One of Aesop’s fables features a slave, Androcles, who escaped from his master and hid in the woods. When he encountered a lion, he figured the beast would kill him, until he realized the lion had a thorn painfully embedded in its swollen paw. After Androcles removed it, the lion became as docile as a dog.
Later, Androcles was captured and sentenced to face the lion, which hadn’t been fed in days. The crowd waited for him to be torn to pieces, but the beast recognized him and gently licked his hand.
As a child, British author Caryll Houselander had a mystical vision, when she saw a lonely nun at school, polishing shoes and weeping. “I raised my head and then — I saw — the nun was crowned with the crown of thorns.” When the child realized the nun’s suffering was connected with Christ, she sat beside her and helped her.
Many people share in Christ’s suffering today. The parents whose little girl died; the couple who cannot conceive a child; the cancer patient enduring painful treatments. We read about terrified people escaping from Ukraine, plus soldiers injured and dying in battle. We see the effects of hunger and disease on the faces of impoverished children.
We can’t remove every thorn from every paw and create utopia, because suffering is an integral part of our fallen world — but we needn’t become complacent.
When Christ encountered suffering people, he healed them. And although we may not possess the power of physical healing, we can minister to people in agony. This can mean a hospital visit, donations to organizations helping refugees, listening to a troubled friend.
Let’s pray we’ll notice people wearing the crown of thorns. Let’s pray we’ll recognize God’s image in every suffering person. And let’s endeavor to remove as many thorns as possible from the lives of people in distress.
Lorraine’s email address is email@example.com.