I have a secret... I am a lifelong procrastinator.
Okay, that isn't a secret, but it does help explain why it has taken all summer for this post to be made.
The real secret is.. my life is full of pain. Actually, that might not be a secret either, but it is true. Like everyone else in the world, pain is a constant in my life. Mental pain, physical pain, emotional pain, and spiritual pain have shown up too many times to keep track of. We look at celebrities and rich people and think that their life is perfect, but no one escapes from the realities of pain in this world. It is a concept so common among humans, yet it is so strange how we feel alone when we are in the midst of our pain. We feel like no one knows what we are going through, we will never be okay again, and this misery will be with us forever.
I have to say, I am the queen of pity parties and letting the pain of this world encompass me until I can no longer see past the thick, black clouds. I've never handled pain well. I can not be trusted with classified information because I will be the first to talk if it means avoiding pain.
But something incredible happened over the summer! I got covid!
I know that for many people, that is not something they would call incredible. Covid sucks, don't get me wrong. It was absolutely no fun suffering through it. I don't wish it on anyone. What happened to me while suffering through covid, however, was incredible and life-changing!
You see, before testing positive for covid, there was a sermon at my church about suffering. Now, I don't want to give my pastor a big head, but it was a good sermon. I know, because when it was over, I was really mad at him. I felt attacked (which usually means God was trying to get a message across). Honestly, what does my pastor know about my pain?! How can he tell me how to deal with my suffering?! No one has had to live my life! No one has had to be trapped in my head for 34 years! No one can tell me how to deal with that pain! If I want to drown in my suffering and throw a pity party for myself, then no one can tell me I can't!
A few weeks later, I got sick with covid. Everything hurt. My whole body was in so much pain and nothing I did made it better. No position I contorted my body into felt comfortable. My head was pounding to the beat of my heart and I was painfully aware of every inch of myself. It was pain, and to make matters worse, there was a broken record in my head telling me over and over this is it. I can't do this. This pain is killing me. Is it even worth suffering through? Honestly, what kind of life am I even fighting for here? I'm in insurmountable debt, constantly in physical pain even without covid, and an oddball outcast everywhere I go. Seriously, what is the point?
I don't need to tell you that thoughts like that are scary. Now, don't be alarmed, I would never end myself. Thankfully, I don't have that in me, but it is very scary that my own consciousness would bring up thoughts like that and put them on repeat when I am at my worst.
So, there I am, laying in bed, in worst pain than I have ever been in, and I remember the sermon about suffering. Praise him through the pain popped into my head and my entire reality shifted. I physically felt a shift in the world around me! It sounds insane and crazy, but one second I am in pain and completely miserable and the next I am smiling and giddy. I was still sick. I still had pain all over my body, but I was so full of joy and praise for God that everything else paled in comparison. I was suffering! How blessed was I to be suffering! It meant I was alive! It meant God wasn't done with me yet! It meant I was a tiny bit closer to being more like Jesus!
Now, I am not comparing the suffering Jesus went through to my bout of covid. I am saying that in order to be more Christ-like, God will put us through trials and suffering as he did with Jesus. He didn't spare Jesus from suffering and pain and He didn't spare me from suffering and pain.
The pain and symptoms from covid lasted about 3 weeks. I stayed in bed a lot during that time. I had almost no energy and everything hurt, but I had a smile on my face. I was happy. I was singing praise to God and just completely baffled as to how I didn't know about this superpower before! All the times I had been in pain and just plain miserable, it never occurred to me that focusing on God instead of my current misfortune would create such a drastic change in my life!
Do you want to know the good news? All this is true for you too! This isn't just my superpower! God gives this life-changing ability to anyone and everyone who asks for it! I always remember reading stories in the Bible about the apostles and how they rejoiced in prison. I never understood how that was possible. I just figured the lack of clean water and food made them delirious. Let's face it, the roman prisons weren't exactly the Hilton. But, now I understand that they put praising God above their pain. They put the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ above their own suffering. When you praise God through the pain, you are no longer focused on the pain, but on the joy and love that God gives you and everything else fades into the background.
I thank God that I caught covid. I thank God for the timely sermon that planted the seed I would later need to survive the pain of the illness. I thank God for the superpowers that he gives his children to make it from day to day as he shapes us into the images he wants us to be. And I thank God for the ability to share this news of this amazing power with others who may be suffering and in need of the secret to smiling through the worst of it. Thank you Lord for the new eyes you have given me that allow me to look at pain as just another reason to praise you!