Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

What I'm Learning from My Thorn in the Flesh

  • blogspot for Dena Johnson of Dena's Devos
  • Updated Feb 05, 2016

I am locked in a prison of silence.

Yes, as I write this post, I am on day ten of laryngitis. It seems to be a semi-annual affair for me. One minute I am fine; the next, my voice is faint, high-pitched, and very, very squeaky. I’ve been told that I sound like Minnie Mouse on helium.

I have no idea why my voice is so susceptible. A scratchy throat. A cough. Congestion. Allergies. Asthma. I don’t even know any more. The point is, anything can cause my voice to simply disappear…leaving me in a prison of silence. And no one can explain why I lose my voice so easily. I keep seeking answers.

Three years ago, my bout with laryngitis lasted for eight weeks. Eight very long weeks. I tried every known home remedy. I saw family doctors, ear-nose-throat doctors, laryngologists. I even went to a speech therapist. Finally, a speech pathologist at the hospital where I work showed me this nifty trick: if I pushed on a wall and talked, my voice was normal. If I wasn’t pushing, I was Minnie Mouse on helium. Then, push on a wall and I’m back to normal. Talk about entertaining. I certainly turned a few heads with that little trick! And then one day, after a couple weeks of talking while pushing on walls, my voice suddenly returned. Strangest. Thing. Ever.

And my kids. I have to tell you that my kids are very well trained. All I have to do is snap my fingers, clap my hands, stomp my feet. They jump to attention and listen carefully. After years of this battle, it’s just second nature for them. And, when we go places, they jump in and act as my voice. I wish I could get the same response when I have my normal voice…

It’s very, very frustrating. Sometimes painful. Always exhausting. My job requires me to talk all day long. Face-to-face meetings. Phone conversations. All. Day. Long. It is so difficult, so incredibly exhausting, to talk all day, to fight through the weakness. And yet, I do what I have to do.

I’ve asked God many times to take this weakness away, to heal me and allow my voice to be normal again. I’ve asked God why I have to fight this recurrent battle.

I haven’t gotten an answer. I simply consider it my thorn in the flesh.

One thing I notice is that this battle often comes after times of high stress and high activity. Being a single mom requires non-stop activity. Every waking moment is filled with something, and I usually collapse into bed at the end of the day.

Until I get laryngitis. I seem to slow down, take a few days off, rest. I find ways to escape the frenetic pace of my life and get away from it all. I tell the kids they are on their own as I slip into some peace and silence. I do my best to take time for myself, to care for myself.

And I think that’s why God allows it to keep happening. It’s the only way he can get my attention and convince me to rest. I’m pretty stubborn that way.

That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:5-10

As an outsider, we look at Paul’s life and we see an amazing man of God, a man filled with faith and courage. He boldly faced dangers and persecution to share the message of Christ. He had such an intimate relationship with God that he authored a large portion of the New Testament as we know it.

And yet, we don’t have a full understanding of Paul’s life. There was something that plagued him, something that made him feel incredibly weak. We don’t know what it was; we only know that he referred to it as a thorn in the flesh…and he begged God to take it away.

Paul says his thorn in the flesh was to keep him from becoming proud, to keep him humble in light of the amazing revelations he had seen. His thorn in the flesh served a purpose, kept him dependent on God.

And it was a constant reminder that he needs God’s strength, his grace. It reminded him that he is only human serving an omnipotent God. It reminded him that no matter what amazing revelations he heard from God, it was only because of God’s great grace and mercy that he was chosen to serve the kingdom. His thorn in the flesh kept him humble.

I suppose my laryngitis does the same. It’s so easy to get busy, to go through this life at a frenetic pace. I find myself going through the motions of spending time with God, but not actually connecting with him. I am so busy doing that I fail to be: Be still. Be quiet. Be alone with God.

Sometimes God has to bring me to the end of myself, force me to remember I cannot live this life on my own. He has to make me slow down, take care of myself, realize that life keeps going even when I can’t keep juggling all the balls. I can’t say that I like it, but I do understand the purpose.

And, I will delight all the more in his great grace. His grace that sees what I need even when I don’t. His grace that sustains me, especially in the difficult days. His grace that is more than sufficient to see me through. His grace that gives me exactly what I need, exactly when I need it (even if I don’t like it).

I’m thinking I’ll spend the next few days curled up in my bed, taking it easy. It’s time to remember I can’t keep going at this pace. It’s time to let my thorn in the flesh remind me that I am human.

And that I serve an Omnipotent Creator.