Life can be painful enough without being sick all of the time. Unfortunately, I am sick. All.of.the.time. It's called Fibromyalgia and a short list of symptoms are as follows:
- Pain all over
- Sleep difficulties
- Brain fog
- Morning stiffness
- Muscle knots, cramping, weakness
- Digestive disorders
- Balance problems
- Itchy/burning skin
"Pain all over" can range from a dull, annoying throb to the sensation of being stabbed with shards of glass. It's random, so on a given day, you just never know what you're going to get. Too much activity will trigger pain. And by too much activity, I really mean normal, day-to-day activity, such as doing housework or yard work or taking a day trip to the beach.
"Fatigue" and "Sleep difficulties" mean that I never feel like I've gotten a good night's rest. I wake up every morning feeling as tired as when I went to bed, as well as stiff and achy. I push myself all day to do the things I need to do, and with the help of caffeine, I get through it. Then at night, I lie in bed, exhausted, but unable to fall into a deep and restful sleep. One does get used to it, but some days it is absolutely crazy-making.
"Digestive disorders" means I never know if my body will decide to happily digest my food or if my gut will just give up on me part-way through the day. This is very painful and frustrating. It's also embarrassing to have to explain to someone that you have irritable bowel syndrome. It's just not a very glamorous condition to have.
"Brain fog" means that people might think I am inconsiderate or don't care about them because I forget important things, or forget things right after hearing them. I can come off as a bit of an airhead and this is also embarrassing. I often feel like my mind is just swimming and I cannot focus. I am constantly worried that my career will fail because of this, but so far I have be able to keep my head above water.
Hopefully this will give you a basic idea of what it's like to live with this chronic illness. I could go into much deeper detail, but I won't bore you with it.
It took me many years to come to terms with this illness and accept that I would probably just have to deal with it for the rest of my life. I came to eventually feel thankful for my illness, at least for how it has challenged me and pushed me. It has taught me about humility (not that I am humble, but I do know what it is like to be humbled) and it has taught me that there is a lot more to life than just comfort.
So many people in this world suffer constantly; they suffer way worse than I do. Every day I have a short walk to get to work from where I park my car and I often see some interesting people along the way. One person who often crosses my path is a lady who appears to be an alcoholic. She is thin and weathered and usually has a look of pain on her face. With her eyes barely open, she walks as if on a tightrope, carrying a bottle of wine in a shopping bag. It's 10 am and she is returning from a trip to the wine store, evidently greatly in need of a morning drink. Once I didn't see her for several weeks and then, at last I walked past her again one morning, although I barely recognised her. She was dressed neatly, her eyes were open and her face was radiant. She had perhaps been through rehab and looked like a completely different person. Sadly it wasn't long before I saw her as I had previously known her, making her wobbly shuffle down the sidewalk with her face contorted to block out the morning sun. I can't imagine how she must suffer.
This is just one example, but I'm sure you could list many of your own. Some people suffer from physical or mental disabilities, some suffer from mental illness or simply the pain of being unloved or rejected. Far too many people suffer from disease, poverty, abuse, homelessness and injustice.
When you pray, when you stop to give thanks to God, or to ask him for help in a struggle, think of the ones who suffer daily. Maybe it's your neighbour with diabetes, or your grandma with arthritis. Maybe it's that kid with all the food allergies, the couple who are unable to have children, or the single mother whose child has autism.
It's hard enough in this life to be a witness to Christ, to show others the joy and peace that come from faith without being sick all of the time. But like it or not, this is part of my witness. How on earth am I supposed to minister to others if I can barely function like a normal person? How am I supposed to show joy when the feeling which is most common to me is pain?
It's a mystery; it's Christ's love; it's mercy; it's repentance. To be able to give thanks in any circumstance is a grace of God. That means that although it feels impossible, it's actually the opposite of that. Nothing can come between us and God's love.
And that's just the point. Constant sorrows may follow us in this life, but we can take heart, for Christ has overcome them all. And so daily, we must take up our cross and fight our way from death to life - all of us, together. Pray for me and I will pray for you.