“But I am lowly and in pain; let your salvation, O God, protect me.” -Psalm 69:29 (NRSV)
I have an autoimmune disease called fibromyalgia. It manifests in joint pain that moves around my body (and sometimes appears in the middle of my shins), fatigue, and is comorbid (found simultaneously) with conditions like migraines, IBS, and depression. Flare-ups are rare for me (thanks to gabapentin), but a major one hit after my second COVID vaccine. I had made sure I could work from my bed that day, but the pain was severe, and I was definitely pretty miserable.
One of the hard things about having it is that about half of the medical profession agrees it exists while the other half thinks those doctors are horrible diagnosticians. It is a diagnosis of exclusion, which means that they have to exclude everything else before you get a firm diagnosis. This means bloodwork for some pretty strange things and x-rays to rule out other issues. I was evaluated by an amazing rheumatologist when I moved up here who did one of the thorough rheumatology exams ever (which, ironically, means that I left in a large amount of pain), but alas, he is overworked, so I have gotten pawned off on many different specialists while they all try to figure out exactly whose problem I am.
Because of all of this, I resonate with the psalmist very much. It is hard to be in pain and discomfort while not having any good way to stop it. It brings to mind a story told by the late author Rachel Held Evans. She had horrible eczema as a child and nighttime was the worst for the itching. Vinegar baths made her nauseous from the smell, and she finally asked her dad why Jesus would afflict her this way.
His response was beautiful: “I don’t know why. But I know He loves you.”
I don’t know why I have fibromyalgia (and migraines and IBS and depression and every other phenotypic expression of my genetics), but I know it has nothing to do with whether or not God loves me. This is saving me and saving my faith.
Dear Lord, help us to remember that you do not afflict us with things that cause us pain or discomfort to hurt us. Please be present with us during the hard times in enduring them. Amen.