by Ruth Owen
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations,
there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
2 Corinthians 12:7
Pixar’s movie ‘UP’ features a scatterbrained dog who has been gifted with human speech. Every time he starts to explain something important, his head swivels and he yells out the word “Squirrel!”. Distracted by his way-too fast-prey, he completely loses his train of thought. It made me laugh, but it also brought home a truth.
My life is full of squirrels.
I’m constantly distracted by squirrels big and small: by work assignments, by groceries and chores, by that unthinking word I spoke to a friend, by wasting time on regrets. There are also the very big distractions of depression, illness, anger and addiction. These are not little squirrels, but giant monsters that can to eat us alive in a single lip-smacking gulp.
Still, large or tiny, all the squirrels accomplish the exact same thing: they distract me from the deep, powerful and loving relationship I have with my Lord. And in those darkest seasons of my life, they’ve absorbed my attention so completely that I’ve lost faith in Jesus’s overwhelming love for me.
The great apostle Paul suffered his own ‘Squirrels’. He faced all manner of despair and persecution, some leading to bodily harm. He spoke of the ‘thorn in his side’, which was a constant torment for him. He named it a messenger from Satan, because it tried to take away his reliance on God. But here is the VERY BIG THING that Paul discovered. The ‘thorn’ may have come from Satan, but God can still use it for his glory.
The thorn kept Paul honest, when he very easily could have cashed in on his popularity like some corrupt tent preacher. It kept him humble, so that Christ’s love could shine through him, from ancient times to modern day. It may have started out as a terrible burden, but it became the bedrock which Paul stood on to write this powerful statement of faith:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord
Letter to the Romans: 8:38
Squirrels happen. Big or small, they distract us from our relationship with the living, loving God. But when you’ve chased that squirrel and come up empty, all you need do is turn back to Jesus. He’ll be standing there, smiling as if you never turned away, ready to tell you how much He loves you.