At the end of 2009, I started having stomach problems. For a while I chose to ignore them. The concern that something was majorly wrong kept creeping into my mind though. I can vividly remember sitting on my bed on Christmas morning sobbing because I was scared of what might be wrong. I prayed that it would stop – that my symptoms would go away. They didn’t. By the beginning of January, I started noticing that I was bleeding. I still didn’t tell anyone what was going on but I was getting weaker and weaker and passing more and more blood. After passing out at work, I finally broke down and went to my doctor. He did bloodwork and, after reviewing the results, told me to get to the hospital immediately so they could figure out what was wrong.
I had never been in the hospital before so the fear was intense. I clung to the hope that the doctors could help me. Eventually, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disorder of the large intestine in which severe inflammation causes the colon to form ulcers and bleed. I had never heard of this condition before but it was a relief to have a name for what I was experiencing. My doctor assured me that it was completely treatable and that I would be able to live a normal, productive life.
These promises did not play out in my practical experience. As I was being weaned off certain medications, the symptoms came back again. Eating became challenging once more. I was in excruciating pain and I wanted something to stop it. We tried every standard course of treatment but nothing worked. After my third hospitalization and blood transfusion in the course of a year, I was devastated to find out my doctors could do nothing to alleviate my condition. My only option was surgery to remove my colon. I had my surgery in the summer of 2011 and, although the healing process was difficult, I feel so grateful for the healing that I’ve experienced since then.
Throughout it all, God has just impressed me with just how profound his grace, mercy, and faithfulness are. He sustained me every step of the way even though I may not have seen it at the time. For example, a mere two weeks before my first hospitalization, I received health benefits from my job. Had I been without insurance, I would most likely be financially ruined right now. He also provided disability coverage when I was unable to work.
The Lord also showed his faithfulness during my moments of pain. There were times when I faced what seemed like insurmountable challenges with even simple tasks like eating and walking. The Lord was so gracious to me in giving me a wonderful set of parents who were willing to take care of me during it all and, on top of that, he always provided some sort of relief for my pain – although it sometimes wasn’t as quick as I wanted it to be. It amazes me now that I can go about my day without any real pain when before my surgery I was in so much pain throughout my day.
But most of all the Lord showed me his faithfulness and grace in what he did for me spiritually during my illness. Because there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, I was forced to go beyond myself for strength to face the situation. I was brought to the end of myself and had nothing left to rely on but the Lord. I kept coming back to Proverbs 21:31: “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.” I could try anything and everything to cure myself but ultimate success and healing comes from the Lord. Some of my most precious times with him were the times when I was so unsure of what was happening to me and I just ran to him in prayer. I poured out my soul to him in those moments and he was faithful to listen to even my darkest thoughts and then remind me of his love and care through his word. I began to see that God was sovereign over everything that was happening to me. I remember coming to the conclusion at one point that, if suffering is the sign of God’s work in my life and God only refines those he loves, he must REALLY love me.
I still don’t quite understand his full purpose in having me undergo such suffering and I’m not sure that I will on this side of heaven. I am confident though that God will use it for his glory and am excited to see what he has in store for me! I am looking forward to the future and am determined to use the time he has given me to work for his glory. With such a good, kind God ruling over my life, I know that my future is in good hands.