Thankful for the Thorns

"Therefore, behold, 
I will hedge up your way with thorns, 
and wall her in, 
so that she cannot find her oaths.
She will chase her lovers,
but not overtake them;
Yes, she will seek them, but not find them.
Then she will say,
'I will go and return to my first husband, 
For then it was better for me than now.'
For she did not know 
that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, 
and multiplied her silver and gold -- 
which they prepared for Baal." 
- Hosea 2:6-8 - 

Have you ever been at a park on a walk and find a trail that looks untravelled? The branches of the trees are unkept and hanging over the path making it difficult to walk it.

If you're anything like me, the prospect of walking that path is both scary and exciting. You don't know what you will find or if it even leads anywhere, but you take that step. The farther you get down the path, the narrower it gets. Branches swat at you, scratching you, making you question if you made the right decision to walk down the path.

That is the image I have in my mind when reading these verses; stepping off the path you come face to face with thorns that make you step right back on the path. Not many people enjoy being swatted by branches or pierced by thorns.

I am thankful that God hedges my way with thorns.

One thing I am learning about myself as I'm getting older is that I, more often than not, think I know what is best for me and I am wrong almost every single time.

2017 was a hard year for me, but at the same time, it was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined and I am only beginning to see it now.

The Lord hedged me in and I walked head-on into the thorns. And it hurt.

I found myself second-guessing my job: should I still be working in ministry?
I found myself second-guessing my living situation: shouldn't I have my own place by now?
I found myself second-guessing my finances: shouldn't I have more savings and be more established by now? (repeat second-guessing my job).
I stepped down from serving in Youth Ministry.
I experienced friction in friendships that had been my support in hard times.
I found myself addressing my past and family dysfunction as the cause of issues I was currently facing.

I don't say all this to give you a play by play of how hard my year was, but for this:

All of these things listed (my job, my housing, my finances, ministry, friendship, my past) have all been things that at one point in time became my stability. They were the paths that I sought after. And the Lord, in his sweet graciousness to me, hid the paths.

And in my frustration, I flailed. I fought back. I got cut by the thorns and tangled in the vines.

But what I love about chapter 2 of Hosea is that it doesn't end with the Lord just hiding the paths.

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
will bring her into the wilderness and speak comfort to her.
I will give her her vineyards from there,
and the Calley of Achor as a door of hope;
She shall sing there,
as in the days of her youth, 
as in the days when she came up from the land of Egypt. 
'And it shall be in that day', 
Says the Lord, 
'That you will call me My Husband, 
and no longer My Master;
For I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals,
and they shall be remembered by their name no more.'"
- Hosea 2:14-17 

The Lord hides the paths to the Baals so that He can speak comfort to us, so he can bring hope where there is trouble and distress, and so he can deepen our relationship with us.

And that is what makes the thorns beautiful.

If experiencing the pain of the thorns draws me closer to Jesus and strips away all the things that would keep me from Him, how could I not be thankful for the thorns?

I can't say that I still don't look for those other paths, to find stability in other things. I can't say that I don't, from time to time, still walk right on into the thorns.

But I have learned more about God. I have learned that He will always be faithful. He will always place thorns to guide me back to Him. He will always remind me that He is with me and has the best plans for me, I need only to trust in Him.

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