Migraines, refrigerators and God

I believe in God.  No shocker there.  Many people believe in God. Belief in a being that exists outside of time and space isn’t a real stretch for many.  For others, it can be downright impossible.  Believing in God is one thing.  Trusting in God is an entirely different matter.

I can believe that God is there like I believe the refrigerator is in my kitchen. It’s there, even though I can’t see it or hear it or feel it.  I believe in its existence. 

Believing that it is functioning the way it was designed is another matter. Is it cooling properly? Is it making ice? Will it filter water when I want it? Will it self-regulate if the temperature changes? I am sure refrigerator people can think of many other things it is supposed to do.

My point is, there is a difference between existence and function.

God, for some, is the absentee landlord. We send him checks in the form of prayers, live out our lives in relative peace and only call upon him when the roof leaks. If he is good, he responds quickly, if not, he sucks.

Others view God as indifferent. God can see what’s happening and he has the power to do something, but he doesn’t. People reach this conclusion when overwhelming pain occurs, and no relief is given or felt.

For Christians, the idea that God is involved in the day-to-day is a given. But what happens when things go poorly or not according to plan? Unfortunately, many revert to the two previous views, drawing conclusions based upon their experience.

As a boy, I had what I called “eye headaches.” I didn’t know what else to call them, and since the pain radiated from behind my eye, that is what they were. Inevitably, they would lead to phenomenal pain and vomiting. Today I understand them as a migraine and anyone who suffers from them knows, they are straight from the pit of hell. It’s not unlike other forms of chronic, debilitating ailments. My migraines got to the ‘chronic’ stage. This means a minimum of 15 times a month. Amy wouldn’t ask IF I had a headache, but how bad it was. She functioned as a single mom in many respects as she watched me struggle. At the end of the medical spectrum, which is where I found myself, you are given morphine and anti-nausea pills because there is no answer. I was pre-approved to have electrodes placed in my head, similar to a pace maker for your brain. I was at the end of 40 years of vomit, tears, pain, doctors, treatment, depression and despair.

Where was God in all this? How could he allow it? Why didn’t he answer my prayers? If not mine, why didn’t he answer the prayers of people who were far worthier than me? Did he care? Did I matter? I can honestly say there were times when I knew God existed, but he didn’t function. The God who cares, who is involved, who intervenes for his people, who works miracles must not have been my God.

And his followers?

Watching people suffer is horrendous. I know people cared about me and many, who in their pain over my suffering didn’t know how to respond. Unfortunately, the platitudes offered in the midst of my pain only served to increase the suffering. “You have to trust,” some would say. Others looked for reasons behind it. “It must be stress. My uncle had migraines…” The looks on their faces would communicate the suspicion that things couldn’t be as bad as I said. “It must be God’s will.” Side note, please don’t ever say that to someone who is suffering. I’m not going to discuss the emotional and mental anguish this kind of scenario places upon people. Suffice to say; it was nearly life ending.

Why am I telling this story?

When the God we believe in doesn’t function the way we want, it is easy for us to cease believing.

Our situations + God’s apparent inactivity = loss of faith.

I am currently aware of a great deal of suffering people connected to me are experiencing. Words like fear, uncertainty, shock, and pain come to mind. It can be from a variety of sources: death, cancer, uncertain medical diagnosis, being overlooked at work, watching loved ones suffer, joblessness and loss of relationships just to name a few.

It is breaking my heart to watch. I wish I could do more to alleviate their pain and suffering.

But, to be frank, it isn’t my job, or God’s job to insulate us from these things. This isn’t heaven, and the conclusions we reach when the above equation is applied is to miss the point.

I believe God works in mysterious ways (William Cowper). I believe God is willing to allow suffering and pain. I don’t always know why. Honestly, I understand why. I can explain how a nerve gets inflamed and the surrounding blood vessels expand and contract to produce a migraine. But why? Not sure.

What I do know is that God uses events and people to make us look more like him. He moves us in ways we don’t always appreciate for purposes we can’t see (think Joseph, Genesis 37-50). Are the platitudes correct? Sometimes, but they almost never help at that moment.

God’s job, his function, is to be faithful to his promises and his character.

I believe, despite the faulty logic displayed by Lex Luthor, that God is good and all powerful. How can I explain suffering? It’s pretty easy. People are jerks; nerves do what they do, cancer cells replicate, accidents happen, babies die. I wish this weren't the case. But this is earth, not heaven.

Until then, I will not just believe in God, I will trust him. I pray that my trust produces faith in others. I pray that my trust reveals the mercy and grace I experience in my own suffering. I pray my trust gives courage to others to trust, even when they can't see or feel.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8.28

Written by Paul, a man acquainted with suffering.


This song helps me when I can't find my way.


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