Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.
II Corinthians 12:7
Good morning Prayer Team!
Have you ever had a perfect day? I’m sure there are some days when you look back at life and think “wow, that was like the perfect day.” Except that if you examine even the “most perfect” of days closely, you are certain to find something in it that was imperfect.
Most days are far from perfect. Hopefully you have more good days than bad ones, but just about every day, in my life anyway, there is something that goes wrong-a conversation I wish I had back, a decision I wish I had made differently, a careless word I should have just kept to myself. These little things often “nag” at us, at our mental and eventually spiritual states.
St. Paul writes to the Corinthians that he felt that a thorn was given to him in the flesh. He ascribes it to being a messenger of Satan. And the purpose of this thorn is to keep him humble, to keep him from boasting. Each of us, if we think about it, probably has some “thorn” in our life as well. An annoying habit, a situation that we dread being in but find ourselves in often (one of mine is that I don’t like confrontation). And this can frustrate us, it can humble us, and it can also motivate us.
Frustration is a result of our fallen world-no one is perfect. No relationship is perfect. No marriage is perfect. No child is perfect. Nothing is perfect. Only God is perfect. So frustrations at our imperfections and the imperfections of others is going to be a life-long struggle. Frustration must be managed. It can’t be conquered.
The “thorns” in our lives should humble us. If you’ve ever had the experience of getting stuck with a thorn, it takes some patience and some bravery to have it removed. There is a little pain involved but relief soon follows. And this is what it takes to be humble-patience, bravery, sometimes a little pain is involved but there is a sense of relief to be found in humility.
And “thorns” should motivate us, not only to conquer them, or remove them, but to rely on the Lord and on our faith to manage the thorns that inevitably come up in life. St. Paul is correct that thorns are Satan’s messengers, trying to knock out off of our spiritual “game.” Patience, vigilance and strength are needed and the foundation of all of these qualities comes from the Lord and it comes through prayer. This is why we pray “unceasingly” because the thorns of life are around us without ceasing. Prayer many times provides healing, and at other times when healing is not possible, it provides patience and perspective.
One last comment on thorns. Roses are among the most beautiful flowers. Yet, every rose has thorns-we see the beauty along with the danger, the good with the bad. Life may be filled with thorns, but our heart and our spirit, when filled with the Lord, is like a rose. And while every rose has its thorns, when you look at roses, you see the beautiful of the flower, not the nuisance of the thorn. If you strive to live a Christian life, you will see the beauty of your life, you will focus on God’s blessings, you will be more focused on gratitude, than on the nuisance of your thorns.
Lord, help me to be grateful today. Help me to blossom like a rose and manage my thorns so they don’t take away from the beauty which you have put into me. Help me to see the beauty in those around me, rather than their thorns. And when a thorn pierces part of my life, give me patience, humility, courage and whatever I may need so that the thorn won’t take away from the beauty of my day, nor the opportunity to serve and glorify You today. Amen.
Have a beautiful day!