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.

36 Responses to Why Thorns and Gold?

  1. Jana 4th August, 2017 at 11:32 pm #

    Tanya, I discovered your blog only today and I am very encouraged and inspired, thank you. I am now following you on Facebook and Twitter abd will read your ebook. I have different invisible illness, Addisons Disease – Primary Adrenalin Insufficiency, diagnosed 2 years ago… I keep learning how to apply Spoon Theory and I am learning to adjust to this different lifestyle of carefully counting spoons….And I paint my prayers, my questions, sometimes I write….I trust God. I have been walking through a bit of wilderness and your words about Gold and Thorns greatly encouraged and inspired me.

    • Tanya 19th August, 2017 at 9:23 pm #

      Thank you SO much for stopping by – I’m really glad you found me! It’s been lovely interacting a bit on social media too. I’ve looked a lot at Addison’s disease (when I was trying to Google-diagnose myself), and so I feel like I have a little understanding, though of course not the experiential understanding. But it’s amazing how many people with chronic illness can recognise their own experience, even when the illnesses are different. Thanks so much for commenting!

  2. Lilly Ladd 20th March, 2017 at 1:16 pm #

    I love this Tanya. I have finally subscribed to your blog and newsletter! And I’m really looking forward to reading your e-book. It sounds like just what I need to read just now xx

    • Tanya 30th June, 2017 at 5:40 pm #

      Oh YAY! Lovely Lilly! Thank you! Do let me know what you think of the book (and if you could leave an amazon review that would be really helpful!)

  3. Sonya 12th August, 2016 at 9:21 pm #

    Tanya, I am so glad to have found your site. I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy at age 13 and have felt shame, and suffering at the progressive loss of self which comes with the wasting away of the body. I am now 49 but have tried all ways of coping with the destructive nature of this disease. I am not proud of the sins of my past but God who is faithful and loving has protected me from myself and has given me a new life in Him. He never left me, although I shut the door on Him plenty of times in my frustration, heartache and self pity. Today God is such a powerful force in my life that I find strength to share the good news to all who will listen. I share my story and struggles so that others will know that our God is a God of love and it hurts Him when He sees us suffering. I pray that all of us with a disability will realize that we are never forgotten and although God may not heal our bodies He can heal our hearts so that we may experience joy. I long for God to heal all of us and I long to hear from more Christian speakers with disabilities. Thank you and may God bless you in every aspect of your life.

  4. Ganise 30th October, 2014 at 8:52 am #

    So happy to have discovered your blog. Gorgeous words – thank you for pointing out that sorrow in itself is not a good thing. I like Bible study. Will try to keep in mind your blog.

    • Tanya 30th October, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

      Thank you so much for discovering me, Ganise! The best way to keep in touch with me is by signing up to receive my posts by email. Hope to see you around here! Blessings.

  5. Teresa 16th September, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

    Greetings! I found you via Leanne Penny, so I read her post today and then browsed around. You write with such wisdom and courage. Thanks for sharing your story and for finding the gold. I love how you explained suffering, which is how I see it as well. I think sometimes people are too quick to see suffering as some kind of punishment or cosmic lesson from God. He can teach us lessons in our suffering, but I don’t think it is his plan to cause our suffering. Yes, sometimes he allows it when he could remove it, but the suffering is because we live in a fallen world. God is faithful and works in spite of our suffering. The gold we glean in the process brings glory and honor to him and strengthens our faith.

    • Tanya 17th September, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

      It’s lovely to meet you, Teresa! I’m glad you found me via Leanne – she’s fab. And I can tell you’ve thought a lot about suffering and how it fits with faith. Thanks so much for stopping by – do return!

    • Brooke Lynn 11th October, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

      Dear Tanya,

      On November 1st, 2014 my book Raised by Strangers will be released. I believe your readers would greatly benefit from this book. Raised by Strangers is a powerful story of hope, containing an extravagant message of God’s love and redemption.

      When I was just five years old, I was kidnapped and forced to live a life burdened with cruel physical and emotional abuse. I was ultimately raised by strangers who tortured me. By harnessing my inner will to survive, I was inspired by an invisible hope, helping me fight off demons and stay alive. In Raised by Strangers, I courageously uncover my true life story and reveal forbidden secrets driven by darkness and deception.

      My life story will help others find the courage and strength for healing within themselves, to face their fears, forgive offenses, and live a life of freedom. People will learn their past doesn’t have to define them or forecast their future. I am already witnessing God use this book in mighty ways and expecting many more miracles.

      Will you please consider reading my book, writing an endorsement, and sharing Raised by Strangers with your readers on your website?

      Thank you for your time and consideration in reviewing my story. If you are able and willing to do so, please contact me at BrookeLynnMail@gmail.com and I will send you a PDF of my book to read.

      All for His grace and glory,
      Brooke Lynn

      • Tanya 30th October, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

        HI Brooke Lyn
        Congratulations on the book! It sounds great. I’m really sorry, but I have a stack of books on my ‘to read’ pile, and not enough time to read them. I wish you all the best with your book, though – it sounds like it could be very helpful for a lot of people

  6. 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!

  7. 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,

    • 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!

  8. 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. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Please send me my free ebook and updates