You know there is a story in the Bible about a man named Paul. Paul was a great man and did a lot of great things to influence people, but before he was Paul his name was Saul. Saul was what I think to be his other personality before he had a spiritual awakening and was given a second chance. God is the One that changed his name. I think that is pretty neat because its like God was trying to say Saul was never born so he could start completely over. I felt like that once, too. I got married around the time I had my first spiritual awakening and asked God for help with my life. My last name was changed and I felt like the old me had died with my maiden name, too. Even though Paul like me had his awakening he still had his struggles. He was a wise man and maybe too wise at times. He had what the Bible calls “a thorn in his flesh” to maybe keep him meek/humble? It seems obvious that one would think “flesh” means his body and it makes one wonder what that thorn was. There are so many things that can affect our bodies/lives and become our thorns. There’s mental illness, cancer, diabetes, Ulcerative Colitis (which is what my daughter has) Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s etc….or sometimes that thorn is a person, a habit, a child with a drug addiction…Anything that can be debilitating and weighs on you day in and day out is a thorn. Sometimes, I feel like I can relate to Paul and I can’t help but think what exactly was his thorn? Could it have been depression or mental illness of some kind? I mean nobody really knows. I do believe that whatever it was it tormented him and made him very dependent on God. I also know this…depression and mental illness is the thorn in my flesh!! Even though God has blessed me with medication and wisdom to know the ways I can enhance my recovery it is still a struggle. I couldn’t have the quality of life I have if I didn’t depend on God. There are so many times I have to pray for strength throughout a day. So many thoughts come against me to try and knock me out. It’s like I am in a boxing match. Some days I can get up easier, but then there are days that are not so easy. I have to continually pray not to get trapped in old thought patterns like taking things personal, getting lazy with my recovery, eating a lot of junk food or crap that I know is going to make me feel bad, not reacting to situations and people quickly assuming the worse, not dwelling on yesterday, my mistakes, failures, etc….My biggest thorn is dealing with people that I feel like judge me for my mental illness. They might not do it intentionally, but they say or do things that just strip me of a little bit of my dignity. It’s hard and learning to have relationships/friendships is hard. Especially when you were raised in a family of unhealthy relationships. Sometimes people with mental illness think they are the problem the majority of the time, but no one is perfect. However, if there is conflict in a relationship/friendship we usually get the blame for it. That is the hardest part for me. I can remember so many times with different people how that very thing has happened. I am not perfect either by no means, but I have apologized and later realized it wasn’t even my place to. It’s like you apologize for them, too. I am just thankful that God hasn’t left me alone in my struggle, my thorn, and my recovery….just like Paul I have to ask for help. I can remember when my mania hit me and I had never experienced a literal mental breakdown before, but I came to a place that I reached out and asked for help. God came to my rescue and He always does. He is with me always and is the power within me. It’s like a light that has to be turned on in order to work. I have to ask and sometimes I don’t even have the strength to ask, but that little part of me called faith/hope has to pray for me. I get weary dealing with people and when I don’t know their motives or actions God does. I just say their names and give them to Him. I have seen Him at work on my behalf and He has made things right for me. I don’t say that with pride because when He works on people I believe it’s always with grace. I guess I can say I am thankful for my thorn and maybe Paul was, too. My thorn keeps me from self-destructive ways and from going too far backwards. It keeps me strong in my weakness and reminds me of God’s caring ways towards me. These are my thoughts for today and I just pray for those that have the thorn in their flesh called depression/mental illness. I have compassion on them and for the stigma that they have to live with. I just want to remind them and myself that we have value, we are beautiful, we are strong, and we are like a rose despite the thorn.
2 Corinthians 12:7 Therefore in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.