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.

35 Responses to Why Thorns and Gold?

  1. Peter Riley 7th June, 2019 at 11:14 am #

    Hi Tanya, I have just read your wonderful LICC article ‘The surprising power of kindness’ and followed it through to your Website and watched your video etc. My heart goes out to you. I too suffered from M.E from 1979-1984 and since 1997 another chronic health condition called panhypopituitarism as a result of a pituitary tumour. I know you will be fed-up with well-meaning advice but I wonder if I can share a very simple thought with you? Since Matthew 10:7-8 and 28:18-20 perhaps the works of Jesus have been delegated to his disciples?
    Apologies for the silly illustration, but on a Sunday morning I guess your husband obeys the command to ‘preach the Gospel’ by opening his mouth and trusting the Holy Spirit to empower his words (i.e. he doesn’t sit in silence and ask God to deliver the sermon!). If this is true then logically the same must also apply to healing. About five years ago, in a small Lancashire village, a visiting Christian speaker actually raised a man from the dead who had collapsed and died half way through the meeting. I know this because a G.P. friend of mine who was seated directly behind, examined the man, established he had died (his heart and breathing had stopped, pupils dilated etc.) and then as he prepared to start CPR, the speaker commanded the man to come back to life in Jesus’ name at which point he stood up and started running around (which he was unable to do previously owing to a disability caused by a stroke) and as later confirmed at Hospital was completely well.
    All I can humbly suggest from my own brokenness is to consider asking the Holy Spirit to guide you to a place/person which/who is authentically rediscovering the delegated authority to heal. I appreciate in the UK this healing authority is still tragically rare (it’s a bit like asking you to find water in the middle of the Sahara!) but I hope my story illustrates that the resurrection/healing power of Jesus, whilst much more often witnessed in the developing world, can still be experienced in the West although, as in Luke 5:18-26, travel and overcoming seemingly impenetrable barriers might be involved!
    I passionately believe that God’s heart is breaking to see all that Jesus paid for on the Cross experienced by all his precious sons and daughters including you and me. Please don’t let my ‘daft idea’ put you under any pressure, but maybe next time you have a chat with “Daddy God” ask Him what He thinks!
    Cheers and blessings
    Peter Riley

  2. Allan Taylor 19th January, 2018 at 2:01 am #

    Hi Tanya
    Just found your blog via the Sheldon Hub. I am a Methodist minister and have lived with RA for over 50 yrs now. Luckily, although the disease has done considerable damage, I am still quite active as a part-time hospital chaplain and still preaching most Sundays.

    I have subscribed and hope to read more of your blog in the coming days. I think the name of your blog is inspired and inspirational!


  3. Bea Stanyer 31st October, 2017 at 8:34 am #

    Hi Tanya,
    A friend posted an article on Facebook so I’ve found your blog through that. I have Fibromyalgia. I’ve had it for probably 15 or more years but I’m sure it became worse through my divorce and miscarriage. I studied Theology at LBC and was a primary school teacher and a local preacher. I had to give up teaching in 2014 due to stress and worsening of my Fibro. I’m currently selling currency from a little glass box which kind of sums up my present condition!!! I’m so glad I found your blog. I’ve definitely been mining for gold these last few years whilst being prodded by the thorns. I’ve been writing a book for the last couple of years about walking with God so I’m so encouraged by your story. It’s given me hope that I can be effective even though my wings have been clipped too. Will be reading your posts with interest. So many thanks.

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