Simon Makonde was born on a Monday; he was baptized the name Simon Makonde on a Tuesday; got married on a Wednesday; was taken ill on a Thursday; treated on a Friday; and died of old age on a Saturday. He was then buried on Sunday. The manner and the cause of his death remains unknown. That is the sad story of one Simon Makonde.
This short chronicle of a fictional character epitomizes human pain and suffering, and perhaps the hollowness of life. Most likely there is celebration when Makonde is born and when he marries. This is quickly replaced by gloom and pain when he falls sick and does not respond to treatment. The final blow comes when he dies; an experience of utter agony and sorrow.
Pain and suffering is what theologians and philosophers call the Problem of Evil. The Problem of Evil has always been at the centre stage of many theological and philosophical discourses. Such arguments pit the defenders of the Christian Faith against skeptics. If there is any question that generates most heat among believers and unbelievers alike is the question of pain and suffering. It is the same question that atheists have developed into an argument of disapproving the existence of God. The same question has also been advanced by the Christian apologists into an argument that proves the existence of God. Examination of these arguments for and against the existence of God, embedded in the question of pain and suffering, reveals high level of scholarship on both sides. However, for now, this post will not delve into this philosophical arguments.
Pain and suffering accomplishes a purpose
I recently knocked off one of my toe nails. The excruciating pain that followed was awful. It made me stand at the spot of the incident for several minutes as I absorbed the lingering pain. A dash for a Tetanus Toxoid vaccine was indispensable.
Talking of vaccines and vaccinations reminds me of syringes, needles and scalpels I see in health facilities. A visit to maternal and child health section perfectly paints this picture. The yelling, the blood-curdling screams, and the quietness that follows speak volume of human pain and suffering.
Vaccinations offers protection from specific diseases that can terrorize our bodies rendering us very sick, disabled or even dead. They do this by boosting our bodies’ defense systems. Once immunized, our bodies become battle-hardened and can now fend off intruders.
A good number of the vaccines we use are made of disease germ that is either weak or dead. This enables our bodies build antibodies that take on this kind of germ.
There are several ways to deliver the vaccine into the body. One of these is by use of a needle injection. This is not something we like. Needle injection is a nightmare to most of us. Nevertheless we need it.
Vaccination in the Kingdom
In the Kingdom, God has a way of delivering a vaccine into our life systems. Do you want to know what He uses? Needles! Nope!
He uses thorns. Yeah, Thornes! He delivers the serum into our bodies using a thorn. And he does not pull away the thorn as it is the case with normal vaccination procedure whereby a needle is pulled out after delivering the serum into the blood stream. God ensures the thorn remain there for either the rest of your life or a good part of it.
The thorn vaccination has a purpose. Its purpose is to ensure we remain humble. God knows that pride kills. It does not only kill but destroys too. Pride will spiritually vanquish you same way measles, T.B. and Typhoid physically does.
In the Bible, God had to inoculate Paul of Tarsus. The great apostle Paul was immunized with a thorn that remained in his flesh for the rest of his life. It was meant to protect him from self-destruction.
I can assure you that all of us have a thorn in our flesh. In fact some of us have more than one thorn in our flesh. It ensures that we do not puff up like a puff udder. Just like a snake anti-venom, it ensures that the venom of pride does not send us kingdom come. Pride goes before destruction and the only way God can protect us is by vaccinating us using a thorn.
Moses was vaccinated and developed immunity. Lisping was the much Moses could do in talking. Before God called Him, he had murdered an Egyptian and ran way. These helped to remind him of his imperfections. Moses would know that he was not better than others. This thorn made him the meekest (humblest) man on earth.
Peter was not like Moses. He was good at running his mouth even when he was supposed to shut up. He was an uneducated fisherman. These served to remind him that meritocracy was far from being the reason for his election.
At one time, David was just a shepherd boy. He had no combat skills. He had no leadership experience. He was the least on Jesse’s list of who could become a king. His curriculum vitae could not even earn him the position of a village elder. These aspects worked to accomplish God’s grand plan in David’s life. The man after God’s heart could not swell with pride when he remembered where God picked him from.
Hannah was a laughing stock to her co-wife Penina. Reason being that she could not conceive. Being unable to conceive and bear a child is one thing. Being the laughing stock of people around you is another thing. Things can get murkier when fellows close to you start talking about it contumely. The barrenness of Hannah and constant ridicule would drive her into a prayer closet. From prayer closet Samuel would emerge. Samuel the great prophet of Israel and the kingmaker was a product of pain and suffering. Most of us only pray when things go south. God sometimes allows things to get awry so that we can seek Him. When we seek Him with all of our heart then He will be found. The number one agenda of prayer should be to strengthen our relationships with God, and not to manipulate Him into giving us whatever we want. Our fellowship with God is very significant than the things we get from Him.
Esther did not have parents. She was brought up by her uncle Mordecai. Things happened and Esther found herself in the palace of a powerful king as the queen. She is in that office at such a time for a specific duty. Her destiny is to stop what would have been the first Jewish holocaust in history. Her humble beginnings serves to remind her of her roots; A Jewish woman who must not only serve God but use her influence to protect her people from the Amalekite – Haman. Her story is recorded in the Book named after her; The Book of Esther. Although the Name of God is not mentioned in the Book of Esther, one can still see His hand of Providence.
Ruth was a widow. She was also a foreigner; a Moabites. Her story is one of the most emotional ones in the Bible. People with an INFJ personality like me – as per Myers and Briggs 16 Personality Test – would have to absorb a lot of emotions as they read the story of Ruth and Naomi. It is refreshing to find out that this painful life does not stop Ruth from curving her name in the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Pain should not stop us from fulfilling our mandate.
Daniel was a eunuch. He could not have a family. But alas! The man made up for this weakness with Godly wisdom, knowledge, discernment and the spirit of prophecy. He served under four Kings – Nebuchadnezzar II, Belshazzar, Darius and Cyrus. He never crossed to their side. On the contrary they crossed to his side. He drew his red line from the time he was a teenager and would never allow anyone cross it for the rest of his life.
This thorn in the flesh
God uses the thorn in the flesh to ensure that we do not think of ourselves highly than we should. It stops us from feeling our heads with wind. It stops you and me from being full of ourselves. It does not only remind us that we are not perfect, but also let us understand that we do need to be perfect. Perfection is not an event. It is a process, for it will be complete when we see Him face to face. That is why we need to cut down on our critical spirit, and allow people around us to grow. Stop demanding perfection from others. Instead work out your salvation in fear and trembling, for you do not know God’s agenda in the lives of other people. You do not know what they tell God when they are alone.
There is a wound in your heart you always carry around. You have pleaded with God to heal it but He hasn’t. His Grace is sufficient. His strength is manifested in your weakness. There is a scab in your life. You want it to heal but it has remained a scab. God knows why.
You walk around with a scar. The moment you want to blow your own horn, that scar reminds you of who you really are. It cuts you to your right size.
Perhaps I would have been a very conceited person if God did not vaccinate me. May be I would be a monster who goes about kicking people out of my way. Possibly it could have been worse than that.
That thorn in your flesh is a blessing from God. It protects you from self-destruction. Because it is a blessing in disguise, no amount of prayer and fasting can take it away. But God will supply sufficient Grace to live with it. Thank God for that thorn in your flesh. Give God glory for that scar that has refused to clear away.
If the fire burning around your life is not consuming you, then ‘I AM’ is in that fire. Banish self-pity and complaints for the Problem of Evil will not endure forever.