I had a migraine Sunday night. Its ghost lingers two days later, but compared to the agony of earlier, I count this mild discomfort as relief.
I’ve had so many headaches lately, basically one (or more) every day for the past month. I’m working on discovering the cause and solution, but in the meantime this chronic pain has taken a heavy toll on my emotions.
If you’ve known me long, you know I’m a hypochondriac. Naturally, recurring headaches set off a boatload of “what-if” alarms in my overactive imagination. To make matters worse, I despise taking medication, yet most of my headaches have been strong enough to require some form of pharmaceutical pain relief. The longer this goes on, the higher my anxiety meter rises.
All this angst has me digging into my memory bank for the lessons I learned five years ago, when panic attacks and severe depression altered my life in ways I’m still deciphering. Then, as now, I sank into deep discouragement about the time slipping by while I survived the storm. I was going through the motions, putting my time in, but not really living. I still regret the gap in memory where my son moved from baby to preschooler. I missed his toddler years. When I look at pictures of that fleeting time, I can’t recall anything but the moment captured in pixels. I’ll never get those precious months back, and I’ve shed plenty of tears over that hard truth.
Obviously this season of headaches is, or will (hopefully) be, mild compared to my nervous breakdown phase. Yet many of the emotions I’m battling are the same – anxiety, depression, discouragement, hopelessness, doubt, fear. I call these “the arrows of the enemy,” and I envision them as poison-tipped arrows – the kind that cause pain on impact but ultimately destroy life by leeching toxicity into your bloodstream. It’s the saturation that kills you, not the puncture wound.
But then there’s this: according to Romans 5, “…suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” If I believe God is good, if I believe He loves me, if I believe He has power over everything, then I also have to believe no pain comes to His children without a redemptive purpose. Can He take my headaches away? Absolutely. I ask Him to every day. Sometimes He does, sometimes He doesn’t. The why or why-not is His business.
Even more than praying for relief, I’m praying for growth. I don’t want to to just survive this season of headaches, or any season of suffering for that matter. I want to persevere, grow in character, and embrace hope.
Like the injured Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, I want to overcome my injuries – physical and emotional – by recalling who I am and why I’m here (caveat: unlike Inigo, I don’t want to kill a man to avenge my father’s untimely death).
So, who am I? A beloved daughter of the the sovereign God, who has promised to work all things together for my good. All things. (Thankfully He’s also said His ways and thoughts are above mine, so it’s okay if I can’t wrap my mind around how migraines bring me blessings.) Why am I here? To bring Him glory by loving and trusting His goodness, even in the hard stuff.
Truth is the antidote to the poison-tipped arrows of the enemy – truth about who God is, no matter what He does or doesn’t do. That’s what I learned in 2008 when my life fell apart. That’s what I’m remembering today as another headache clouds my ability to think clearly and write well.
We all fight this battle to thrive instead of just survive. How do you do it? What are your secret weapons?
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
1 Corinthians 12:8-10