The Thorn Factor

February 20, 2011

by Maria Fontaine

Audio length: 4:31

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I don’t think that God intended any marriage to be perfect. I think of it as the “thorn” factor that He allows into the equation—that element that we shrink from, but that He knows we need. You may ask yourself, “Why would we need differences of opinion, sensitivities, misunderstandings, jealousies, resentments, comparing, sacrificing, arguments, emotional upsets, fears, heartbreaks, and adversity? Those things don’t sound like they would build a very strong marriage.”

This reminds me of the well-known adage, “It’s your attitude toward adversity that counts.” We can’t escape the fact that character and moral depth are developed through difficulties. If we didn’t experience the trials of life, we wouldn’t learn how to exercise the qualities that make us better people—patience, understanding, forgiveness, and more.

Misunderstandings, disagreements, hurts, even wrongs, force us to respond to them. We can choose to stretch, to become better, to reach out to the Lord for more of His love, to forgive, to make a conscious decision to learn what we can from the situation. Marriage is full of such opportunities.

It’s how we face the circumstances that come into our life and what we do with them that counts. Will we learn from our difficulties and become better or will we become hardened? Will we become humbler or prouder? Will we become creative in solving problems or will we sink under them in despair? Will we become desperate to become what we should be in order to handle the difficulties, or will we become accusatory and critical? Will we become more committed to “wrestling with the angel” until we get the blessing, or will we be tempted to quit when the going gets difficult?

Even when we do our very best and we grow and learn and mature, there are always more challenges ahead, because that’s the way God created life to be. We overcome one difficulty and then we go on to another one. But each victory is a step forward. Each victory is fulfilling. Each victory takes us further along the road of progress.

But what about when we can’t overcome something and it seems that we’re doomed to permanent frustration in some area? If we’ve done what we can and we’ve prayed all we can pray, God’s word to us is that we are not a failure and all is not lost. “Having done all, we can still stand”[1] and allow the Lord to lead our hearts into His patient perseverance (2 Thessalonians 3:5 NLT).

The Lord may know that these rocky areas in life are actually more beneficial to us in some way than a smooth road would be. In partnership with our heavenly Husband, we can evaluate the situation and let Him show us how He sees it and how we should look at it. We can let Him show us the advantages of our particular relationship, smooth or difficult. Then we can praise Him for our life and the obstacles and difficulties, as well as the smooth and pleasant experiences.

As we communicate with Him about our relationship, He will motivate us to do better in the areas we need to, He will encourage us for the good we are doing, and He will help us to keep His flame of love burning in our relationship. He loves us so much, and with His power behind us, we will have strength and grace to meet the next challenge.

[1] Ephesians 6:13.