Thursday, November 14, 2013

When You Feel Discouraged

Suppose I asked you to list three forms of suffering in your current life? Which trials would you deem the most serious? Can you even think of three, or are there far more?

I ponder this myself at a discouraging time. Trying not to sink into self-pity--which I consider a grave sin--I'm comparing my trials to my blessings, and guess which come out on top?

I started a daily dose of the antidepressant drug Elavil (25 mg) nearly two weeks ago to fight my migraines, and I've had a headache every day since, two of which caused me to miss appointments (speech for the kids, and helping in AWANA). I read such rave reviews about this drug's ability to fight migraines, that I never considered it might not work for me.

I know it sometimes takes time for a drug to be therapeutic, but still, I'm discouraged. Canceling things makes me feel like a failure; I don't like to let people down. They probably don't consider that it's the sin curse letting them down, and not me?

I have to wonder if it would be better to stay on the rebound headache pattern and just take a daily dose (or two) of Tylenol and caffeine. Surely those are better for the body than a daily antidepressant? Am I gaining anything by trying to fight this with prescription drugs, and adding side effects into the mix?

In the past I rejected the idea of prescription migraine drugs because I was either nursing a baby or pregnant (2001-2013). Suddenly, Tylenol and caffeine (1000 milligrams and 128 milligrams, respectively) don't seem so bad. In the past, fewer of my headaches landed me in bed, so I'm going backwards.

That's my story today, and I'm sure you have one too.

What can we cling to when life seems so hard? How do we fight discouragement?

Here's what I'm clinging to, and maybe you can add your own list in the comments?

1. Paul the Apostle tells me my troubles are momentary (and I believe him).

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2. I am not alone in my suffering.

We shouldn't be grateful that our troubles are less serious than the next person's. Should our gratitude really lie in comparing ourselves and deciding we come out on top in terms of suffering? Is that true be grateful I only have to take medicine, rather than living my whole life in a wheelchair? Or learning that I'm dying from cancer? If gratitude lies in comparisons, what does the dying cancer patient have to be grateful for, or the wheelchair patient, or the Indian girl sold into slavery?

Instead, I gain perspective by remembering that all humanity suffers. I'm not alone in feeling that life is very hard sometimes. It's very hard for all of us. The good news is that because Jesus became flesh, he can identify with our earthly suffering. We are never alone.

3. I can bring Glory to God through my suffering.

All people suffer, yes, but they don't all suffer well. With the power of the Holy Spirit, through prayer, I can manage my suffering well, to the glory of God. I can refuse to wallow in self-pity; I can count my blessings. I can focus on others, not on myself. In the midst of a headache, I can lay low and pray and pray and pray. Illness stops us in our tracks; sometimes we need a kick in the pants to embrace a life of prayer.

I mentioned that I feel like a failure when pain causes me to cancel things, but in truth, what really makes me a failure? I'm a failure when I live for myself, rather than for God. If God wants me to have headaches so I can better my prayer life, then He has my full blessing. I submit to your will, Lord.

4. Suffering gives birth to compassion.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

Whenever I come across someone who suffers chronic pain, my heart aches for them in ways it never would had migraine never entered my life. I think of them and pray for them often, and this in itself is gift. It takes my focus off of me, which is victory.

5. Suffering tests my faith.

John Piper on suffering: "All experiences of suffering in the path of Christian obedience, whether from persecution or sickness or accident, have this in common: they all threaten our faith in the goodness of God and tempt us to leave the path of obedience. Therefore, every triumph of faith and all perseverance in obedience are testimonies to the goodness of God and the preciousness of Christ -- whether the enemy is sickness, Satan, sin or sabotage.

Therefore all suffering, of every kind, that we endure in the path of our Christian calling is a suffering "with Christ" and "for Christ." With him in the sense that the suffering comes to us as we are walking with him by faith, and in the sense that it is endured in the strength that he supplies through his sympathizing high-priestly ministry (Hebrews 4:15). For him in the sense that the suffering tests and proves our allegiance to his goodness and power, and in the sense that it reveals his worth as an all-sufficient compensation and prize."

Yes, I have headaches. But I also have...

...a Heavenly Father who loves me with a wild and beautiful grace.

...the Holy Spirit as a down payment on my eternal inheritance.

...a new heart in Christ.

...victory over my sin nature.

...eyes that spiritually see.

...everyday graces in my children and my husband.

...fellow believers to share my burdens with (that's you, friends, and thank you!).

...the Bible as the living Word of God.

...the ability to truly love, through Him.


...His faithfulness.

...His power.

...His Truth.

Dear friends, how rich we are! Hallelujah.


Terri H said...

The headaches...oh I live with them, too. Mine maybe not so frequent as yours, but 5 of the last 7 days I have been in pain and or experienced other migraine symptoms. It is exhausting and discouraging. I will pray for wisdom for you as you decide which is a better course of treatment. I am afraid that I love the feeling of the wash of relief as I sip my caffeine and pop my advil.

Christine said...

It makes me sad to hear that you deal with this too, Terri. I will will include you in my healing prayers!