Are barbs or thorns popping up around you in your life at this very moment? No one is immune to painful situations. When a person loses a loved one, their heart naturally breaks as grief suffocates their world. Discouragement can fester when someone returns our kindness with disrespect. Confusion can swell out of control when we receive a termination of employment or a serious medical diagnosis.
Maybe it's our own self-talk that is deflating our spirit; talk that makes us feel less than or questions our purpose. Life doesn't have to throw storms our way to feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Everyday living can make for a tired heart...a heart in need of being lifted up. In the midst of whatever barbs you may be experiencing, it can be a struggle to see anything but them.
Yet, the barbs aren't defeating or intimidating this cardinal in the photo above. His gaze is not fixated on them. Instead, he is perched with courage, trust, authenticity, and perseverance. This bird is continuing to be, well simply...beautiful. With barbs all around him, this bird remains true to whom God says he is: a beautiful creation.
Are YOU being true to whom God says YOU are?
Could you use an encouraging reminder to nurture the courage within you today to be you…to be beautiful you? You are meant to thrive in every season of your life. You CAN flourish even in the midst of your thorns. But, even though I believe each of us were made to prosper, I can still find myself throwing my hands up and wonder, "How?" Do you, too?
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jeremiah 29:11
Here are five (5) ways to not let the thorns in your life keep you stuck:
1.) Change Your Gaze
Look forward. Look around. Look upward. Just stop looking at only the thorns. You’ve probably heard someone tell you that if you want to experience a different result, make a different choice. And, we do have a choice at what we look at.
Remember the Punch Buggy Game? For every Volkswagon Bug vehicle you saw while driving around town, the goal was to be the first to call it out and punch the person in the arm sitting next to you. On a normal day, these vehicles would pass on the road without notice. However, when playing the game, participants’ gaze brought the focused attention to the one vehicle, making it seem to appear more frequently. The truth is that what we pay more attention to, we see more of.
So, if we only see the thorns in our life, we provide more opportunity to see more of them. Change your gaze off of them, and you provide an opportunity to see something else. When you change your gaze to looking forward or upward, or at least just off of your thorns, your thorns don’t look so enormous and threatening. When you change your gaze to look upon the Lord, you make a choice towards relinquishing the paralyzing hold your thorns have held on you.
2.) Nurture The Courage Within
You have uniquely divine talents.
YOU have uniquely divine talents.
And you…and you…and you…
Each and every one of us has uniquely divine talents.
It’s just that we can sometimes not believe in them or trust them, and thus, not use them.
Let’s breathe encouragement into your uniquely divine talents, because God doesn’t have a substitute, a Plan B, or any other Plan, for you. The funny thing, or actually, the serious truth about encouragement is that you simply can't have encouragement without some COURAGE in it. It would just be “en-ment.”
Encouragement is one of those sentiments that can be thrown around freely without much action to it. We can do the same with love. I love this, I love that. I’d love to do this. I love it when that happens. Love, love, love. We need more love. Love is all we need. But, are we saying love more than BEING love? Are we saying encouragement more than BEING encouragement? Are you pro-encouragement saying the world needs more of it, but only “en-ment” when it comes to your own world?
Stop saying. Start being. Or at least let your words match your actions. Nurture the courage within YOU to trust YOUR divine talents and bravely use them to bless others.
3.) Rejoice In The Suffering
Rejoice in the suffering?
First, the how is by believing in God’s presence in the suffering and allowing His transformation of our vision to be more like Christ’s vision. To see the good in the bad. To see hope. To see pain in the purpose. Christ saw all these things through His life, death and resurrection.
The why should really be WHY NOT. The world is already a place of turmoil and strife. Could you imagine what it would be like if you remove the rejoicing and belief of God’s presence in the problems? It would probably look much like hell.
I don't know about you, but that makes me want to practice rejoicing in the suffering...now.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. - Romans 5:3-5
Product Note: The 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 pennant in the photo above is currently on sale for $12. You can shop & order here: Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks Pennant
4.) Guard Your Heart
Freeing yourself from a stuck place can feel liberating and wonderful. But, being free doesn’t mean to throw caution to the wind. If you do, you might find yourself right back in the muck and mire of your situation.
I enjoy that meme of a dog flying through the air with tongue hanging out captioned, “Live like someone left the gate open.” Isn’t that how we can live life sometimes? Feeling cooped up, trapped in a fenced area one day to then running rampant through an opening another day. We can fluctuate from one extreme to the other. We can be super high to then super low like a nauseating roller coaster.
Imagine with me the appearance of an actual healthy heart beat with its rhythmic and consistent ups and downs. The extremes of a healthy heart beat are either a beat out of rhythm with sporadic and inconsistent patterns all over the heart monitor or flatlining. Both extremes are dangerous to our well being.
There are moments in our life that we can’t help but to experience these physical extremes in our spirit. But, the goal is to always bring our spirit back to a healthy, consistent rhythm of a heart beat. And, we do this by guarding our heart.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
Occupy your mind with good thoughts, or the enemy will fill them with bad ones.—St. Thomas More
In company guard your tongue. In your family guard your temper. When alone guard your thoughts. —Venerable Matt Talbot
A man is really clean of heart when he is searching for the things of heaven, never failing to keep God before his eyes. —St. Francis of Assisi
5.) Ask For Help
Why is asking for help so difficult? Are we worried what someone else will think of us for our asking? That we might be viewed as weak or incapable? That we will be obligated in some way by the assistance? Or, do we simply not know what kind of help we need and thus, remain in limbo with our burden? Is it a pride thing?
How does one ask for help?
Asking someone to help, even if unaware of the actual assistance needed, can make us feel vulnerable, but it’s a risk worth taking to lead one self towards meeting one’s needs and freeing one’s stuck spirit. Asking for help fosters humility, and that is a good thing. I can tend to not ask for help out of stubbornness, and it only leads me to greater frustration and resentments. It leads to strained relationships, if not completely broken ones.
If your thorns in your life have to do with your professional work or business dreams, seek professionals doing what you want to do or who have experience doing what you are already doing. Do the research to learn how to get to where you want to go. Seek the help of reliable resources. Help yourself. Don’t let yourself stay stuck in the pity party zone. Keep seeking.
Another way to ask for help is to extend help to another or to pray for someone. This extension of help can propel a help for yourself, most of the time without intention to do so. The same can be said about offering forgiveness to someone or to yourself. This intentional act can be a humble lift to your spirit and allow yourself to go from “stuckness” to soaring. And, of course, another form of help can be in the way of simply praying asking God for His help in moving you: To move you to accept your thorns with a new spirit or to move you away from the thorns.
Many times, I can assume that someone else knows what I need in the way of help, but to only be disappointed that they did not provide the help. You know how the saying goes about assuming. It makes a “fool” out of you and me! But, I think the real saying is that it simply makes a “fool” out of me!
Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky has a famous quote that says: You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take. I believe the same is true about asking for help. You miss 100% of the help you never ask for. Why not take a shot and seek help to get unstock!
What other ways have you implemented to not let the thorns in your life keep you stuck?
Which of the above five (5) ways do you wish to be more intentional with in your current season of life?
I want to leave you with a story about thorns. It’s called Thankful for the Thorns. May you receive encouragement from it to not let the thorns in your life keep you stuck!
Sandra felt as low as the heels of her shoes when she pulled open the florist shop door, against a November gust of wind. Her life had been as sweet as a spring breeze and then, in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a "minor" automobile accident stole her joy. This was Thanksgiving week and the time she should have delivered their infant son. She grieved over their loss. Troubles had multiplied.
Her husband's company "threatened" to transfer his job to a new location. Her sister had called to say that she could not come for her long awaited holiday visit. What's worse, Sandra's friend suggested that Sandra's grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. "She has no idea what I'm feeling," thought Sandra with a shudder. "Thanksgiving? Thankful for what?" she wondered. "For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life, but took her child's?"
"Good afternoon, can I help you?"
Sandra was startled by the approach of the shop clerk. "I . . . I need an arrangement," stammered Sandra.
"For Thanksgiving? I'm convinced that flowers tell stories," she continued. "Are you looking for something that conveys gratitude this Thanksgiving?"
"Not exactly!" Sandra blurted out. "In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong."
Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the clerk said, "I have the perfect arrangement for you."
Then the bell on the door rang, and the clerk greeted the new customer,
"Hi, Barbara, let me get your order." She excused herself and walked back to a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and what appeared to be long-stemmed thorny roses. Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped: there were no flowers.
"Do you want these in a box?" asked the clerk. Sandra watched - was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers! She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed.
"Yes, please," Barbara replied with an appreciative smile. "You'd think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn't be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again," she said, as she gently tapped her chest.
Sandra stammered, "Ah, that lady just left with . . . uh . . . she left with no flowers!"
"That's right," said the clerk. "I cut off the flowers. That's the Special. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet. Barbara came into the shop three years ago, feeling much as you do today," explained the clerk. "She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had just lost her father to cancer; the family business was failing; her son had gotten into drugs; and she was facing major surgery. That same year I had lost my husband," continued the clerk. "For the first time in my life, I had to spend the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too much debt to allow any travel."
"So what did you do?" asked Sandra.
"I learned to be thankful for thorns," answered the clerk quietly. "I've always thanked God for the good things in my life and I never questioned Him why those good things happened to me, but when the bad stuff hit, I cried out, Why? Why me?! It took time for me to learn that the dark times are important to our faith! I have always enjoyed the flowers of my life, but it took the thorns to show me the beauty of God's comfort! You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we're afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others."
Sandra sucked in her breath, as she thought about what her friend had tried to tell her. "I guess the truth is I don't want comfort. I've lost a baby and I'm angry with God."
Just then someone else walked in the shop.
"Hey, Phil!" the clerk greeted the balding, rotund man.
"My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving arrangement . . . twelve thorny, long-stemmed stems!" laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.
"Those are for your wife?" asked Sandra incredulously. "Do you mind telling me why she wants a bouquet that looks like that?"
"Four years ago, my wife and I nearly divorced," Phil replied. "After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord's grace and guidance, we trudged through problem after problem, the Lord rescued our marriage. Jenny here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she had learned from "thorny" times. That was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific "problem" and give thanks for what that problem taught us."
As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, "I highly recommend the Special!"
"I don't know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life" Sandra said to the clerk. "It's all too . . . fresh."
"Well," the clerk replied carefully, "my experience has shown me that the thorns make the roses more precious. We treasure God's providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember that it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don't resent the thorns."
Tears rolled down Sandra's cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on her resentment.
"I'll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please," she managed to choke out.
"I hoped you would," said the clerk gently. "I'll have them ready in a minute."
"Thank you. What do I owe you?"
"Nothing. Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year's arrangement is always on me."
The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. "I'll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you would like to read it first."
It read: "My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to You along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much more brilliant."
Praise Him for the roses; thank Him for the thorns.
Hi! I'm Bonnie.