'Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus' 1 Thess 5:18
This weekend, I had planned to spend more time reflecting on the aspects of our faith which can most help a believer stand firm in the face of trial. Instead, I've had crippling pain in my neck and arm, and have only been able to function by taking four classes of analgesia. However, this has given me cause to reflect, and to be thankful:
1. I am thankful I am not in this amount of pain all the time! I have a genetic condition which means that from time to time I do get severe pain from my joints, but much of the time I am able to function perfectly well. On the days when I feel incapacitated, it is a reminder of what I am spared, much of the time.
2. I am thankful that God gives sufficient strength to function. I had important work meetings this week, and yesterday was a seven hour thanksgiving service at church. I was able to give as much to these as I was able (and most likely, very few people would have noticed anything amiss).
3. I am thankful for medicines. I usually carry a selection with me, so that if I have an injury or a flare up, I can treat the symptoms rapidly. I have been considering how disabling this condition would be without these medicines
4. I am thankful that it gives me a greater understanding of what people with 'hidden disabilities' must endure. I am better able to 'rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn'. It makes me aware that other people might be facing unseen challenges
5. I am thankful that the Lord knows all things. Sickness, including genetic conditions like mine, is ultimately a consequence of the fallen world we live in. God knows the challenges we face every day - be it physical limitations, pain, mental health challenges, every bit as much as He is aware of our external circumstances. We can draw close to Him in our times of trial, and for that I am most thankful.
6. I am thankful that this teaches me humility - when life and work are going well, there can be a temptation to become confident in ourselves. Setbacks like this remind me that we are frail humans, dependent on God's gracious provision every day.
7. I am thankful for the reminder that God's timing is perfect. Sometimes we wonder why things happen when they do - why does a challenge or an illness come at what seems to be a most inconvenient time? It's a reminder to trust that God knows about this, and can work in and through it. In fact, I was meant to travel this weekend and the trip was postponed; whilst initially disappointed, I have been very thankful that I have no travel and a relatively empty diary this week.
So, as the week starts, I am in pain and feel a bit daunted. My husband has just travelled for a few days so I'm alone with the children. I can't easily rest the way I would like, and I can't take the stronger painkillers as they make me a little drowsy. But I do know from previous experience, that God will give me strength and grace enough to get through the day, and that He will surprise me with joy and encouragement along the way.
I wonder what challenges you face this week? Do some situations feel impossible? Let me encourage you to trust God, who knows all about it - even more about it than you do. Look back over God's faithfulness and provision to you, and trust that He will continue to provide all you need.