“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
She wasn’t talking about me. In fact, her story had nothing to do with me. But I took offense regardless.
She was sharing about her own struggles through a season of anxiety. Retelling how she had prayed more, relied on God more and ultimately was “freed” from her anxious thoughts. The small group of women in the room nodded their heads in approval while I silently stewed in my own frustrations. How nice for her.
You see, I knew anxiety well. It had been a constant companion of mine for most of my adult life. At times, my anxiety was manageable and undetected by most. But other times, the anxiety felt unbearable, leaving me in a heap of despair and tears on the closet floor. I had prayed. I had relied on God more. And yet anxiety remained the thorn in my side I couldn’t shake.
I knew the Lord’s promises of His grace and power being made perfect in my weakness. I had read about the Apostle Paul’s own thorn and his exhortation to “… boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses” (2 Corinthians 12:9b, NIV). But most days, boasting was the last thing I wanted to do, and I couldn’t help but wonder why the thorn still remained so present in my life. Why me? Was I praying wrong? Was I being punished? Would I struggle with this forever?
Continuously, I wrestled with God over my thoughts — questioning, lamenting and repenting on repeat — until graciously, a remembered verse from years past came to mind:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
It had been a verse I first learned as a child to earn gummy worms in Sunday school. I could still recite it back in my sleep! But this time, the words of the verse seemed to settle on my heart differently. This time, conviction stirred deep within my soul.
I hadn’t been trusting the Lord with ALL of my heart — I had been second-guessing Him. I hadn’t submitted ALL of my ways to the Lord — I had been leaning on a crutch of complaint. And I hadn’t remained focused on the Lord’s path before ME — I had been enviously eyeing the paths of others. My thorn had begun to overshadow my faith, and I knew I needed to realign my heart.
In this life, we all have thorns. These thorns can be self-inflicted, caused by others or simply be the unfair result of our broken world. Some thorns are with us for only a season while others remain throughout our lives. There are thorns of depression, anxiety, anger and addiction. Thorns of loss, divorce, infertility and broken relationships. Thorns of chronic illness, physical handicaps and everything in between.
But the Truth we must cling to is that these thorns are only thorns. And no shadow from any thorn could ever eclipse the sovereignty of our Lord. He knows our struggles; He sees our pain; and He is calling us to trust Him fully. To submit wholly and to follow as Paul did. Why? Because His power is made perfect in our weaknesses! When we give our hearts to our heavenly Father, we are graciously given access to His presence. We no longer must bear our thorns alone.
Today, anxiety still remains a struggle for me — I haven’t been “freed.” But as I practice trusting the Lord more fully, I am better able to see His goodness at work — transforming my bemoanings to boastings — as His strength sustains me through each day and His peace quiets each frazzled thought. With God at my side, I can persevere. And the same is true for you.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your sovereign presence and provision in my life. Forgive me for the times my trust has wavered and my complaints have been many. Realign my heart and direct my path to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.