Understanding My Thorn
I have been going through some transitions these past few months. Changing my career, leaving home, meeting new co-workers, navigating a new place and sometimes feeling detached from the things I used to be so involved in.
Along the way, I had to lay down some responsibilities and commitments to make sure that these people and organizations would not just get some of my leftover energy. I wanted to give my best, but because my new job began taking up most of my time, I began to fear that I would not be able to pull through for them.
I began to experience a lot of guilt and through that, I felt anxious a lot of the time. I ended up having to leave my hometown to work in Manila, Philippines and because of that I was forced to let another leader take over our Bible studies, I had to cancel discipleship sessions, and it has been months since I last led worship at my church.
With all this change, I had a few friends and co-leaders who I love very much tell me that they believe I'm not following the will of God. These words were hard to hear but something in my heart resisted accepting their words. I had been in prayer about all of these things and I believe God was leading me, that He made these things possible for me. Though I had the red light from some of my community, I knew I had the green light from God. On top of that, I would be able to help my mom financially, get her insurance, and start saving for myself. I think that's part of my "calling" as a daughter – to serve my family and to lead as a Christian within my household.
Still, I faced fear, insecurity, and guilt because I constantly thought of what my community was telling me. Yet over and over again, as I asked God if I was truly following His will, He kept telling me, "yes, listen to me".
I continued to doubt the words I heard from God as I felt like I failed in what God had called me to; I felt that I was straying from the original plan. I started comparing myself to other leaders and looked at their accomplishments in contrast to mine. It made me feel so unworthy to be given the opportunities and responsibilities He entrusted me with. I felt lost and confused. But y perceptions were wrong, crooked. I was out of focus.
One night, God spoke. And I heard Him. Funny enough, I was watching "Kung Fu Panda" because I couldn't sleep. Po (a panda) and his adoptive father (a goose) were having a conversation, and he was worried about losing his Kung Fu ability because he found his identity in that.
Po : "What will I be without Kung Fu?"
Dad : "You'll still be my son."
I started crying. To the outsider, I probably appeared to be a little too emotionally attached to an animated panda. But in reality, I felt that God was speaking to me. Those words resonated within me, reminding me that He loved me even before this world even knew me. He adopted me into His family when I accepted Christ as savior. I have the beautiful privilege of intimate relationship with Him. He observes my everyday life, my thoughts, and the desires of my heart. He is intentional in pursuing me, in loving me, and in being my Father.
I felt like He was telling me, "even with all these doubts you are having in yourself, you are still my daughter. I love you regardless of what you can or cannot give". I didn't realize until then how deeply I was basing my faith and identity in my own ability.
This reminded me of Paul and his thorn. He kept asking God to take it away, but God responded, "my grace is all you need". Throughout the course of time I was struggling to understand His will, I had kept asking God to take away my thorn – to just put me back where I was before because maybe that’d be easier. But in spite of all these prayers, God allowed me to keep going. I was constantly reminded that He is within me, "Eleazar".
In the midst of it all, I'm learning that maybe God didn't allow Paul's thorn to be taken away for convenience reasons, but really just so that His grace could be revealed. We all have our own thorns; we have to trust God to take them away in His own time.
In the book of Acts 27:30 it says, "then the sailors tried to abandon the ship; they lowered the lifeboat as though they were going to put out anchors from the front of the ship. But Paul replied 'you will all die unless the sailors stay aboard.’"
It's our natural survival instinct to jump off a ship in the middle of the storm. But what if God intended that storm to shape you and then pass because He has a purpose in mind. He wants to develop your trust, your hope, your faith, your character, your endurance and your heart. Would you stay on that ship?
Everything that God allows in our lives leads to deeper discovery of who He is, leading us into a more intimate relationship with Him.
To any leader reading this, I'm sure you've sacrificed so much and invested so much – more than most people around you probably realize. There are opportunities you've let go because you are placing first the ministry and the people God has entrusted to you. You will have your own heartbreaks while listening to the heartbreaks of others – never forget that it's okay to not be okay. It's okay to rest and to lay your burdens down before God and to entrust to someone what you are going through. Community is here to encourage and God is here to offer you unconditional love and the always-open opportunity to rest. Whatever your thorn may be, remember that it is a part of your testimony. You will be able to lead others closer to God through it and you'll be able to comfort others with the same comfort God has given you.
Continue to trust God. No matter what.
-Kaye Olivar // @kayohliveare