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3 Ways to Battle Your Thorn in the Flesh

Thorn in the Flesh

Oh my thorn in the flesh! A few weeks ago I had a challenging day at work. I received an email questioning some decisions I made and I immediately retreated into self-deprecating mode. I questioned my ability to lead and became overly critical of how I was doing in my job. Unfortunately that’s not the first time this pattern has played out.

My mind immediately drifted to food.

  • What can I eat?
  • What’s in the 8th floor kitchen?
  • How quickly can I get to CVS to buy some candy?

In my mind, the only way I was going to ease my anxiety and insecurity was to binge on some food. A Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup would make everything better right now. Some jelly beans or cherry sours will make my problems go away. Or maybe some Sour Patch Kids will fix my problems at work.

Fortunately I quickly realized the ridiculous nature of my thoughts. How can a piece of candy restore confidence with others? How would a bag of jelly beans fix my work problems?

I know it sounds crazy, but we all struggle with a thorn in the flesh like this. Maybe you think porn will fix your marriage or getting drunk will make your problems disappear. You feel lonely and anxious so you spend money you don’t have, thinking some new clothes or a new car will make everything better.

I prayed, took my thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), texted my community group guys, and sat down at my computer so I could start addressing the problems. It was a big victory in my battle with food!

How can you and I take ground in our battle with the thorn in the flesh?

Last week I started a short series about wellness. I shared how this battle is my thorn in the flesh and the reason why I haven’t written about wellness in about 15-18 months is because I’m not doing well and I don’t like to write about areas of failure. Today I continue this series on wellness by sharing some ways you and I can take some ground in our efforts to better honor God with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

In Part 1 of this series I referenced giving my testimony to a group of friends. As I shared my story I talked about my ups and downs in my battle with eating and referenced a few reasons why the battle continues for me. In the next two posts I’m sharing some of the reasons why I continue to fall short in my battle with wellness.

1) I haven’t involved others in my struggle.

While my community knows this is my #1 battle, I don’t always let them in. I give partial truths or ignore it and hope and pray they won’t ask me about it. If I’m doing well, then I’ll share, but when I’m losing the battle, no one gets in.

When I do this, I miss out on God’s provision to help me get well. I miss out on others challenging me (Proverbs 27:6, 17), encouraging me (Hebrews 3:13), and praying for me (James 5:16). I need to call this what it is: pride. When you and I don’t let others in to our challenges, we pridefully excuse our struggles because we’re so worried about what others think and we don’t believe we need their help.

For those of you who are married, engaged, or dating, how can you better involve your significant other in your struggles? Sometimes I do a great job of involving Kristen, other times I block her out as well. If you’re married, you’re one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Please include your spouse in your struggles (and your victories!).

Question: How can you further involve your community/closest friends into your battle with your thorn in the flesh?

Pray: God, please help us to involve others. Help us to be humble and to welcome the love, input, and prayer of other followers of Christ. Help us to not isolate from counsel and from the body of Christ.

2) At times I think it has to be all or nothing.

I’m really good at this one! If I resolve to eat healthy, then doggone it, I’m going to eat healthy. First, I start my day with eggs (mostly egg whites), salsa, veggies, water, and black coffee. I eat a salad for lunch, but then I run into some donuts in the eighth floor kitchen. I could take a small piece or better yet, ignore it, but I give in and eat an entire, delicious might I add, donut.

And now since I blew it with a donut, then I might as well fully enjoy the day. So maybe I eat another donut, eat a huge dinner, and binge on popcorn at night.

My thinking is ridiculous, but we all so often have an all or nothing attitude towards food. When you make a bad decision or a “less good” decision, acknowledge it, make changes, and move on. Part of the reason why eating has been a lifelong struggle is because I’ve made it an all or nothing battle. I’m going to lose every time until I learn to live in moderation and quickly recover from poor decisions.

Question: Do you have an all or nothing mentality in your struggle with your thorn in the flesh? How can you do a better job of recovering when you make less than stellar decisions?

Pray: God, please help us to be steadfast and stick to our convictions. But when we struggle, we pray you’d help us to recover quickly, admit when we fall short, and live in moderation instead of resigning ourselves to failure. We need your help.

3) I believe the lies of what my thorn in the flesh will offer.

Proverbs 23:3 says, “Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive” (NIV).

I’ve been deceived.

Too often I think the thorn in the flesh will satisfy, when all followers of Christ know everything in life apart from Jesus falls short. As I shared above, I think food will make the problems go away. Food is a gift from God and something we need to survive. But it will not deliver what it’s not intended to give.

Question: Where do you crave life and satisfaction where it’s not intended to be found?

Pray: Help us crave intimacy with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I pray you’d help us to find life where it’s intended to be found, not in anything created.

In Part 3 of this series on wellness, I’ll share four more reasons why we struggle.

Your Turn:

1) Of the three reasons shared above of why you and I struggle with our thorn in the flesh, which are you most apt to struggle with?

2) Share this post with your spouse, roommate, or community. Discuss Parts 1 and 2 together as you seek to bear each other’s burdens.

This article about 3 ways to battle your thorn in the flesh originally appeared here.