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It was 10 days before my 10th birthday that I came to faith in Jesus. Providentially, my faith journey began right around the same time the stomach aches started. My young faith limped along as I clung to Him and screamed out to Him from intense pain, uncertainty and endless, invasive procedures. Those weeks in the hospital were excruciating. I felt some level of comfort knowing that people were praying for me but honestly, many didn’t understand. Thankfully, the other kids I met in the hospital fully understood. Unlike other kids our age, our thoughts weren’t on bikes or birthday parties or building forts or the snacks in our lunch boxes. Instead, we held each other’s hands as we breathed through pain, endured endless tests, mourned the loss of friends on our ward. We talked of death as if it was the natural conversation of any preteen. It sobers a kid ya know; it stealthily re-aligns your priorities without your knowing and provides a wisdom far beyond your young years. And then came diagnosis. It was Crohn’s Disease. I was 12.

It’s fascinating to me how life-changing, traumatic moments have a precise clarity to them, like images forever etched in our memory. I vividly remember the concerned look on the doctors’ faces, my mom’s tears (she tried to hide them), the treatment plan, the medications. There are other memories too. Memories of well-meaning family and friends praying for my healing. Memories of unsolicited remedies being offered endlessly. Adults whispered in my presence. Some insisted there must be a reason for me being sick, while others just wanted to fix it. Suffering isn’t something we’re very comfortable with, is it? We don’t want it, and we struggle to effectively encourage others going through it. But the Scriptures are clear. Faith doesn’t excuse us from pain – in fact, pain, in various expressions, seems to be part of our discipleship. Even Jesus was not excused from suffering.

I struggled with it and still struggle today. But after years of inner turmoil and anguish, my focus has shifted. The endless pleas for healing and shaking my fists at the heavens have become a posture of rest. My path has taught me to trust Him, not to remove the pain, but to know His purpose in it. Through the years since my diagnosis, I have found that all I need is in Him. He is indeed faithful and though health challenges continue to plaque me, healing has come in different ways…through the precious love of my family and friends, redeeming days of pain as I offer encouragement to others who are suffering, and in the deep joy that permeates my being as I continue to be thankful and grateful for each day, every day.

What God has been doing in me has become a calling for me. I didn’t know I needed Mrs. Doolittle. She came to our home and brought my mom beautiful flowers from her garden. She didn’t look at me with solemn eyes or talk of illness. She gifted me with modelling clay and tools and paints and brushes and encouraged me to make beautiful things. Her joyous demeanour and her gracious spirit taught me so much about how I wanted to care for others. I resolved in that moment that if I was to have this disease, I would do my best to make a difference in the lives of others who suffered from the same. I felt it was the best way to love others, as we are called to do, and it felt a little like I was redeeming the days of pain and struggle for God’s glory. It felt like pain becoming a cause for praise.

I’ve concluded that it is not wrong to ask God to remove “a cup of suffering,” but the challenge of every disciple is to embrace His will more than our own relief. I can remember having a conversation with my mom and I asked her if it was okay for me to not pray for healing anymore. Her response to me was to continue seeking more of the Lord, because in him was everything I needed. That’s His path for all disciples.

Deb Lowell

Deb Lowell

Deb has worked as a Director in a leadership capacity in the Social Services and Charitable sectors for more than 30 years. Currently on Medical Leave, she finds the best medicine of all is time spent with her grandkids.

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