Every January 1st people all over the world eagerly welcome the New Year. A chance to put things behind us and move forward with the hopes, possibilities and opportunities of the future. While I’m always excited for a new beginning I also dread January 1st. Along with the New Year it ushers in the most difficult time of the year for me physically. The next 3-4 months are filled with gray skies and bitterly cold days which takes my normal, annoying fibromyalgia pain and elevates it to out of control. The anticipation of winter starts for me around November 1st. The temperature starts to fall but is still manageable and with the excitement of the holidays I’m able to put out of my mind what’s right around the corner. Without fail though as soon as the ball drops in Times Square we’re lucky to get the wind chill above 10 degrees and with the plummeting temperature goes my mood! Each Fall I try to mentally prepare myself for the pain, even tell myself that maybe it won’t be as bad as last year. And then the pain hits.
My “winter” pain is distinct, so different from other times of year. I know some of you can relate as you shared with me your “cold” pain in the past. By the end of the evening it feels like I went to roof of my house, jumped off and landed on my back. I have sharp pain from the base of my head all the way down to my tail bone. I’ve never found any medicine to relieve the pain so I don’t take any. The only relief I can get is to keep my body warm through heaters and heating pads and lay down as much as possible. It’s miserable mentally as much as it is physically. But it’s something God has allowed in my life and I’ve prayed in His grace that He would show me some lessons through the pain. And graciously He has. As much as I know long term it would be better for my body to be somewhere with less harsh winters I’m still actually grateful (sometimes-I am human!) for the important truths I’ve learned through my “winter” pain. Although to be clear if any of you need someone to housesit your beach house from January to May I’m happy to help and glad leave winter behind-haha!
All joking aside this season of life teaches me to remain hopeful in the midst of trial. The Bible says:
James 1:2-4 (NIV)
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Maturity in Christ is something I desire. God often matures us through adversity (gotta admit not my favorite thing). My fibromyalgia in general but particularly the extreme nature of my pain in winter is used to refine me, mature me and make me more like Christ. While I love the result of trials the process is often very painful and I would hardly consider it “pure joy” most days to go through adversity but I’m continuing to work on my attitude and try to see this pain in a different light. The lessons that this teaches me about living in the present and finding joy and peace in Christ apart from my circumstances will be applicable to so many experience in the future. Life is full of adversity, troubles and circumstances that are less than ideal and if I wait to choose joy only when things are going the way I want them to or for a day without pain then I’ll waste a lot of my life being miserable. For me remaining joyful is about focusing on my blessings instead of burdens. In fact I talked about it in a blog entry last year if you want to check it out here. It can be so hard for me on difficult pain days to remain grateful and find joy when all I can think about is the pain but I know on those days I need to do it all the more. On those days especially just taking the time to read the Bible, pray or listen to a worship song can make a world of difference in my attitude.
As each May blossoms into warmer temperatures I heave a sigh of relief. Summer is a joy to me. While I still have pain it’s much more manageable and the closest I will ever experience to feeling “normal” physically (unless of course God decides to totally heal me!). With the transition to summer I’m reminded of one more truth I’ve learned through my “winter” pain-this too shall pass!
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (New International Version)
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven”
Circumstances, even painful ones, only last but a season. Behind every gray day there’s a sunny one waiting to emerge. Even with chronic conditions like fibromyalgia there is reason to remain hopeful. Not every day will be a bad one and despite the pain or burdens we may face there is always something to be grateful for. Some days I have to remind myself this many times!
Have you ever gone on a missions trip or even watched a TV show about people living in 3rd world countries? I am always so amazed that there are people living with disease, pain, famine, poverty and death and yet they have such joy for life. Maybe because they realize how precious it really is. It’s always so convicting to me and a great reminder that even when my winter pain has got me down and I want to throw a pity party I will choose to remember how blessed I am that for me, the majority of my pain, lasts but one season!
If you’re struggling today with “winter” pain or another challenging circumstance in life remember that you don’t have to walk through this alone. Read your Bible and ask for God’s help to endure your trial and reach out to your church family to have them praying for and encouraging you through the midst of your struggle. I am not naturally a glass half full person but God is transforming me and when I depend on Him He’s allowing me to have more joy and gratitude in the moment and I know He can do the same for you!