Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
If living with chronic pain has taught me nothing else, at least I have learned to give thanks to God despite it.
Does this mean that I always feel thankful? No.
I wish I could say that my heart was eternally brimming with gratitude and thanksgiving poured in a continual fountain from my lips, but to say so would be a grave deceit.
Yet make no mistake: the fault is not in my God, but in me.
I freely confess that I am not always thankful. I particularly struggle in the prodrome phase of migraine, which in my case resembles nothing less than a mild-to-moderate psychotic break. In fact, so peculiar is the flavor of despair and/or rage during a prodrome that my husband and children have been able to accurately predict my migraines for years now.
More often than not, I feel shame rather than thanksgiving for that fact.
When another prodrome has mellowed into mere pain, sometimes I find myself falling prey to self-loathing, wishing that I were a better example for the children or less of a burden on my husband or any number of other things.
All of this – the good and the bad – serves only to remind me that the enemy of our souls desires to use every single circumstance as a wedge to drive us further from God and from each other.
But on the flip side, God can and will use each circumstance for good and for His glory if we will surrender it to Him.
So today, I publicly surrender. I am choosing to look past both discomfort and my emotional response to it and praise God for the valuable lessons I have learned and for those I am still learning in the school of pain.
I am thankful for my weakness because it forces me to rely more on my God.
I am thankful for for crazy mood swings because they remind me that my salvation does not depend on how I feel but on what my Lord has done.
I am thankful that having an invisible illness tends to make me weigh the motives of others with greater compassion. Perhaps that rude lady in the grocery store is dealing with a migraine prodrome, or perhaps the man who cut me off on the interstate had an ocular migraine and very literally did not see me, or perhaps the person who jostled me as I walked did so because some joint pain caused them to stumble, or…
I am thankful for my family, who put up with me when I’m not sure I would put up with myself.
I am thankful that my God is bigger than pain, particularly since in the mix of arthritis, back and neck issues, migraine, and stomach trouble from too many years of carelessness with NSAIDs there are very few days where nothing hurts.
I am thankful for a husband who is patient and kind – even when I am not.
I am thankful that my Lord Jesus chose to experience both the physical and emotional aspects of pain by walking in His creation as a man. Let that sink in a minute. Lord, every time we feel pain or suffer, remind us that You have shared in that experience by Your own deliberate choice and praise You for Your compassion.
I am thankful He chose to pay in full the cost of my sin even though I did not deserve it and even though I continue not to deserve it.
I am thankful that because He did, I am not a slave to either pain or any emotion generated by it, and I am equally thankful that He is patient with me when I forget that I am a free woman and drag around my rusty old chains once more.
I am thankful that He does not need me, but that He still allows me to participate in spreading the word of His goodness and glory even though I have often made a mess of things in my silly little attempts.
Even in the midst of circumstances that tempt me to knuckle under to despair, I intentionally (and maybe even defiantly!) give thanks, because despite the unpredictable flux of my mental state, the Rock of Ages is steadfast and His love endures forever!