Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 12:7-10
Oh, it isn't always like this. Sometimes I go for weeks at a time with no sign of this horrible disease. Then all at once I am struck down.
I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia when I was eighteen years old and a freshmen in college. The beast stole my rest. It caused my body to ache. It didn't take long for my grades and motivation to hit rock bottom. I withdrew from school during the second semester.
Over the past year the pain in my lower back has become increasingly worse. It usually radiates down into my hips and then spreads through my legs. There are days that I can hardly move. At thirty-four years old, I have had to become dependent on a cane or wheelchair to assist with my mobility on these days. The use of such a tool is most humbling (and humiliating) for me. I want to look young and act young while I am young. Yet when a flare-up strikes, I feel like my feet are weighted down with anchors, and my walk is more that of a ninety year old woman than one in her mid-thirties.
From the outside you'd never guess that there was such turmoil stirring within my body. (Unless of course you catch me on day when I'm forced to use a mobility device as described above.) I usually try to have a cheerful countenance and be friendly. This "invisible illness" leaves me feeling alone and misunderstood. I am very blessed to have a husband and children that are sensitive to this often debilitating sickness. Yet many people outside my immediate family cannot comprehend the extent of my pain. They do not understand why I have to cancel last minute - especially when I seemed to feel so good the day before. They do not realize that I used all my strength yesterday and have none left for today. My kids have missed out on sleep-overs, play-dates, dance classes, and more because of fibromyalgia. They are always good natured about it, but my heart breaks for them. I want so badly to be out in the yard playing catch with them, pushing them on the swing-set, or jumping on the trampoline with them. But my body won't let me. I know I have few years left that they want me to be part of those things, and I'm missing out.
Today is a "good" day. Medication has relieved me from the constant pain that I felt over the past several days. Yet the six baskets of laundry waiting to be washed remind me of the past week that I have had to spend on the couch. I'll try to get a lot of it caught up today while being careful not to over-do to the point that I can't do anything tomorrow.
As was with Paul, I know that God has allowed this thorn in my flesh for a purpose. Right now I don't know that purpose, but I do know that God will work even this for His good. For now I am standing firm on the promises that He has given me and am encouraged by the Word He has confirmed in my heart:
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. James 1:2-4 (The Message)
Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. Hebrews 10:36 (NLT)