Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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The Blessing of Thorns, Day 4

Leslie Basham: Everybody has a situation they worry about.

Marian: It is an unsaved son who is into New Age . . .

Woman: Surgery

A Mother: I had a son who was on drugs for five years.

Marian: Twenty-five years . . .

Dorothy: My granddaughter who lived with us for a while really rebelled against God, and I have cried buckets of tears.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for November 26, 2015. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day is a joyful celebration of family and freedom. But for a lot of people, it’s also a reminder of some of the painful situations in life. All week, Nancy’s been in a series called “The Blessing of Thorns.” She’s been showing us how to give thanks in every situation—even the tough ones. Especially the tough ones. We’ll hear from Nancy in a few minutes, but some listeners have been with us through this series will explain what the thorns represent to them.

Marian: It is an unsaved son who is into New Age, and this has been going on for twenty-five years. What I’m trying to learn from it is to let God carry my burden because I cannot release the thorn until I see progress in my son. And I don’t see it. So I’ve learned to let the circumstance be taken over by God and get some peace just from knowing that He knows. And I’ll wait and see what He does with it.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Marian is illustrating the fact that God doesn’t always remove the thorn, that it can be chronic, recurring, unrelenting, and doesn’t go away. That’s what makes the thorn thorny. That’s what makes it difficult. It’s not two months. We’re talking twenty-five years.

But God is saying to Marian, “If I never remove this thorn . . .” And she prays. She’s praying for her son. I know she’s not going to stop praying. But God is saying to her, “If I never remove that, My grace is sufficient for you for this situation.”

And Marian has had to come to the place as do all of us where she says, “I will receive what God has for me if I cannot understand it; I can’t see the end of it; I can’t figure it out; I can’t change it.”

Women are great at trying to change our thorns, trying to fix it even if we’ve got to manipulate everyone around us into where we think they should be. But God puts us sometimes in a place where we can’t change the person. We can’t change the situation. And He says, “Let Me give you My grace that will be sufficient for you to endure and to glory in this cross” (2 Cor. 12:9 paraphrase).

God has purposes that are bigger than Marian, bigger than her son—redemptive purposes for their lives and for others and for this world, and He is at work fulfilling those purposes when you cannot see.

When it looks like God has abandoned you, when it looks like He has forsaken you, when it looks like He is asleep on the job or He’s got His eyes closed or He’s busy taking care of problems in another part of the world, God does see. He does know. He does care. He will never leave you and His grace will always, always, always be sufficient for that thorn.

Someone else?

Dorothy: My name is Dorothy, and I have a similar thorn. My granddaughter who lived with us for a while really rebelled against God, and I have cried buckets of tears.

I finally have gotten to the place where I prayed and I said, “If the Lord wants her saved . . .” And He’s given me the grace to believe that even after I’m dead, the day will come that He’s going to answer that prayer, and I’ve been able to release that to Him. That's not to say that there aren’t times I still cry. But nonetheless, I still feel like God has reassured me that He is working and will work, and that just gives me real peace.

Nancy: God is working and will work. That doesn’t mean in every situation that He’s going to change our circumstances. But it means He is working and He will continue working. And He’s going to give His peace and His grace.

Remember what Jesus said as He was getting ready to go the cross in the upper room, in John 14, 15, and 16? He promised there would be many troubles (John 16:33). But He said He would give much peace because His presence would never leave. “I’ll never leave you. I’ll be there” (John 14:18 paraphrase).

So there will be many troubles. But in the midst of that there can be great peace because He never leaves or forsakes us.

Someone else?

Shirley: My name is Shirley. As I’ve sat and listened all this morning to Nancy talking about the thorns of life, I was just reminded of many, many things that have happened in my life that I guess you could view as thorns.

But I, like Nancy was, on many occasions I’ve sat down and I’ve looked back over my life, and I’ve thought about different situations in life that could have broken me. But instead, God has used those things to strengthen me.

I’ve never been one who said, “God, why me?” I’ve come to understand that there’s a reason we go through the things that we go through. And that is in order that we indeed may be blessings to others.

Because of many of the things that have occurred in my life, God has prepared me to be able to minister to other young women all around me. It’s one thing for someone who’s never had the experience to say to you that God is with you, and you can make it, and it’s going to be okay.

But it’s something different when you can minister to someone out of your own experiences and your own hurts, and you can say, “I know that I know that I know that I know that He’s able.”

There are aspects of the heart and the ways of God that we would never see apart from affliction.

A Mother: As I listened to the mothers and the pain that they have with their children, I think for women who are mothers that’s probably the area of the sharpest thorns. It is for me.

I had a son who was adopted, and he had allergies and learning disabilities. He couldn’t navigate the academic waters of school, so he never did finish high school. He was on drugs for five years. He never could hold a job.

As his mother I kept trying to think of ways to fix him. I spent a lot of time and energy and money and prayer and finally just became hopeless because I never saw anything change. So I got tired of praying for him because I didn’t know what to pray for any more. I’d prayed for so many things for such a long time, and I didn’t see any change.

God just led me one day to every day say, “Lord, I just thank You that he’s in Your hands.” That’s the only thing I could pray any more. And I just gave up.

Then God in His incredible power totally delivered my son from everything and changed him. He’s a brand new person. And this last month he got chosen the FamilyLife servant of the month for hard work and high integrity. He works at the warehouse here.

I just want to encourage mothers that sometimes we just have to let go and be willing for our children to die actually and leave them in God’s hands. I don’t know how to end this story because there’s no end to it. It keeps going on and on and on. And I just watch my son love Jesus more every day. It’s such a blessing to our lives.

What I learned from it was humility. As Christian parents we think our children should really do well and look good and make us look good. So the humility of that is really freeing.

I know my thorns that hurt me the most are not like Paul’s that came from the outside. They were the ones that came from my own failures and my own sins. And I’m just thankful for God’s forgiveness and His restoration. I don’t have a story of doing it right. I have a story of God moving in and rescuing us.

Nancy: And that’s what God’s grace is about—making all things new. We just see one little bit of the story here and now. If we could see it from God’s vantage point . . . You’ve heard me say it before, and I love this quote—it’s not original with me—that “God’s will is exactly what we would do and choose if we knew what God knows.”

And one day we will see. We will know. And we’ll say, “Lord, You did it right. It was good. I see now the big picture. I could only see my little bitty part.” But when we see the big picture of what God is accomplishing and making this fallen world new, restoring people and the planet to be as He intended it to be, then we’ll see how thorns are a part of that.

Someone else?

Kathy: My name is Kathy. I would have to say that the ongoing thorn in the life of our family would be our daughter Stephanie who has autism, who is now nineteen. Over the years different things that we’ve gone through with her . . . a couple of lessons just came to my mind this morning as you were talking.

One is that over the years we’ve learned that it’s in acceptance of the autism, that’s where the peace has come—not the hundreds of therapies that we’ve tried and the many things we’ve done to try and fix her. It’s the acceptance that it’s from God’s hands.

I remember my husband and I finally seeing very clearly a couple of years ago that Stephanie is not autistic for her sake. She doesn’t even know she’s autistic, really. But she’s autistic for our sakes to make us better people, more compassionate, more caring, to draw us closer to God. And that’s exactly what she’s done.

Someone once asked me, “What did you think when you first got the diagnosis that Stephanie was autistic? What went through your mind?” And I remember really clearly it was, I am never going to really know her like I will my other children. It’ll be impossible.

And then I thought, You know, we’ve got a life after this one where we’re going to live on forever. And in light of that fact, some day I’m going to see Stephanie as she was meant to be. And in light of forever, this life is a blink.

So I hang onto that. And Nancy, as you were talking this morning, there’s this poem I wrote in this Bible I don’t know when . . . years ago. It’s by Martha Nicholson. And just the last two lines . . . I’m in the process of learning this all the time every day. I can read it here. She ends it like this,

I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace.
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil that hides His face.

Nancy: There are aspects of the heart and the ways of God that we would never see, would never know apart from affliction. There are aspects of God’s face that would always be veiled to us if we couldn’t see Him through our tears, through the pain, through the heartache.

There are aspects of God’s face that would always be veiled to us if we didn’t see Him through our tears.

I’ve watched Kathy and Jane and others in this room go through some of these thorns. I’ve just seen what you probably can’t see as well yourselves, and that is the fragrance, the rose that has come out of your briars, the beauty of Christ in some of you women that I’ve watched deal with thorns of different sizes and shapes and types. I’ve seen how God is using some of you women to be a huge blessing and encouragement and means of grace to others because of what you’ve been willing to accept, receive, and thank God for in the thorns He’s brought into your lives.

Anyone else?

Kathy: My name is Kathy, and two times in my adult life I have—through illness, through surgery—have had to be totally dependent on someone else for everything. I was always a strong woman. I could do everything. But God humbled me in a way that I never expected in these illnesses that I had and these surgeries. He brought me to the place that I knew that I had to totally depend on Him.

The Scripture “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” became a daily, hourly quote for me (Phil. 4:13). The thing that I learned through that that was a long process—and He did leave me with a physical thorn that people can’t see but I feel every day—is to try to help others.

The main thing I learned is I can’t remove their thorns, as much I want to remove them. Maybe God just wants me to help them bear their thorns. He is the only one who can remove the thorns from their lives. At one time I thought I could, and He has humbled me to the point to realize that He is sufficient for all the thorns in our lives.

Nancy: Amen. That’s Kathy. I’ve watched Kathy go through some thorns with grace—a lot of grace—over these last couple years.

Anyone else?

Karen: My name is Karen. You said that trouble is not merely to be endured, but welcomed. I’ve always been such a strong, self-sufficient person, very controlling. Sometimes God just has a way of bringing us to the end of ourselves, and I feel like that’s where I am right now.

This past week there’s been a decline in my health. I went to the doctor and I was diagnosed with lupus, which is a chronic illness. There’s really no cure for it, and there are different levels that you can have with this illness that will determine how it affects you.

I realized today that God brought me here to prepare my heart for the thorn. Your question was, “Are we willing to have that thorn remain so that we would be more dependent upon God?” My prayer in the last six months has been that my determined purpose would be to know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His person. And if this is how I have to know Him, I’m willing.

Leah: First I said I wasn’t going to do this because I heard myself on the radio before and so did other friends, and I just thought, I’m not going to do this again. But I did feel moved.

I have a son that is deep in sin, and that grieves my heart. I also have two granddaughters that are affected by his divorce, by his choosing not to follow God, and by his choosing in his pain to ignore God. That is tremendous.

But in the season of my life now and in the course of much tears—buckets and buckets of tears—I do leave him in God’s hands and I see that God is blessing my little granddaughters. One received Christ last year and was baptized. And we flew up to Kansas City—I don’t mean air, by highway—for a baptism.

But the thorn . . . and this is so unusual, really, that this is your topic because this is something I keep asking God. I have a flaw, and I don’t know if that could be a thorn. But I see it as a horrible flaw in my heart and in my life and in my character, and I pray for God to take that away.

These flaws are from years of sexual abuse in my childhood and various other things—not feeling cared about or approved or valued by my family. But coming to know how much Jesus loves me year by year, I feel like I should not have these flaws that I still have. I so want to be a godly woman, a woman that my granddaughters would always say of, “My grandmother was a godly woman.”

But I still have these character flaws that grieve me. And that’s what I see as the thorn, because it hurts. It pinches me because I think I hurt other people when I have said things or done something that was so fleshly.

So my thorn, I really see the utmost thorn is I’ve got too much flesh and not enough of Christ. And I so desire to be that; I’d like that on my tombstone, “Godly Woman.” But I fear they’d say, “She was a temperamental old lady,” or something. And I don’t want to be temperamental. I want to be a godly woman, and I hope that nothing will impair that.

But I have seen that this could be a blessing. I’ve seen people, some ladies in particular (I don’t even pretend to understand men; I’ve raised two sons, still don’t know them that well), but I’ve seen some women act just like I have in the past, and still a little bit too much at this time of my life.

I’ve been able to try and encourage them. “I know that bothered you. That bothered you that you were ignored,” or “That bothered you that you didn’t get that particular committee chair that you felt so led to do,” and a variety of other issues that can come up.

I’ve seen them hurt and crushed by it and even angry about it. I’ve seen them have the attitude, “I give up. I quit. Serving God is too tough.” Been there, done that, as they say. But I don’t like that quality in me.

But I have been able to come up to someone and give them a hug. And I say, “I know that hurts. But just try to give it to the Lord and know that you can serve Him maybe in another capacity. Maybe what your heart desired wasn’t in that area. Just give it to God.”

So I don’t know if it’s blessed anyone because it sure has me. But that is really a thorn that sometimes I feel Satan buffets me with. And I feel the pain. And sometimes I’ll react in such an un-Christlike way that I’m so disappointed in me.

That’s kind of the thorn. I don’t see how it could be a blessing to anyone, except that I do understand and I never condemn anyone if they act in a temperamental way to me. I see that it’s some kind of hurt in there that’s never been really totally healed or given to God.

Nancy: I don’t suppose there would be anybody in this room who would relate to what Leah just said, would you? You know, Leah, I didn’t think of it as a thorn but it’s true in my life that one of the greatest burdens I bear being in public ministry teaching the Word to others is the sense of failure I feel when I’m not living up to what I’m teaching, especially series like this one where you’re talking about responding in joy to thorns, and I see that I’m not.

Everybody like us has to go back to the cross—to the One who bore those thorns for our sakes so that we could be healed. And where sin abounds—we don’t want to credit God with sin—but “where sin does abound grace much more abounds” (Rom. 5:20 paraphrased).

I’m so thankful day after day after day that God would have mercy and would let me teach things that I know are true; then see me fail in those areas and give me grace to humble myself, to repent, to get up again and keep going by His grace, remembering some day that there will be no more curse, no more thorns, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more weeping, tears, death—all banished; no more darkness, no more night, a cloudless, endless, thornless day in His presence.

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been taking us through an honest look at the challenges that come in a broken world. But she’s also been showing us why we can have hope. Today’s program is part of a series called "The Blessing of Thorns." It’s been an exploration of the power of thankfulness.

Nancy will take you deeper in this subject in her book, Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy. I hope you’ll let this Thanksgiving Day be the launch of a new sense of thankfulness as a way of life. We’ll send you the book Choosing Gratitude—one per household—when you make a donation of any amount this week. Call and ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit, make your donation and get a copy of Choosing Gratitude.

Tomorrow we’ll hear another life story of approaching crisis with gratitude and trust. Lauren Chandler will be our guest. It was on Thanksgiving Day several years ago that her husband collapsed while she was making Thanksgiving dinner.

Lauren Chandler: I had just come in from the grocery story. I could hear Matt and the kids in the living room. They were watching a parade on TV, or something like that. I went into the kitchen and started making breakfast. All of a sudden I just heard this clatter in the living room. I waited to hear Matt say, "It's okay. I've got it. It was just one of the kids." But I didn't hear anything. Then I heard my six-year-old say, "Daddy?"

I walked in there and Matt was on the ground having a grand mal seizure. The other kids were just watching TV. So I immediately shielded his body from hurting himself and the kids. I had my phone. I called an ambulence. They were there quickly. My parents were there to take the kids. They rushed him to the ER.

Leslie: Hear what she learned in the process. Please be back tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.