Yes, thistles. Prickly, spiky, gray, and full of thorns. It wasn’t a mistake; I checked. Every bouquet in that bucket had a handful of thistles nudged between the flowers and greenery. And they actually looked–dare I say it?–rather lovely. Those thistles didn’t look soft, and they certainly didn’t look inviting. But they grounded the rest of the flowers with their solemnity and honesty. The thistles, prickly as they were, added an unexpected beauty to the bouquet as a whole.
And I was reminded: this is the good news of the Gospel.
Stay with me.
All of us have thistles in our lives–those painful, thorny parts of our story that we’d rather do without. The broken relationships, the physical aches, the experiences that we wish we could erase. None of our lives are all flowers and sunshine. We have gray places, dark places, things that still feel like they can prick us if we touch them with our memories.
But–here again is that great, surprising news of the Gospel–even the thorns and thistles in our lives can prove themselves beautiful if they point us to Jesus and lead us into more intimacy with him. I think of the Apostle Paul who writes so honestly about begging the Lord to take away his “thorn in the flesh”–that unnamed pain that the Lord never healed–and hearing Christ tell him that His power is made perfect in our weakness.
Those things that make life so challenging–those thorns and thistles–what if we asked God to help us see those places as gateways to his heart? As open doors for his power in our weakness? As opportunities for grace to be abundant? What if we saw the thorns and thistles as part of the bouquet of our lives–not things that make us ugly and undesirable, but as parts of our story that ground us in Christ’s goodness and in the unexpected beauty of a redeemed life?
Because Jesus, perfect as he was, didn’t get past the difficult parts of life, either. In fact, he knows the pain of thorns more fully than any of us do: the thorns lodged in his skin as a mocking crown when he paid for our brokenness and sin on the cross.
In the midst of our own pains and hurts, let us rest our gaze on the One who wore the crown of thorns for us. Let us, as the old hymn says, “turn our eyes upon Jesus,” and see that he can make even the prickliest, difficult aspects of our lives into gateways of hope and redemption as he meets us in our pain. That’s the promise of life with Jesus–not ease, but intimacy; not painlessness, but purpose; not comfort, but camaraderie with Him.
Yes, that’s good news of thistles in bouquets: the joy of Jesus making even the hard parts of our story lovely in their own way–unexpectedly beautiful–as he redeems them by his grace.