MIGRAINES AND MINISTRY
I’ve never been one to handle pain very well.
Papercut? I’ll cry like a baby.
Stubbed toe? I’ll whine about it.
Sore throat? I’ll sulk in bed until it goes away.
But even though my reaction to pain can be ridiculous at times, there is one pain I’ve had to learn to live with since I was young.
I’ve grown up with chronic migraines. Sometimes they’re worse than at other times. Although I get headaches nearly every day, my migraines are always so much worse, and I have two to several of them a week.
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, loving mom looked through every ingredient in the food we bought, double-checking that they didn’t include any of the trigger ingredients we had to avoid.
As I got older, the triggers became more difficult to figure out, with migraines occurring out-of-the-blue.
I’ve struggled often with my calling in life — what I believe to be my purpose — which requires me to frequently sit at a computer screen pouring my words into articles and books. Often the computer intensifies my migraines or triggers them, and I’ve desperately wondered why.
How can something that is my calling and my ministry cause me so much physical pain?
The migraines can prevent me from writing for a few hours or a few days. I just don’t understand.
GOD’S GRACE IS SUFFICIENT
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 or relief, but 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, and 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?
GRACE IS IN THE HEALING
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. Perhaps our hearts are instead 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 the miracle.
That’s when it occurred to me! Maybe I didn’t need perfect health to fulfill my calling after all. Maybe what the devil intended as harm, God couldn’t wait to use for my greatest good.
Yes, I believe that with all of my heart.
So instead of staying away from my writing — my calling — to prevent or bring relief of my pain, I instead laugh in that old devil’s face and say, “Watch me impact the world anyway.” Because when the devil is fighting hard to keep you from pursuing the calling God has given you, then you know — you know! — that calling is BIG!
That calling just might change the world!
GOD’S STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS
Whether it’s physical or emotional pain you suffer from, God’s grace is sufficient. His grace is enough. His grace is the healing your soul seeks.
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), 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 strong in you.
God’s strength is made perfect in every physical, emotional, and spiritual weakness you have to carry. At the places in your life where you are most weak, God is ready to shower you with His rain of grace and make you strong.
Because strength isn’t about perfection, relief, or painless living.
Strength is about doing His right thing, even in the pain.
So whatever calling He has given you, grasp His grace. Lean toward where He’s beckoning you. His strength will be enough for whatever lies ahead. I promise.
And He does too.
*First published at Jesus is Worth It All, September 2017. Published with permission.
Isabella is a chronic illness warrior and child of God. She is the author of Journey of Faith: A Devotional for Young Women and several other titles. In 2018, she launched a coaching business for young writers with one of her dearest friends. She works in children and youth ministry and loves to connect with people.
Click here to watch Isabella speaking at Diamonds 2019, The Living Hope Conference.