Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…James 1:2 (NIV)
I have been sick with a sinus infection for nearly two weeks now. I just can not seem to shake it. I have not been sleeping well. I am coughing, and, for me, a sinus infection ranks a very close second behind the ‘ole stomach bug. Not being able to breathe is the pits! And, truth be told, I have yet to reach that whole “joy in the midst of suffering” thing. I am, and always will be, a work in progress, and God and I definitely still have some work to do in this department.
Have you ever used one of those nasal sprays trying to get some relief from a stuffy nose while suffering from a cold or sinus infection? Well, I am one of those people who do. Having a stuffy nose makes me feel horrible!
So if you have used them before, you may know that the bottles always warn of overuse. It can lead to an increase in nasal congestion. I am aware of this, but overuse them anyway when I am desperate for relief for my poor, tired nose.
The warnings are true. Nasal congestion does increase. I think an addiction actually takes place. Even if I have gotten over the symptoms from which relief was originally being sought, the thing that was originally supposed to help has now become the cause of the problem.
What I have learned is this. I know when I have overused the spray and have crossed over into the addiction phase. When the nasal stuffiness comes again, I have to resist the urge to once again use the spray. I will remain stuffy, unable to breathe, most likely for several hours. However, if I wait it out, my sinuses will eventually open back up, and the addiction will have been broken.
This happened to me again a few days ago, and this time, as I suffered through the misery of not being able to breathe, God used that time to illustrate a spiritual truth.
Suffering is never fun. Most, if not all, of us would choose to pass on the whole suffering thing. When it does come, for many of us, our first response is to find relief or a way out as soon as possible. However, in our efforts to alleviate our suffering, we may actually cause a greater problem. Solutions, that while in the short-term may offer a brief respite, can actually end up causing more harm than good.
And what about our need for God in the midst of our trials and tribulations? If we immediately seek to find a solution in our own strength, might we miss something important that God would have us learn through the suffering?
As I stated earlier, I have much work still to do in this department, but I am learning that it is often during the dark times that I find myself closest to God. He has promised to “never leave me nor forsake me.” He will see me through, and His Word has promised me that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
I pray that one day that includes maintaining my joy in the midst of my suffering.