Positive Side Effects

Most of us have been exposed to the “sunshine, lollipops and rainbows” advertising for the latest drug to cure the ailment you didn’t know you had until now. Just as you are ready to call your doctor for an appointment to get a prescription to treat your newly diagnosed (by you) moderate to severe something or other you hear the words, “this drug is not for everyone, consult your doctor before trying it.” You nod your head in agreement while softly saying to the TV, “that’s what I am doing, I’m just on hold.” The commercial continues to show happy people free of the symptoms of moderate to severe something or other and you think to yourself, that could be me. Then the voice of doom begins the rundown of serious and possibly fatal side effects. Your mouth drops open as the “sunshine, lollipops and rainbows” ad turns into a warning of the coming apocalypse.

Although the potentially deadly side effects from the commercial are what sticks with us, it would be good to remember that sometimes there are positive side effects, things the drug was never intended to treat that end up being addressed. You would be surprised at how some drugs started out.

Rogaine™ started as a blood pressure medication but caused the positive side effect of re-growing hair.

Lyrica™ started as a seizure medication and Cymbalta™ as an antidepressant but both are widely used to treat nerve pain.

And then there is the little blue pill that has revolutionized intimacy for those with issues that no one ever used to talk about, especially on TV. You know the one that the ads tell the user not to use if their heart is not healthy enough for sex? Viagra™ was originally created to treat heart problems!

If drugs with horrible side effects can also have positive side effects, there must be a life lesson, a metaphor here somewhere.

I am not a silver lining, darkest before the dawn type of person. I do not look at every bad situation as a precursor to something great happening. I have been around too long to believe that my future good experiences are totally reliant on the depth of the despair I am suffering now. I have heard people try to be encouraging using the silver lining and darkest before statements, thinking that somehow they will help. In most cases these platitudes bring temporary relief until the reality that life isn’t a sitcom and everything doesn’t turn out the way I want, sets in. I do believe there is a life lesson in the positive side effect drug metaphor but it isn’t that there’s a silver lining in every cloud or it’s always darkest before the dawn.

Suffering is part of life with no guarantees that it will end with a silver lining or wonderful dawn.

In life we suffer because sin separates us from God. It may be the result of personal sin, someone else’s sin or the fact that humanity is sinful by its very nature. In all cases suffering is a reality. Some problems may be a part of our life until life is no more, without a silver lining or wonderful dawn. This is the reality of suffering and it should never be addressed by a glib greeting card style quote even if it is from scripture. That being said, suffering should never be treated as a random event void of any value and empty of any meaning.

Positive side effects are discovered when we look beyond the desired outcome.

I would never say don’t pray for a miracle. I could never imagine condemning anyone to a life without hope. The problem is that our God can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (paraphrase of Ephesians 3:20 NIV). Why is this a problem? The answer is in the verse itself, “immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine” suggests that there is more to the way God deals with our situation than our minds can comprehend. My desired outcome is limited to my imagination of a good resolution to my situation. When I look beyond the way I see things, I move from “why me?” to “what God?” The “why me?” is an, I don’t deserve this, approach to the situation. If God removes everything that happens that we don’t deserve He would have to start with eternal life – just saying. The “what God?” is an, I’m open to what you are doing, approach to the situation. It refocuses our attention from the situation and our own way to solve it, to what God is doing in the situation.

When it comes to prescription drugs the positive side effects are not found in the scope of the drug’s intended use. The unanticipated results have nothing to do with the desired outcome of the treatment. When it comes to our lives, the positive side effects are not found in the scope of our problem but instead are found in the lessons taught by our God.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)

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