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  • Writer's pictureHolly Tomlin

Thorn in my flesh

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,[a] a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

I have been thinking about writing this post for weeks and just couldn’t bring myself to sit down to do it. It has been a tough few weeks since my last OB appointment. The new cyst. Another cyst. I am thankful that my physicians are not concerned about it. But, my goodness, the ups and downs of this journey. The condition of my heart.

I just want it to stop.

I want to go in for a checkup and they not see a cyst on my ovary. I mean, seriously, just once. One morning I was struggling with these thoughts. Really almost angry. Not again, Lord! I just want to go back to living life.

Then I read this passage above where Paul is discussing the thorn in his side. Then it hit me right between the eyes. Loud and clear I heard the Lord. The thorn in my side. Paul was speaking about some sort of debilitating disease he was struggling with. For me, it is my cysts. My cancer. It will never go away. Well, the cancer may have gone, but it will be something that never leaves my thoughts for the rest of my life.

Just as Paul prayed, I have prayed. Take this Lord, take it from me. No more cysts. No more cancer. Just as Paul was a very self-sufficient person, so I am I. The Lord knows I am trying to move on from this season in my life all too quickly. Back to my old ways, back to my own strength. You see, the thorn, it is the very thing I need to keep me humble. It is the very thing I need to keep me dependent on God. A reminder that apart from Him I can do nothing. A reminder that I have no control, even though I think I can grasp it.

Then Paul goes on to share what Jesus said to him every time he asked the Lord to heal him.

My grace is sufficient for you. My power works best in your weakness.

My power works best in your weakness. If it weren’t for this thorn, I would all too easily try to live life in my own strength. I would resort to my old ways of living parallel to the Lord and not in Him.

Paul’s last statement is a hard one to swallow.

“Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Ugh. That is hard to say, but it’s even harder to live. Content with my weaknesses. If I am being completely honest, I am not content where I am at. The Lord knows that. My flesh is torn in two directions. I am trying to move on too quickly from a very important lesson in my life. So for now, I am working on the “content” part. I am more thankful than I could ever express for the Lord bringing me through the hardest season of my life. But this season isn’t over. The physical part may be, but seriously, no one ever tells you about the emotional part that goes along with it.

The Lord is teaching me that I truly need Him every single day. Every minute of the day. It’s easy to need Him when you are physically ill or in a crisis mode. But then it’s even easier to not need him when things are going “well”. It’s easier to go on about your day and not stop to converse with the Lord, to spend time in his word, to pray against the enemy. I realized that I am still trying to attain something that isn’t possible on this side of heaven. Perfection. I am striving to reach a state in my life that isn’t possible. Life will never be perfect or without pain here on earth. That’s because we were made for so much more. This isn’t our home.

So for now, the Lord and I will continue to wrestle through this season.  He is so very patient with me and forgiving when I am stubborn. In this season, he is deepening my love for Him. He is taking me to a whole different level of trust. A whole different level of worship. He isn’t finished writing my story yet. Gulp. I will be honest again, that scares me a lot. What else Lord?  What else do I need to learn?

Then I hear him whisper to me… my grace is enough. My power works best in your weakness. I am enough. I am all you need.

I will close with this beautiful lesson the Lord just showed me yesterday, as well as a few prayer requests. In the last week, two sweet women in my work circle have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Ugh- seriously a punch in the gut. It’s so hard to even write those words. I hate cancer. When I first heard of their news, I immediately go back to that moment the morning of July 9th, 2015. Then I see them in that very moment in their lives. I then think of my cyst and fear tries to swallow me up and consume my very thoughts that I could have cancer again. And then I want to vomit. I want to curl up in a ball and just cry. I want to cry for these precious women. The loss they are feeling, the hopelessness they are experiencing, the fear they are drowning in. In that moment, that is where the Lord calls out to me and says… Stand up. Lift your eyes up to me. Walk in obedience to me. I am your strength.

You see just like the story of Esther… the Lord is calling me into obedience to Him. For such a time as this. The Lord knew every single woman that would be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It is no accident that He has specifically placed those women in my path. It may be to save their very life, but in a much different way than I think.

Yesterday, I was watching the movie "War Room" for the first time. Have you seen it? Wow! If not, please go watch it.

Unbelievable movie with so much truth. We are all fighting a losing battle in our own strength. The movie shows us how the Lord intended us to fight against the evils of this world. By prayer. Then at the end, the sweet older mentor lady was speaking to the younger lady, she told her to share what she had learned with other women. Then the next five words she said struck me like a bolt of lightning. 

Teach them how to fight.

I don't know how my friends’ stories will play out. I can’t heal their cancer for them, as much as I want to. But, I can share with them the hope of how it can end. I can show them the very One who gives us the only hope of this life. Last night, we were sitting in church and our pastor was sharing the story of John 14 when Jesus tells the disciples the way to heaven. The perfect, never-failing way. Jesus. It is the only way. Jesus knows our struggles because he felt them too. Jesus knows our physical pains because he felt them too. Jesus knows our temptations because he felt them too. Yet, He was perfect on this earth and gave us a perfect picture of who God is. People say God can't be real because no one has ever seen him. But Jesus said in John 14:9, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." Jesus is the way, the only way. There is no amount of good things on this earth we can do to get to heaven. The ultimate sacrifice was paid for us on the cross. The battle is his, not ours. It's already been won. 

So, what can I do? I can teach women how to fight. I hear the Lord telling me…

Show them how real I am. Speak truth into their lives. Show them Me. I can beat their cancer. I already have. The battle is mine and it’s already been won.

I realized that since I found out their diagnoses, I was trying to figure out how to fight for them in my own strength. That left me feeling defeated and overwhelmed. But again the Lord whispered to me, the battle is not yours but mine. Just like with you. It's no different for them. The only way home is through Jesus. Cancer will not win. It takes lives every day, but the battle has already been won. In Jesus' life and resurrection, nothing can ever separate us from our true home. All we have to do is believe this truth. Accept Jesus for who He is. Then true life begins. So join me... let's fight...

Lastly, about a month ago I was asked to be a guest on the podcast “Story Cast Monday”. Rebecca and Traci are two amazing women that are walking in obedience to what the Lord has called them to do.

They are sharing the stories of women and how the Lord is living and moving in their lives. All of this to encourage other women to walk in the grace and truth of the Lord. A mutual friend of ours connected us together and we recorded an interview. I honestly can’t remember much of what I said, but the Lord was ever present. The interview will be airing on Monday, March 21st. Here’s their link so you can listen to it live or download it any time after it airs.

You can also go back and listen to previously aired podcasts. You will be encouraged for sure.

Thank you Lord again for the opportunity to tell my story. Your story of grace, mercy and love. I am a very broken sinful woman that can mess anything up. But, I love Jesus and I want Him. Every day, I have to remind myself he is better than anything else I am seeking. Most days I fail at that and end up seeking out other things to fill my cup. A cup that was only made for him. Thankfully the Lord already knows I am going to do this and yet he still loves me.

Jesus, you are worth it. All this pain and suffering. You are worth every tear, every struggle. Because of you, we have a home that we will continue to long for on this earth. One day we will reach that ultimate perfection in heaven with you.

Jesus, it’s all for you. Every single moment.

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