Finding Jesus’ healing love in the midst of chronic pain
When Jocelyn was 11 years old, the same year her family moved from Hong Kong to Vancouver, a friend from school made a comment about her neck. When she got home, she told her mom who took her to the doctor just to get it checked. However, she was diagnosed with thyroid disease. Three years later, at age 14, she was diagnosed with two kidney diseases. This started her nearly thirty-year journey of chronic health battles, which has impacted her life with unfathomable pain.
Doctors didn’t know how to treat her. She became a case study for medical students and was even written about because her combination of diseases was so rare. The medication she was taking had multiple side effects and she had to be in and out of school. The emotional pain, as well as the physical pain caused by severe gout, felt endless.
“There were days when I just couldn’t move,” she describes. “When I had to go to the washroom, I would crawl to the washroom. Even crawling, the pain was so exhausting that even if I tried to get up, I would faint.”
Jocelyn spent years wondering about her future, how she could work, whether she could start a family, and what it could all look like while living with chronic pain. “In high school people think about the future and you prepare for the future, but I couldn’t,” she remembers. “I felt like I had to start a future with nothing.”
While chronic illness can feel incredibly isolating, Jocelyn is not alone in her pain. According to recent statistics, 44 per cent of adults in Canada aged 20-plus have at least 1 of 10 common chronic conditions. And an estimated 7.6 million – or one in five – people live with chronic pain, which is defined as any pain that lasts longer than three months.
As Jocelyn explains, the impact of chronic illness goes beyond the suffering individual, causing additional pain for family and loved ones. “My mom went into depression,” she says. “She didn’t know how to handle it.” Jocelyn also believes her sister experienced trauma because any time she had health issues of her own, she became quite scared, worried it would be like Jocelyn.
Faith became a part of Jocelyn’s family when they moved to Vancouver. “For as long as I remember, I think I was a Christian,” she recalls. But as they walked through the ongoing uncertainty around Jocelyn’s health, her family was forced to cling to the hope found in Jesus: “Because of my illness, we were always put in a place of hopelessness and we had nobody, but we had God. It changed our whole family’s faith. Our journey with God got elevated completely.”
At age 30, Jocelyn had her first kidney transplant from her mom. “I expected my life to get back on track because of the kidney transplant so I thought maybe that was my way to be normal. Something that I have always wanted, a day off.” However, right after the transplant, her kidney started to fail. “When the doctor said she didn’t know if her kidney would go well or when she would go back to work, my heart just sank,” she explains. “I wasted my mom’s kidney.”
In addition to the disappointment and despair, the surgery itself and subsequent complications were more physically painful than anything she’d experienced. The hopelessness set in again. “Chronic patients don’t get a day off,” she explains. “That’s something you live with, and I thought that was my day off, my way out. And it wasn’t.”
Jocelyn broke down. “As chronic patients, we're pretty good at talking to ourselves. We're pretty good at comforting ourselves.” She tried to use her usual tools of combatting despair by counting her blessings, but it didn’t bring relief. She cried for an entire day, straight. “You get so tired, it’s been so many years and you see no end. I thought, God, if you don’t come, I don’t know what to do.” That’s when God met her like never before.
“All of the sudden, I was sitting on my bed, and God just came. He came into my heart and transformed my heart. Before my transplant I said, ‘If I go through this transplant, I don’t want to just go through a transplant, I want it to be transformative. Transform something I will never be able to do with my own strength.’ God then showed her a vision in which she was on the ocean, and Jesus said to her, ‘I thought you prayed to walk on deep water.’ And it was as if I was on a boat and I said, ‘Jesus, I want to walk on deep water.’ He was holding my hand, standing on the water, and I still saw the boats around me and I thought I could just jump on the boats. But then I saw the boats burning. The career that I worked so hard for, or my future family if I could have one, or my own family and being their burden – all the Plan Bs just burning. I had nothing to fall back on. My whole future, at that moment I couldn’t feel it, and Jesus asked me, ‘Am I enough for you?’ So I said ‘Yes! You are enough for me. Of course you are!’ When he is so close to you and can be your everything, and you let him, he will be your everything, and he alone will satisfy.”
That moment was a turning point for Jocelyn. The pain didn’t go away and her body wasn’t healed, but she had a confidence in the Lord she never had before and all she wanted to do was worship. “You know people usually come out of the valley looking strong and glorious and then praise God – no, this is dark for me,” she explains. “But my heart sings and I can only sing in the middle of that dark valley because he is real, because he is my everything. And that is the upside-down Kingdom. That is the Kingdom of God.”
Six years after her first transplant she received a second kidney transplant – this time from her husband. Amid her ongoing chronic health issues, Jocelyn looks to her Saviour who sustains her. “I think as chronic patients, we know how poor we are and how poor we feel. But God wants me to give him my nothingness and give me back the infinite power of who he is and the love he has for me. He said he came to give me abundant life.”
If you or someone you know is suffering from chronic health issues, Focus on the Family Canada is here for you. Our registered Christian counsellors offer free, one-time phone consultations, and we also refer to local counsellors across the country. Our care team is ready to pray with you for whatever burdens are on your heart. Call us at 1.800.661.9800 or email us at [email protected]. You don’t have to face this difficult season alone.
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