On the first post of my 30 days of thanks giving, I promised to share the story of why a particular set of words, the very words that challenged me to begin this monthly project, changed my outlook.
Years ago, our family lived in the Pacific Northwest and we attended a small, evangelical church. Being newcomers we eagerly got involved with our family of God and began participating in musical productions there. Papa loved to sing and music has always been an integral part of my life.
Every year at Easter, our church presented a dramatic, musical pageant telling the life of Christ and His sacrifice for us on the cross through drama and song. We practiced many long hours learning the music, helping build sets, and assisting with various aspects of the production. One particular year, our family of five – my husband, our three children, and I – were all in the program. I was one of the few who sang alto and since I’ve always enjoyed singing and performing, it satisfied my ‘inner actress.’
We had already performed the pageant on Good Friday and Saturday evening but expected an even larger crowd for the Easter Sunday morning program. I eagerly anticipated this last presentation because we had invited friends to attend.
And then it happened. I woke up Easter Sunday morning around 5 a.m. with one doozy of a headache. I groggily made my way out of bed and popped some medication. It didn’t help.
If anything, my headache worsened and then my stomach started churning. The pain was so intense, dizziness ensued, and as I scurried to the bathroom to ease my nausea, I realized I had a full-blown migraine headache.
Not today! I prayed. I begged God to take the excruciating pain and sick stomach away. I cried, I moaned, and in my mind I was screaming, “Why me? Why today?”
Instead of feeling better, I got worse. I couldn’t even stand upright but was relegated to my bed while my husband and children prepared to leave for church and perform in the pageant I so longingly wanted to be in.
After they left, I curled up in my bed gripping my pounding head and weeping. Why did this happen today of all days? Why did it happen to me?
The phone ringing on the nightstand jarred me out of my misery. The harsh sound seemed to make my head pound even more as I crawled across the bed to answer it. The soothing, calm voice of a close friend from church greeted me.
Learning from my husband that I was suffering with a horrible migraine, something she often experienced as well, she called before the program commenced. She sympathized with me, assured me that I was truly missed, but then she did something that totally startled me.
She prayed with me on the phone. Of course, she asked God to relieve my suffering and pain, but she prayed words that Easter morning that I have never forgotten and I don’t believe I ever will.
She thanked God for my migraine headache. What?! My groggy brain thought I wasn’t hearing her correctly. Did my friend just thank God for my pain? For my suffering? For the fact that I couldn’t participate in praising the Lord on Resurrection Day? That I was missing the opportunity to perform those songs I had practiced so long?
Yes, she did. Her words are etched in my mind. She prayed, “Lord, we don’t always understand the things that happen or why they happen but we know you have a reason. And your Word tell us that we should…”
And then she recited this passage of scripture as she prayed over me that Easter morning: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in ALL circumstances (even for headaches), for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Okay, I’m human. You know what I was thinking during all of this, don’t you? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? Be thankful for a throbbing migraine headache that was causing me not to be able to see straight and making me throw up? Be thankful that I couldn’t perform in a program I had spent many hours preparing for? Be thankful that I wasn’t with my family on the most glorious day of the year celebrating the resurrection of Jesus? HUH?? Was she a crazy nut? A religious fanatic?
My mind couldn’t wrap around why she prayed over those particular verses. But weeks later, as I pondered my friend’s prayer and read that scripture passage again…and again…its truth sunk into my soul. And that passage of scripture eventually changed my outlook and became my ‘go-to’ verses for life because I finally realized that even painful or difficult circumstances can be used by God to bring us closer to Him, to seek Him, rely on Him.
Today on this third day of my 30 days of thanks giving, I give thanks for that circumstance over 20 years ago because it changed my way of thinking. It changed my life. I give thanks for a wise friend who followed God’s leading to call me and pray His Word with me.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my story. And I am thankful for that migraine headache.
“Our prayers are answered not when we are given what we ask but when we are challenged to be what we can be.” ~ Morris Adler