Have you ever been stuck by a sharp thorn? Why do some of the most beautiful flowers, shrubs and even fruits, have thorns? When you think of roses, how can something so beautiful and desired and something so painful and unwanted grow together on the same vine? These are the types of things I think about-questions few ask. So I did some research on plants with thorns, briers, or other prickly appendages.
There are three specific functions of the thorns on plants. The first one involves protection. Specific to the rose, thorns offer protection from larger plant eating animals that may otherwise prey on the flower for food. The large pointed thorns tell would be herbivores to leave this plant alone for their own good. At the same time, the thorns are large enough that smaller bugs or insects can easily maneuver them and carry on their task of pollination, assuring that the plants will produce beautiful blooms when the time is right. I had a pyracanthia tree in my back yard and the thorns are deadly, but when that tree was in full bloom, it was magnificent. Thorns are vital in the protection and the growth process of the plant.
Psalm 91:14 says “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name.
There are a variety of flowers that are pretty to look at but are easy to pick or snatch up. They have no protection that would cause predators to turn away. But smart people don’t grab a rose and try to snatch it up like you might a tulip or daisy because they know they will come away with a bloody hand. Christ is our protector-He prevents our devourers from snatching us up.
John 10: 28 No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else.[d] No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand
The second function of thorns in certain plants is to direct water to the stem for growth. They take in moisture in the form of fog, dew or rain, and direct them to the root of the plant’s water table to help the plant grow. You can imagine how important this is to the life of cacti which typically live in hot dry climates. You can say that without the thorns, the cacti would not survive the heat and drought.
In Job 38:26 God is speaking to Job after he complained to God about the troubles he had just gone through.
Who do you suppose carves canyons for the downpours of rain, and charts the route of thunderstorms that bring water to unvisited fields, deserts no one ever lays eyes on, drenching the useless wastelands so they’re carpeted with wildflowers and grass? And who do you think is the father of rain and dew, the mother of ice and frost?
God provides us with those things we need for growth in Him, even though at times the process is painful and we question His methods.
The third purpose of thorns, particularly briers, is that they offer the plant support and the ability to reach toward the sky for sunlight. Plants like these are typically low lying berry plants. I will never forget the many weekends when I was young when my dad would load us up in the car and drive far out to the country looking for wild blackberry and raspberry plants. The plants that were the tallest were always the one with the biggest berries because they were closer to the sun’s nutrients. These briers allow the stems of the plant to hook on to each other and give them support or stability from falling. If you’ve picked blackberries, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It is virtually impossible to separate these vines or branches from each other because they are so intensely entwined with each other. Without briers, these plants would lie flat to the ground and would not produce fruit.
To me this scenario is the easiest to compare to the thorns that come our way. More times than not, we view the troubles in our life as thorns that are painful and unwelcome. Life today is full of these thorns-losing a job, failed marriages, unexpected sickness, deaths of loved ones, bankruptcy, being victimized by crime, and the list goes on. Like Job we would question God as to why these troubles come our way, as if we’re above trials and tribulations, or worse, that God is picking on us for some reason. We fail to recognize that these thorns of life are meant to make us grow, make us stronger, give us protection, and keep us close to the Son. We forget that Psalm 23 says the God is with us when we walk THROUGH the valley of shadows and death, not around it. We believe the mis-teachings of those who would tell us that the Christian walk is easy if we living right. But that’s not what Christ taught us-He said that in this life we would have troubles!
But we gain strength and endurance in these thorny situations. The process of building and gaining muscle in weight lifting happens in the strain of the lift. The muscles are actually torn down and they regenerate as stronger and larger muscles.
Romans 5 says We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
When we’ve been through these trials and survived, we become support for others who are going through similar situations. Those who are the most helpful and supporting in bad times are the ones who have already been through the same situations. There is strength when people get together who have similar thorns in their past and together they can help and support the weaker vines or people who now need to reach the Son.
If you’re like me you’ll never view roses again without noticing the thorns and understanding their importance in producing something so beautiful and so sought after. Remember, it’s the thorns we don’t see that help create the beauty in each of us through a divine process we don’t need to understand, but one we should accept with thanks.