A Life Concept from the Cactus

CactusSmallThe cactus is a metaphor of life. The cactus has both that which causes pain and expresses beauty, its spines reminding us of the painful parts of life, the blossoms reminding us of the beauty of life.

Years ago we raised cactus in our rock garden. I was given a few of the plants by one of our shut-in ladies I visited in the early years of my pastoral ministry – Nellie was her name. I was intrigued by this particular cactus because it could survive our harsh winters in Toledo, Ohio. Nellie warned me that the spines on this particular cactus were very small and grew in clusters on the cactus. Touch the cactus and the result was a dozen or more of those little spines deep into your flesh. Eventually, I got rid of the cactus; the pleasure of their blossom was not worth the pain of their spines.

In life we have to take the pain with the pleasure. Even when we make a choice, a good choice, to pursue some course of action we should know there will undoubtedly be some difficulty, some pain, that will go with it. “No gain without pain,” right?

This side of heaven there will always be the sharp spines as well as the beautiful blossoms. We’re never told to enjoy pain, that’s not being emotionally healthy; avoidance of pain is normal and a God-given response. On the other hand, there are times when it can’t be avoided and the best alternative is acceptance based on our confidence in God. We have a God who has allowed a fallen world to continue to exist because He can use it to carry out His great and grand purposes. When our main focus is on God and not on what’s happening to us we can more easily focus on the blossoms of life than the spines of life.

The apostle Paul understood that God uses pain and suffering to advance His plans and purposes; this from a man who, in pursuit of God’s plan for him, experienced much hardship, suffering, pain, and persecution. He wrote, we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

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