Some people call me strong. Every time I hear the word, I cringe a little. I don’t feel strong. So many times I am covered in tears, with soaked tissues all around me. I know the times when I’m lying face down on the floor, drowning in my tears, because I don’t have the strength to get up. My Lord is the One who is strong. Most days He carries me.

Lying face down in the trenches of life has taught me a few things though. We always have a choice. Sometimes the bravest thing that we can do is get up and keep going—when we really just want to quit. The breakthrough and answers to our prayers could be in the next moment. If we give up, we will never see the victory.

Lately, I have been absorbed in my pain. All day long I am looking for a way to end my suffering. I turn to food. Talk to other people. Pray. Read God’s word. Write. Walk. I try so hard to cover it up and make it go away. But, if I will just sit with it and feel the pain, then something wonderful happens.

The first few minutes the tears are for me. My victim mentality kicks in and I cry for the harshness of it all. I feel the self-pity. But I only allow this to happen for a moment. Then, I cry out to God. He knows exactly what I need. I ask Him to help me. While He doesn’t always just fix my problem, He does give me a glimmer of hope. The hope helps me to find the joy in it all and a new perspective. Joy and pain cannot exist at the same time. Therefore, I nurture the joy.

The joy renews my strength. It comforts me. This is how we get through our hardships. As long as we have a hope of a better day, then we can get through the challenges. After my surgery, when the pain was unbearable I focused on my new thumb and the gift of receiving it. While I was focusing on the blessing of it, I was able to withstand the pain. When I turned my petitions from suffering to joy, then God blessed me to rejoice in the midst of the pain.

Whatever we focus on will expand in our lives. Therefore, I want to focus on the joy. Even when it’s hard to breathe, I can still praise God for each breath. Every moment of our lives is a precious gift from God. And we get to choose how we are going to live.

In this picture, I was still battling the emotional pain of this kind of surgery. I was having phantom pain and struggling so hard to use my hand. I felt defeated and even wondered at times if I had made the right decision. But, I focused on the joy of having a thumb. I put all of my energy into learning to use my hand and for praising God for the opportunity. And now the joy of having this thumb is not even comparable to the pain. The pain was temporary and the joy is new every morning. I am still so very grateful. My thumb changed how I do things. Therefore, it changed my life.

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