By Not Known
Trusting God With No Bread or Water: My Experience with Chronic Illness
The past month has been quite exciting for me. I celebrated my first Christmas in Singapore, my 26th birthday, and the start of a new semester. Unfortunately, in the midst of the many celebrations, I was hospitalised for a week at Tan Tock Seng’s Acute Stroke Ward.
Many people were shocked to find out where I was. People know me for my bubbly and outgoing personality, always out-serving or making new friends. How was I suddenly hospitalised? Most of all, I seemed too young for such symptoms.
What many don’t know is I struggle daily with multiple autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune response attacks its own healthy tissue. Researchers have identified 80 to 100 autoimmune disorders but exact causes and cures are unknown. Thus, patients like me live with the experience of chronic illness; what many in the autoimmune community call “invisible disability.”
Amos’ sermon last week on the Israelites’ grumbling in the desert (Exodus 16 and 17) deeply resonated with me. As I have graduated from university, worked in law, and journeyed through seminary, I have experienced the fulfilment of God’s many promises. Yet, I have suffered physically for years. I often wonder, why does God call me without providing the energy or strength? “Will you still trust God when there is no bread or water?” Amos asked. “Will you still trust God when there is disease with no solution?”
Although I was hospitalised for stroke symptoms, my brain proved fine and after five days I was discharged with no diagnosis. On Monday, I saw one of Singapore’s top neurologists for a final report. He told me a month of evaluation revealed no results. While my case is not life-threatening, my autoimmune-related numbness, weakness, and pain is undiagnosable and incurable, adding new symptoms to my existing case.
Through this process, I have learned what the Israelites learned in the desert: peace is a process. I once waited for peace via conclusive diagnoses or a miracle cure. Now I know peace must come from something more. For me, this “more” has come in the form of God’s comfort, church fellowship, and community support. Pastors, professors, family, and friends visited me in the hospital daily. My school graciously let me drop a class and provided me with financial aid. Even the sharing of my experience has yielded incredible conversations with ORPC-ers suffering from similar disease. Although in the area of physical pain, I still await release, God has cared for me through His Spirit and His Church. I begin 2014 praising Him for His wider provision and plan for my life and thank our community for its support.
Jamie Tan is an exchange student from Princeton Theological Seminary, NJ, USA with Trinity Theological College, Singapore. She is currently ORPC’s seminary intern for the 2013-2014 school year.