A Thorn In My Side

Sermon Titled “The Promise Fulfilled (Genesis 21:1-7) – July 28th, 2013

Genesis 21:1-7 is a group of verses which offer hope; they reveal the miracle birth of Isaac, the promised son whom Abraham and Sarah had to wait more than twenty years for. The fact that God made good on His word and brought about what He had promised is a miracle in itself, but the greatest miracle is that He enabled Abraham and Sarah to have a child when they were well advanced in years. Sarah herself, thought that the idea of giving birth at 90 years of age was so ludicrous that she laughed in mock disbelief. And that I believe, is how many of us react when we try to understand how God could possibly do something for us which would otherwise seem humanly impossible.

During the period of “waiting,” I’m sure that Sarah experienced many low moments. We’ve already learned in previous chapters of Genesis that Sarah struggled with her inability to conceive, and the desperate measures she took in giving her handmaid to Abraham to ensure that her husband’s bloodline would continue. In a Harvard health newsletter, published in 2009, it mentions a couple of studies which imply that infertility can cause serious depression; here’s an excerpt from that article:

  • One study of 200 couples seen consecutively at a fertility clinic, for example, found that half of the women and 15% of the men said that infertility was the most upsetting experience of their lives. Another study of 488 American women who filled out a standard psychological questionnaire before undergoing a stress reduction program concluded that women with infertility felt as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack.

We can assume then that Sarah (and maybe even Abraham to some degree), suffered enormous mental stress during the years that she tried to conceive and couldn’t. There are many examples throughout the bible of God’s abundant blessings for those who obey Him, and He promises to bless us too, yet He does not exempt us from experiencing hardships and trials that will cause us to feel pain.

Pastor Reimer asked the question last weekend, “Has anyone felt defeated this week?” I flinched as soon as he said those words, because although I had had the most wonderful week enjoying quality time with my parents who were visiting from New Zealand, I was also struggling internally with an issue which has plagued me for some time now. I wish I could make this “thing” go away, but it’s always there, rearing it’s ugly head at the most inopportune times and reminding me frequently that its not going anywhere any time soon.

So what can I do about it? I can choose to believe that God can’t possibly help me with something that seems humanly impossible to overcome, or I can choose to believe that He is who He says He is, and therefore able to perform a miracle in my life – just as He did in Sarah and Abraham’s lives. I may have to wait for that miracle to come, and it may not be exactly the miracle I am hoping for (or it may not come at all), but I am encouraged by the Apostle Paul, who shows us in 2 Corinthians 12:5-10, how we can deal with painful situations:

  • Paul talked about a “thorn in his side/flesh” which was a constant source of torment and grief (no one knows exactly what that “thorn” was, but some theories suggest that it was a chronic illness or bad eyesight). Whatever it was that plagued Paul, he claims that he begged God to take it away, and yet God never “healed” him. Realizing that he was probably going to have to deal with this “thorn” for the rest of his life, Paul eventually saw that he could draw strength from his weaknesses by simply accepting and acknowledging that God’s grace and power was enough to sustain him through all trials and tribulations.

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I too, now realize that God’s grace is exactly what I need if I no longer wish to feel defeated. And if I’m daring, I can even go as far as accepting that the “thorn” in my side is a blessing in disguise, because if I didn’t have it I might not seek God as much as I do. I just need to remind myself of the following words that were also preached in last weekend’s sermon:

  • “God honors our faith and rewards our patience!”
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