If it’s not one thing…
…it’s my mother, calling with the kvetch of the day. For those of you not familiar with a kvetch, it’s similar to a nag, which is like a constant annoying reminder, only more so. If by chance my mother neglects to fill her nag quota while on the phone, I can always count on an email with a more extensive list. My mom is big into lists. From the time I was old enough to make my own lists I had (as a joke) compiled an alphabetical list of all her ailments so I knew what I was in for as I got older.
I’ve reached the age myself, though, where I’ve started on an ailment list of my very own. Not a good thing to get sidetracked by serious health issues with young children and a busy household to run. For me, illness is like an obstacle course: I’m always running and dodging, trying to leap over the daily hurdles that challenge me in ways I never imagined.
The big one from my list is Fibromyalgia. This disease is like a combination of rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue. Add to the mix sleep disturbances preventing any kind of restorative sleep – which produces another symptom, “brain fog” – memory problems equivalent to those often experienced during pregnancy. In trying to explain the illness to my older daughter, I described the effects as if they were the Seven Dwarves: Achy, Cranky, Forgetful, Gimpy, Sleepy, Weary … plus the occasional visit with Doc.
I’ve had quite a variety of responses from people when they learn that I have Fibromyalgia. Some have never heard of it; others know the name but few details about the symptoms. One fun thing about having an oddly-named disease are the unique pronunciations that people come up with. One friend (a nurse, by the way) called it Fibro Malaysia. Malaysia is a country in south-east Asia, sweetie. Also really liked the one from my pastor, who called it Fiber My Algae. While it’s important to get enough fiber in your diet, that’s not what the disease is about. As for myself, I just like to call it Fibro What Ails You. That pretty much sums it up for me. One day you feel like you got hit by a truck; the next day it might feel more like a bus or a train. Every day is different. Just a nice little bonus of the disease, all the variety.
Some days are fine; other times the flare-ups just wipe me out and make ordinary things extraordinarily difficult. Simple things exacerbate the pain, like lifting a child out of a car seat and into a grocery cart. When even the little things are a challenge, it takes an even greater effort to make the effort to do them. One of my favorite quotes is from an old article, “Obstacles are in the mind, inventing them.” Sometimes we set ourselves up for failure just by believing that we will fail. So we choose to not even try, which is failure in itself. If you let a little pain prevent you from living your life, it’s not really much of a life. But there are times you have to just push through the pain (much like during childbirth) and keep on plugging.
I say all this not to complain, or to illicit sympathy, but to make a point. There is not a person on this planet who doesn’t have some kind of difficulty in their life. Sometimes, as with me, it’s a health issue; sometimes it’s a problem with a relationship, or financial, or the like. But we have a greater source than ourselves to draw on when we are beyond our own abilities. The Bible is replete with images of illness turned to triumph, of disaster changed to blessing. We may not understand why we are allowed to suffer, but there is always a point to be made or a lesson to learn. God’s ways are not our ways. We may not see the blessing in the day-to-day difficulties, but it’s there. There are times where He uses the flip side of blessing to draw us closer to him. If we can learn to praise him when times are bad, the good times will be even sweeter. God can use the problems in our lives to prove that He is with us always, through good times and bad. To walk in true relationship with the Lord is the greatest gift ever. A daily dose of communion.
In the book of 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul mentioned suffering from a ‘thorn in his flesh.’ Though he repeatedly asked God to remove the ‘thorn’ (which some scholars believe was the onset of blindness) and restore his health, Paul did not get the answer he was looking for. He did, however, receive a greater answer: “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.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (New International Version)
So maybe I can’t do everything the same way or with the same energy that I used to. But I know that the Lord’s grace is with me, sustaining me through all my weakness. Fibromyalgia is a thorn that in all likelihood will never be removed from my side (or my knees, or my back, or my neck.) But that’s okay. Because His grace is sufficient for me, whatever my needs are. And that sure tops my list.
Publicity, Believers’ Chapel MOPS in Cicero, New York