I’ve never been one to handle pain very well.
Papercut? Yeah, I’ll cry like a baby.
Stubbed toe? I’ll whine for several minutes.
Sore throat? I’ll sulk in bed until it goes away.
But even though my pain tolerance is low, there is one pain that I’ve had to learn to live with since I was young.
I’ve grown up with chronic migraines. Sometimes they’re worse than other times. Although I get headaches very frequently, my migraines are always so much worse and I have anywhere from one, to several a week. My headaches often affect my stomach as well, so because of that I have to stay away from certain headache medicines.
Growing up, we tried everything we could to figure out the causes of the migraines and to eliminate triggers. I remember spending hours in the grocery store as my ever patient and loving mom looked through every ingredient on the foods we would buy, double-checking that they didn’t include any of the trigger ingredients we had to avoid.
As I got older the triggers became much more difficult to figure out, as the migraines can occur just out of the blue.
I’ve struggled with this often. I’ve prayed fervently. My calling in life—what I believe to be my purpose—requires me to frequently sit at a computer screen as I pour my words into magazines, articles, blogs, and books. However, oftentimes the computer can intensify my migraines or trigger them. I have desperately wondered why. How can something that is my calling and my ministry cause me such physical pain?
The migraines can prevent me from writing for a few hours, to a few days. And I just don’t understand. Why, God?
Well, instead of a direct answer, He simply gave me this…
“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NKJV)
I’m puzzled over this.
I wonder…why would God choose grace as the simple answer? Not healing, not relief. Grace.
When Paul asked for the thorn to be removed, God didn’t even respond with, “Someday,” or, “Wait.”
He said, “My grace is sufficient.” My grace is enough for now. My grace is enough for your pain. My grace is all you need.
I’m still puzzled because I don’t understand. This is such a different answer than the one my flesh cries out for. Why would God not remove the thorn--why would He not remove my pain?--when healing is a good thing?
The answer that came to me was, maybe…
Maybe grace is the healing all along.
Perhaps, in seasons of physical suffering, our hearts are not always longing for a physical healing. But perhaps, our hearts are searching for an internal miracle. Something that will heal the deepest wounds in us, that physical healing can’t reach. And grace? Well, grace can be that miracle.
Then it occurred to me. Maybe I didn’t need perfect health to fulfill my calling after all. Maybe through the pain, He could be more glorified.
Maybe what the devil intended as harm, God just couldn’t wait to use for my greatest good. And I believe that. Yes, I believe it with all of my heart.
So, in typical Bella style, instead of staying away from my writing—my calling—to prevent or bring relief to my pain, I instead laugh in that old devil’s face and say, “Watch me change this world anyway.”
Because when the devil is fighting so hard to keep you from pursuing that calling God has given you, then you know--you know—that calling is big. That calling just might change your world.
Whether it’s physical or emotional pain you suffer from, His grace is sufficient. His grace is enough. His grace is the healing your soul looks for most.
Yet, God doesn’t just leave it at that.
When Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorn in his flesh (whatever that may have represented, physical or spiritual), God didn’t just leave him hanging and say, “Sorry, Paul, you’re on your own.”
He gave Paul His grace, and then He promised…
When you are weak, then I will be most strong in you.
His strength is made perfect in every physical, emotional, and spiritual weakness you have had to carry. At the places in your life you are most weak, God is ready to shower His rain of grace and make you most strong.
Because strength isn’t about perfection, relief, or painless living.
Not at all.
Strength is about doing His right thing, even in the pain.
So whatever that calling is He has given you, grasp onto His grace and push forward into what He’s beckoning you towards.
His strength will be enough for whatever lies ahead. I promise.
And He does too.