Lately I’ve been wrestling with my chronic migraines. Not just the physical pain, but what they mean for my life.
For those of you who don’t know, I suffer under the iron maiden of headaches almost daily. Tension headaches, cluster headaches, migraines—I get them all. This past month I’ve had probably two or three headache free days. I’m almost perpetually groggy, buzzed, or sick from the medication, or from the pain when the medication doesn’t cut it. In the last few years I’ve often wondered why God hasn’t healed me of this malady, speculated about what I could accomplish for Jesus with a clear mind and a healthy body. From time to time I find something that helps, but two or three weeks later, my body seems to find a way around the solution and I’m back to square one. It’s like fighting Star Trek’s Borg, the collective parasitic colony that learns from every encounter so that you can never try the same thing twice or risk being assimilated.
After a lifetime of this struggle (I had intense headaches as a little boy), I’m no closer to finding a satisfactory answer for the WHY? question. I’m sure many of you—with more intense struggles than I could ever imagine—can relate to that confession.
I am, however, making progress on the NOW WHAT? question. Which is what I want to share with you today.
I think the bottom line is the glory of God. The WHY question, while it can dabble with God’s glory, is usually (and honestly) directed at myself: “Why do I struggle with this? Why doesn’t God heal ME?” The “Now what?” question can be ME centred too. Both of those questions are doomed to loop back around and hit us in the back of the head like a soulish boomerang if we keep them earthbound, orbiting around US. If the “Now what?” question is about God and his will, it breaks free of our selfish gravity—and, by extension, from our limited perspective—and finds eternal purpose that cannot be apprehended any other way.
If God’s glory is my NOW WHAT, then I cannot lose. I’ll show you what I mean.
Let’s say I pray for healing (as much as possible, asking for the sake of his glory). I’ve seen so many miracles, so I know God can do this for me. If he does, he will be glorified—both by the miracle itself and the never-ending stream of praises and good press that will stream from my lips.
But let’s say God doesn’t heal me. Now what? See, there’s the question I’m faced with, because I’ve asked for healing a thousand times and caring church folk have also added petitions to the “Brad’s healing fund” over the years and still, no healing. Yet, at least.
What if my vow is not that I’ll deal with it, not that I’ll suck it up and keep going, not that I’ll reject bitterness. What if my resolution is that no matter what, God will get glory out of me? Even if it kills me?
“We have this treasure in jars of clay,” Paul says. Broken, cracked jars that reveal that “this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.” Yes. My migraines are a hole in my jar that give me a chance to reveal God’s glory to people around me. God shines through my weakness, if I let him—through my pain, through my struggle, through my questions, tears, and exhaustion. Through my trust, love, and hope in spite of it all.
Seen in that light, transparency, one my friends recently pointed out, isn’t just letting people see who we really are inside. It’s letting people see Jesus in there.
If he heals me, I will glorify him.
If he doesn’t heal me, I will glorify him.
No matter what happens, God will get glory out of me. Period.
Because my health isn’t the most important thing in the universe. The promise is that if Jesus is lifted up, he will draw everyone to himself. If I let him shine through my brokenness no matter what, I’m lifting Jesus up. People will be drawn to him.
That’s more important than my skull.