And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
From the very beginning of Falling Skies, one of the worst things about the invading alien force is the way they kidnap human children and attach “harnesses” (actually creatures from somewhere they had taken over previously) to them in order to control their actions, basically turning them into mindless slaves. In the early episodes of the show, one of the great accomplishments of the human survivors is figuring out how to remove the harnesses without killing the children.
By the third season, the humans have allied themselves with another alien race that had also been enslaved by the invaders, and one benefit of this alliance is the access to technology that lets them remove harnesses completely and safely from children who had been captured. It also allows them to take out the spikes left over in the backs of those who, like Ben Mason, had their harnesses removed before this advanced technology was available.
In the episode “At All Costs,” Ben must decide if he wants those spikes removed or not. On the one hand, he would really like to be a normal teenager again, with nothing that makes him stand out from the crowd. On the other hand, having the harness remnants gives him certain “superpowers” - superhuman strength, for one, and the ability for potential alien allies to speak through him and communicate with the humans. These abilities make him feel needed, like there is something useful he can do. He is no longer just a kid who is in the way and has to follow the directions of the adults. As Ben tells his younger brother, being harnessed was a bad thing, but the harness remnants allow him to do good.
In thinking about this situation, I find myself returning to what I said about Paul in a recent post about perspective in the novel Ender’s Game, but I think Ben's dilemma here is an even better parallel with Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” and how it affected his ministry. I don’t believe God causes bad things to happen to people. I do believe that he gives us the strength to carry on as we walk through those dark valleys, and also the ability to learn from our trials and put that knowledge to use once we reach the other side. Paul learned that weakness made him strong by forcing him to rely on God’s grace, just as Ben has learned that having the spikes gives him a greater purpose in his community.
We all have thorns of one kind or another, and negative circumstances are never easy to deal with. I can only pray that we will let God change our perspectives in these situations and help us to see the good we can do in spite of it all.