“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.” Genesis 3:17-18 (NIV)
“Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.” Matthew 13:7 (NIV)
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face. John 19:1-3 (NIV)
Prior to Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God in the garden of Eden, every plant naturally produced good fruit. I imagine tending the garden simply involved gathering fruit, planting seeds, removing faded flowers and enjoying the harvest.
But when Adam succumbed to the temptation to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—in defiance to God’s only command—Adam and the ground were cursed. The plants which abundantly produced fruit now required labor. Where there was ripe, delicious fruit for the picking, Adam would gather battling thorns and thisltes.
The first time my mother-in-law took me blackberry picking in their back yard, she encouraged me to don long sleeves, long pants, a hat, and gloves. It was a hot July morning and I grumbled—but I was so glad I’d covered up. I didn’t know wild blackberries grew on thorny bushes. Mom’s blackberries were delicious but gathering them left me with scrapes despite my long sleeves.
In her book, The Well-Watered Woman, Gretchen Saffles writes:
The earth that was made to bear fruit would now also bear thorns and thistles, pain and disappointment, suffering and sorrow. In your struggle with jealousy, thorns grow. In your bitterness against the person who betrayed you, thorns grow. In your desire for something God hasn’t given you, thorns grow...The very curse Adam reaped due to disobedience was set on Jesus’ head in the form of a crown of thorns (Romans 5:12-21; Galatians 3:13).
These words struck me. My life was a thorny mess before I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. God used those thorns to cause me to cry out to him for deliverance.
A miraculous transfer took place on the cross—our thorns were placed on Jesus’ head in the form of a crown. It was his coronation day. Little did the Jews or the Romans understand that Jesus’ death and resurrection ushered in the Kingdom of God—where Jesus reigns. Accepting his death in my place, I became a child of God and citizen of Jesus’ kingdom.
I know we still struggle with thorns and thistles in this life. But there is a time coming when Jesus will return in glory and all the thorns and thistles will be removed. This is where my hope is planted.
Where is your hope rooted?
“Thorns and thistles shall the earth bring forth to thee, but if these bring thee nearer to thy God, they are the best crop the ground can grow!” —Charles Spurgeon
Saffles, Gretchen, and Ruth Chou Simons. The Well-Watered Woman: Rooted in Truth, Growing in Grace, Flourishing in Faith. Tyndale Momentum, the Tyndale Nonfiction Imprint, 2021.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Thorns and Thistles,” Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit 39, no. 2299 (March 12, 1893).