Before I begin, I want to say the purpose of this post: It’s not to cause you to pity me. It’s not for me to get attention. Rather, it’s to point you to Jesus — I pray my story brings hope to someone so that they, too, may learn to find joy in the trials.
I once read a book titled “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. What he wrote has stuck with me years after reading it. To summarize, he said that if you can find a purpose in your suffering, you can survive anything. He attributed his survival to his hope of escape and seeing his family again.
That caused me to wonder: What is my hope? What is my light at the end of the tunnel? How can I find joy in my suffering?
Now, to clarify, I have a rare disease called “mastocytic enterocolitis.” I was diagnosed by a gastroenterologist a month ago, after 6 months of doctor’s appointments and many tests. Unfortunately, there is no cure. There isn’t even much information about it on the internet because doctors don’t understand a lot about it. It’s a condition where your body produces too many mast cells, which is thought to cause the inflammation that accompanies it in the colon. Mast cells are supposed to protect us from illness, but when we have too many, it causes anything from chronic diarrhea to stomach cramping, nausea and vomiting.
My symptoms are intense stomach pain (sharp, stabbing pain), strong nausea, lightheadedness and loss of appetite. They flared up so badly today, I had to go home early from work. The doctor says the only treatment is to take allergy medicine and try to figure out if food allergies are causing my symptoms to flare up. However, food sensitivity tests aren’t always reliable and I know I’m allergic to preservatives, which are hard if not impossible to test for.
So when the doctors don’t know what to do, and I’m sitting on my couch in physical and emotional agony, worried my boss is going to fire me, worried my future is being flushed down the toilet–what do I do?
I’m reminded of a story in the Bible about a woman who had a female-specific disorder that caused her to bleed more than normal for 12 years. Doctors didn’t know what to do. But she saw Jesus walking through the crowd and heard about His miracles and thought, “If only I touch His cloak, I will be healed” (Matthew 9:20-22). Jesus told her “Your faith has healed you” and the woman was healed immediately.
Now, I don’t read that story expecting to be physically healed right now. Jesus does not promise that to us in this life. Rather, I read that story in awe of Jesus: He CAN heal me, but if He chooses not to, it is for my best. It is to fulfill the purpose He has for me on this Earth. Maybe it’s so that I can minister to someone else who is in pain like me. Regardless, knowing Jesus has given me purpose in my suffering. He is my hope. Being in His presence in Heaven is my light at the end of this tunnel.
No, it’s not easy to sit down and worship God with joy when I’m in pain. But I’m drawn to experience His peace and His presence by reading the Word of God and praying, even when I don’t know the words to say. It’s the strength I need to keep going, the one thing I can count on in this life to satisfy me always. How do we find joy in our trials? Run to Jesus.