In Appreciation of Pain, Part One

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
James 1:2-3

Today I am thankful for the relatively recent freedom from chronic migraine and associated headache pain I have experienced. I am grateful beyond words that my days are no longer bookended by varying degrees of that miserable pain which was both my first and last awareness for so many years.  As appreciative as I am for the fact that the number of headaches has drastically reduced, I feel the need to stress that I am also thankful for the many years I spent in the ruthless, dense fog of chronic migraine.

Strange though it may be,  I now consider those months of  incessant pain a blessing. There was absolutely nothing about it that was pleasant, nor would I wish to repeat even a week of the experience. Still,  it was during those interminable, torturous days marked most heavily by fatigue borne of perpetual pain that I learned such a great deal about the goodness of my Creator.

I have always been the type to plow on through an illness or injury to the point of utter collapse. Even that trait, however, proved a poor prop under the onslaught of nearly a decade of being both awakened and lulled to sleep by the pitiless ache in my head. For a while, my own strength sufficed. . .  for a while. But there came a day when I simply had nothing left. Even the most mundane tasks were overwhelming and the job of educating my children with patience and love seemed hopelessly out of reach.

Up to this time, I had sporadically called upon God for help when I found myself quite over my head. Now, however, I was in a perplexing state of trouble where my tremendous need was not covered by occasional pleas for mercy.  This was the time when I began to understand that a commonly spoken platitude was horribly flawed: God does give us more than we can handle. Often. Repeatedly. Even tenaciously for those of us who, like myself, are stubbornly proud and unwilling to even recognize our own weakness.

Finally desperate to break the cycle, I began to pray for help and confess my ineptitude continually throughout each day. I asked for His Spirit to expose and give me strength to repent of every act of self-sufficiency and for the grace to remember to call upon Him for mercy and for help in time of need — not only when troubled waters had swelled and I was drowning, but at the very moment those waters began to rise around me. I began to call upon Him sometimes hourly, sometimes every minute, and He willingly provided far above what my feeble efforts were worth. Slowly, the darkness of the valley did not bear down so intensely and though I still was too benumbed by pain to see far ahead, at least He provided the light to my feet for the step that was imminent.  I could see enough to walk forward. I could see that I needed to lean completely on the limitless sufficiency of His great grace.

But God had still more to show me…

 Lord, thank You that Your grace is truly sufficient! Thank You for not allowing me to move forward in self-sufficient pride; that You care enough to humble me and cause me to see my need to abide utterly in You. 

 

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