How To Be a Badass Despite Chronic Pain

I'm gonna let you in on one of my best tricks for feeling like a complete badass. It's a bit quirky, so bear with me. (As my closest friends know, I am nothing if not quirky.)

Here's what I do when it feels like the world is conspiring against me to keep me discouraged, lonely, and hurting: I paint my nails red.

Whenever I feel powerless in my circumstances, I whip out a bottle of my favorite red nail polish and get to work. When my strength feels sucked dry by manipulative relationships, I put on red paint in an act of silent defiance. When joint pain just will not quit, I look at my red nails and say, "Pain, you don't own me!"

Red nails remind me there are some things in this hard life I can control. Red nails help me remember I am not powerless. Red nails whisper to my aching heart, "You matter. You are loved. And you are worth the effort to have badass looking nails!"

As 100% crazy as it may sound, red nails have become a visual reminder to my heart that I am free in Christ. 

Red nails tell me no one owns me but Jesus, and nothing controls me but His Love.

I might be in so much pain it's hard to not be a complete bitch at moments (Sorry, hubby!), but my red nails remind me I don't have to be controlled by any circumstance or person. The act of painting my nails red is an act of choosing to live by the essential truth that I am separate from my pain and circumstances.

Though pain and relationships can be frustrating, they can never separate me from Christ.

You might wonder how simple red nail polish could feel like such a profound declaration of freedom. It's partly because I'm obsessed with making meaning out of the tiniest of things. But it's also because I've been painting my nails red in an act of personal defiance for an entire decade. Ten years ago I was in a pretty controlling dating relationship, a relationship that was sucking my life dry of joy. My boyfriend at the time hated red nails. (I think his exact words were, "Those look like prostitute nails.") So I started painting my nails red whenever I felt controlled and sucked dry in my relationship as a personal little F U to my boyfriend. And it stuck! (Thankfully, I ended that relationship soon after the nail-painting started. And, in case you are dying to know, my husband loves my red nails. That would have been a deal-breaker...) 

What started as a miniature act of defiance became a means by which I could receive the grace and freedom of belonging to God. 

Things have been tough lately. Sickness and some crappy doctors seem to be in cahoots, trying to chain me to an attitude of powerlessness. But that's simply not where I have to live as a child of God. I belong to the God who hears my prayers, who will vindicate my life, and deliver me from every trouble (Psalm 54: 1, 7). I am united to Jesus, who is faithful and will establish and guard me from all evil, including mean doctors and the despair of chronic illness. (2 Thessalonians 3:3) I belong to a God who gives victory over the experience of brokenness and death (1 Corinthians 15:55-56). 

Ultimately, when I paint my nails red, I am doing the defiant, courageous work of rejoicing in my suffering:

 "knowing that suffering produces endurance,

and endurance produces character,

and character produces hope,

and hope does not put us to shame,

because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5) 

When I paint my nails and then look at their glorious redness all week long, I am definitively saying, "I will not live in despair because of my suffering. I can rejoice, even in this, because I have the love of God in my heart, ready to experience and enjoy." And endurance produces character. And character gives me hope. And I am not ashamed in this body of sickness, because the God of the universe has given me his love.

So, friend, paint your nails red. Take some time with me today to defy disease, death, and brokenness, and remember the truth that we are not controlled by the pain we experience. 

In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him;
the Lord protects him and keeps him alive;
he is called blessed in the land...
The Lord sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness you restore him to full health.
— Psalm 41:2-3

Here's my current favorite red nail polish. It's a super bright red-orange. Click to check it out! You can purchase it at Target or Walgreens. I like to pair it with a gel top-coat to add to the shine and longevity.