 am #

      Thank you so much for this! i’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to spot this comment. I can feel the loss of all of your previous life when you describe how ME has affected you – I can really empathise with that. I’m so glad that your family is supportive of you – we need all the support we can get! Thank you so much for stopping by and saying hi – it is encouraging to know that I’m not the only one out there!

  3. Vicky Beeching 1st August, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    Realised I’d never written anything here and that I should! Your blog is F-A-B and everyone should read it. Seriously, it just keeps blowing me away – I love your posts, your heart and the way this digital community is forming. Can’t recommend it to others highly enough!

    • Tanya 6th August, 2013 at 10:58 am #

      Thank you so much for your encouragement, oh blogging-queen! It means a lot. :-)

  4. Rebecka 19th May, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

    Hi Tanya!
    I found my way here through your post on Prodigal. It really moved me and I related to it since I also have M.E. I live in Sweden and I was diagnosed three years ago. I must confess I have a really hard time finding the gold, but I hope, with God’s help, I’ll get better and better at it. I very much look forward to following your blog and reading more of what you have to say!

    • Tanya 22nd May, 2013 at 11:43 am #

      ‘I have a really hard time finding the gold’ – oh, me too! me too. Sometimes there is so much *muck* (I really want to use a stronger word…) that you just can’t see anything past that.

      I’m so sorry to hear you have M.E. too. Hoping you have a better path to recovery than me.

      Sending you much love.

  5. Wendy @ E-1-A 13th October, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

    Love this story re: looking for gold in difficult situations.

    This is what has kept me going these past 5 and a half years Tanya. It has been the worst time of our lives (hubby, close family and myself)… and yet spiritually, it has been the best ever. I learnt early on to look for the good in our situation, and this is what has encouraged me in some of our darkest days.#

    Keep looking for gold… you will not be disappointed in the Lord.

    • Tanya 15th October, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

      Thanks you so much for sharing your perspective. I have enjoyed having a stroll around your blog too!

  6. Peggy 21st September, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    My dearest neighbor and sister in Christ has ME … and it took doctors about 20 years to figure it out. We are an encouragement to each other when others forget about our “invisible illnesses.”

    Have you read the story of the Spoon Theory? I think you would be encouraged by it….

    http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

    For you, I am imagining that your spoons are made of gold, sweet sister … :-) My spoons are stainless steel which have turned purple by the heat of my trials by fire. ;-). By the way, it only takes 520 degrees Fahrenheit to get purple … it takes 2,000 degrees to get gold. I am hoping your spoons are pure gold, not steel-heated…. :-)

    • Tanya 21st September, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

      I know the Spoon theory well, and I love your twist on it! Thank you! :-)

  7. Rachel @myheartsmission 29th August, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    Tanya-
    I am so thankful to have found your blog and got to read a little about you today. I am following you on FB, and look forward to keeping up with your posts.
    I can’t imagine the challenges of dealing with chronic illness and a toddler. God bless you. Looking forward to getting to know you better. :)

    • Tanya 29th August, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

      Oh yay! Thanks for following on fb – I’m looking forward to getting to know you better too!

  8. Ann 31st July, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    Tanya,

    I love, love, love this!!!! What a wonderful perspective and one that I can completely relate to! I am so glad we have connected through the blogging world! Looking forward to more of your little gems of thought in the future. Keep writing. It is beautiful and encouraging!!!

    Blessings,
    Ann

    • Tanya 1st August, 2012 at 10:02 am #

      Thank you so much! I’m also extremely glad we’ve connected – I’m aware of a few Christians with ME/CFS in the UK, but you’re the first one I’ve found in the US. Looking forward to hanging out with you again!

  9. Shell 28th June, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    Hi Tanya, my friend Frankie just sent me the link you your blog. I am in the midst of a relapse of ME at the moment. I got ME just before I started Relay with UCCF but I didn’t know what I had until about two years later. 7 1/2years on and I still live in denial and struggle not to just and push through. Do you ever feel like that? At the moment the prospect of managing the stairs to get a cup of tea is exhausting but in a few days if I feel a bit better I will go and do something silly like try and hoover the whole house!
    It’s madness, post exertional malaise is madness!

    Shell

    • Tanya 29th June, 2012 at 11:12 am #

      Hi – welcome to the blog! thanks for taking the time to introduce yourself – lovely to see you on here. I remember Frankie! Do send her my love!

      I think there are a lot of M.E. sufferers who effectively live in denial (which is frequently rudely interrupted by a significant amount of disability!) A large part of that is the ambivalence of the medical community towards the illness – M.E. patients need help to take their illnes and its effects seriously; it’s hard to do that when so many trivialise the illness.

      And then there is the element of wishful thinking! I’m smack in the middle of that at the moment, knowing logically that there are symptoms worsening so I should be doing as little as possible – but not wanting to be bored, so here I am on the blog!

      Hoping you get some support – and perhaps find some support on here. Much love.

  10. sandra delemare 16th March, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    GOLD
    I’m a retired mental health nurse and used to tell suicidal patients to try to find that little nugget of gold that they could hang on to
    so true that God works all things for good – this too will pass ‘weeping may last for a night – but joy comes with the morning’
    I’d had a ‘bad’ shift (can’t remember just what now) and when I got home there was a package – a free book from UCB, Bob Gass’ Joy comes with the morning – that lifted my heart even before I read it

  11. tanya @ truthinweakness 7th March, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

    wow, tanya . . . thorns & gold . . . truth in weakness . . .
    oh how i wish you lived right next door right about now to where i could just walk on over, knock on your door, & give you a hug . . .
    i cannot begin to describe how absolutely delighted i am to have found you, friend,
    tanya

    “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Ps. 73:26)

    • Tanya 7th March, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

      Thank you so much – always nice to find an online kindred spirit! Have been enjoying checking out your blog too. (LOVE that verse, btw).

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