Thorns of the Flesh
Romans 1:24,25 God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts… because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.
Have you ever found yourself in a place you did not intend to go? I once took care of a patient who woke up in the Emergency Room after accidentally taking too many sedatives. The honest mistake was not life threatening but when the individual woke up in the ER, it was no small shock and took a lot of explaining to make it make sense. What happened? How did I get here?
I have been there, sort of. When I found myself in treatment, it was like waking up into a nightmare. What happened? How did I get here? I knew how I got there though. I just did not want to admit it. I had followed my own flesh nature to its predictable consequences. When I looked back, I had to admit that I had been walking towards treatment for years. Following the desires of my flesh eventually led me to disaster.
Paul said as much when he explained our need for God in the opening chapter of Romans: Do you want to know how we got here? Do you want to know why the world is the way it is? Our creator made us to follow him but He gave us a choice to follow self. We chose to follow self and thus, chose pain and corruption. We surrendered the truth of following God for the lie of following self and we have paid the price of separation from him.
Do you want to know why you struggle like you do? Do you want to know why you wrestle with malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness, gossip, slander, hate, insolence, pride, foolishness, faithlessness, and cruelty? You struggle with these things because it is your nature. You have pursued your flesh and found its thorns. This is now your condition. You are lost and you need God. In your lostness, you may not even realize your need. You have followed the defects of your flesh nature only to find disaster and you may not even see it.
The truth is, we all struggle with defects (thorns) of our flesh nature. We may not be responsible for the specific defects we have. I did not choose my addictive personality. That is the hand God allowed me to be dealt. I cannot change the fact that donuts will always taste good to me, but only I get to choose whether or not I indulge in my flesh nature.
When I woke up in treatment, I had to admit that I got there because I had followed me instead of God. I pursued my flesh defects and I paid the consequences. I was not responsible for the hand I was dealt, but only I was responsible for how I played my hand.
The problem, as Paul stated it, is that we are continually under the corrupt influence of our defects. Those thorns tug at us as surely as gravity. No matter how hard we try, we will always feel the pull of our flesh nature. On our own, we are doomed.
Did Paul write this to demoralize us? No, he wrote this so that we would understand our need for God. Since the fall, we are all born with self-destruction programmed into us. We all fail and we all pursue self. On our own, we cannot free ourselves from the thorns. That, Paul said, is why we need God.