A few weeks ago I was doing some renovation work and got some wood splinters in two fingers on my left hand. When I got home, I sterilized a pair of tweezers and after 20 minutes of effort removed the slivers and then thoroughly cleaned my hands. When I awoke the next morning, my fingers were still very tender and sore.

This wouldn’t be a big deal except that I had to lead worship on guitar that morning. With each note I played on the guitar there was a stinging pain in my fingertips. Before the service our team prayed and I asked God to strengthen me to serve him through the discomfort. During the service as we focused on God in worship, the pain didn’t bother me as much.  Many people later told me that God’s presence was strongly felt in worship that morning
I reflect on the times when physical challenges—sickness, food-borne illnesses and lack of sleep—have occurred when God called me to lead worship at church, a conference, or even overseas. Another time I was asked to lead worship a couple of days after learning that my dad was dying. I have learned through those times that God is our only source and hope, or the Bible states,

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me…with my song I praise him.”
Psalm 28:7

The apostle Paul once wrote about a thorn in his flesh. There’s been much discussion and speculation about the nature of Paul’s thorn, but most scholars believe it was some disorder, injury, or disease.  Paul wrote,

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Sometimes that most profound worship happens when we are at our weakest, for then we realize our utter dependence on God and are open to experience His power rather than our own strength, gifts, or talents.

One of my former colleagues with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association recalled a time when Dr. Graham’s physical afflictions made it hard for him to walk up to the platform to deliver a message.  My friend recounted that as he got to the podium and started to preach, he became energetic and strong, as if nothing was wrong with him physically.

The power of the message came not from Dr. Graham, but from the Lord.

I know there are people experiencing much worse pain than mine, so I’m not comparing my discomfort with their suffering. God is intimately aware of our physical state and is available to us in whatever condition we find ourselves.

Thorns are never fun. Someday we will be with the Lord in a time and place where there will be no more thorns, In the meantime as we experience the stinging pain of thorns that don’t seem to go away, turn to God and his strength, remembering that His power can often be more evident in our frail humanity than in our human strength.

Whatever you are going through today, rely on God’s strength and power. In this way, we become God- empowered vessels given over in worship to Him.

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