What is a thorn? What is a thistle? What are those things that prick our flesh with distress, prompting us to either digress or seek our rest in God?
The answer begins in Genesis 3:17-18, where God proclaims the following curse on fallen man:
"Because thou... hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it, cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee... In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return." (KJV)
And so we see all Adam's toil with the soil being foiled - with thorns and thistles, sickness and infirmity, a life of pricking and sticking and pain, only for him to be sent back to the very same soil from whence he was made.
In light of such tragedy, it would seem that flesh thorns are not a blessing but a curse, brought on by man's rebellion to God's holy Word. Flesh thorns jab with stabbing pain whatever crossed the grain of His kingdom (of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit) and His perfect will (which we are to pray gets done on earth as it already is in heaven (where no sickness or pain exists).
It seems clear from God's Word that flesh thorns are not heaven's messages but Satan's messages, tines of his pointed pitchfork sent our way to prick us when we like sheep go astray (thus making ourselves his prey). Theirs is a pointed accusation, a poignant condemnation whenever we veer off the track of truth in consternation. Then falls the fiery dart, dead zinger to the heart, sent from a mouth that does not wish us well.
Hell's bitter tongues attempt to lick us with their painful thistles in order to choke the good seed of God's Word before we can swallow it (see Luke 8:12 & 14). Those cursed by such hoarse throats often seek worldly antidotes, returning in a sense to the very soil from whence they came in order to extract a cure.
Yet while few dare argue the benefits of proper diet and natural medicine to remedy illness, the fact remains that such cures can only reach so far.
Besides, God's Word tells us that to return to the dust is a curse. For dust is the serpent's food.
Yet there is One who gave His life to deliver us from that curse. His name is Jesus. He is fully God and fully man, without sin, without the curse. He came to this earth to bring healing from every curse, every sickness, and every disease - for all who believe. By His stripes the believer is healed (Isaiah 53:5).
By his own blood, sweat and tears He "toiled over the soil" of our un-regenerated hearts - to rid us of every stone, thorn and thistle. He bore a crown of thorns on His own head to take our condemnation and became a curse for us when He hung on that tree (Galatians 3:13).
If we submit our lives to Him (James 4:7), He will give us strength to resist the devil before he has a chance to wrap his choking message around our necks. As author of our faith, He will gladly cleanse us of all doubt. And if we believe with no doubting, we can know we can have those things for which we ask.
For more on Jesus' crown of thorns, see Matthew 27:29, Mark 15:17, and John 19:2 & 5.
For more on Paul's thorn in the flesh, see II Corinthians 12:7-10.
(All verses KJV)