Thorns of Bitterness, A Meditation

Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled. Hebrews 12:15

My son decided to sit in a rose bush when he was playing with his friends in the yard. You know what happened. He did not leave unscathed.

Soon I heard a little boy’s cry, and he was limping across the yard. He seemed to be okay after a while and life went on. But what we did not know was that he had not one, but two thorns, embedded in his foot. We could see what we thought was a splinter, but our son would not let us touch it. We soaked the injury site, applied medicine and ointment, and hoped the splinter would work its way out. It did not.

A week later, our son’s foot was beginning to look infected, so we took a trip to urgent care. The doctor applied numbing cream, used a special tool, and extracted a thorn about a 1/4 inch long. She thought there was another thorn as well, but she couldn’t seem to find it as she scraped the skin. It just wasn’t visible. A lot of crying and consoling later, and our son was walking again, without a limp or pain.

However, it became apparent that something remained in his foot, and a few days later it again looked infected. Dad waited for our son to go to sleep. Then he worked on the foot again. No success. We just couldn’t find anything there. The thorn was not visible.

After a few days though, the bottom of our boy’s foot was still red and puffy. Finally, Dad decided to gently scrape the skin away and squeeze the site with his fingers. Out popped a smaller, but still ugly, thorn.

So often in the course of life, we are bruised and pierced by situations and people. We walk away from difficult situations with thorns embedded in our hearts and minds. Sometimes we are not even aware of the injury or the extent of our hurt.

A while later, it becomes obvious to our own tattered selves that we have not escaped. We still carry the thorns deeply embedded within us. If only we could just release that pain and move on, but too often the process is painful, long, and messy.

The Lord cautions us in Hebrews 12:15 to dwell in His grace and rely on His strength. Without His redeeming help, our hurts fester into bitterness.

God has His own way of rooting out this bitterness, if we will let Him. But the process is agonizing at times and often more drawn out than we would like.

My son had more than one thorn festering in his foot, and he begged us to leave them alone. Often we do that with God. We would rather He leave our wounds alone because to surrender them just seems too painful, too overwhelming. Maybe we would happily give up our pain if the release was instantaneous or easy. However, the process of healing is often slow and difficult.

It took a couple weeks to locate and remove all the thorns in our son’s foot. Sometimes it takes a while to fully understand our emotional pain as well; but prayer, counseling, and time will gradually help us to release the hurt that holds us back from being the people God wants us to be. In Hebrews 12:15, we are admonished to be diligent about abiding in God’s grace. It’s our only hope in a world that leaves us battered and bruised.

Father, help us to abide in you and in your grace. Release us from the pain of our past and the thorns of bitterness. Amen.

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