Let’s face this head on: I’m sick.

Not long ago, I was diagnosed with a string of chronic gastro-intestinal ailments. Subsequently, I was diagnosed with chronic allergic rhinitis. Most individuals would consider me to be way too young to be battling with multiple chronic medical conditions.

I went to church for healing prayers, but I never recovered. And as I write this, I’ve just failed my latest blood test.

There were times where I had experienced persistent nose bleeds, a resurgence of gastric acid flowing up my throat and lingering in my mouth, and excruciating chest pains and heartburns. At times like these, I was angry and infuriated with God.

Some years ago, I lost my mother (“Mama”) to cancer. No words would ever be enough to describe how much I had gone through. However, when I got up again and thought that I could finally happily live my life and gain closure, I was slammed with all these medical conditions.

I would rather bear with the pain than break the hearts of family and friends.

Raised to be a strong woman, it’s really difficult to reconcile the picture of who I am with the truth of my health. I’ve extremely high functioning capacity. I believe I’m made to do great things in Christ, as a daughter of God (Philippians 2:3). This was evident in how I carried myself and lived my life.

Whenever I suffered from great physical pain, I just could not tell my family and friends. I trained myself not to let anyone see it. Perhaps this was because Mama told me umpteen times that I couldn’t reveal physical weakness. Exhibiting vulnerability was difficult. I would rather bear with the pain than break the hearts of family and friends.

However, in my process of healing, God revealed to me that I had to allow myself to feel whatever pain and anguish were residing in my heart. God spoke to me through my friends, who began to see through me – beneath the image of the strong and independent woman I had spent years building up.

Hiding the sad truth behind my poor health was no longer possible. My closest church and college friends are highly introverted, but I knew that they had realised that things were amiss, even without them verbalising anything.

But through my pain and poor physical health, God taught me various life lessons. He showed me how to live my life even more purposefully than what I had initially thought. He taught me to trust in Him. In aligning my heart to God’s heart, it meant that I had to face the whole gamut of negative emotions head on.

For all my life, my parents had taught me that feeling all negative emotions are unproductive and detrimental. For instance, when Mama was first diagnosed with cancer, I had two days to “get over the news” and carry on with life as per usual. And when Mama had just passed away, my extended family members rebuked me for grieving and crying.

In order to fully trust God, I had to unlearn the unhealthy notions of what it meant to deal with negative emotions. I had to first feel those emotions in order to begin to deal with my emotional burdens. That was the only way to give up control and eventually find rest in God.

As I exercised greater willingness to be in touch with my stormy soul, God gradually encouraged me to reveal vulnerability to specific safe individuals whom I could trust.

As I spoke to a church elder, I learnt that when strong and uncomfortable feelings arise in us, it can often mean that there’s an opportunity for healing in our lives. It’s comforting to know that our uncomfortable feelings can be processed with God’s help.

Since young, Mama had instilled her mantra in me: “Revealing vulnerability leads to condemnation. Everyone will shun you, including those you love and treasure.”

As I had placed tremendous efforts to unlearn this mantra through a closer study of His Word, God gave me courage on an increasing scale – the courage to feel more boldly, the courage to love myself and others more freely, and the courage to embrace everything and anything else that lies ahead in future.

Through His people, God revealed to me that vulnerability encourages healthy God-ordained relationships. It promotes empathy and healthy emotional connections. I saw this through the development and depth in all human relationships that I have now.

Recently I attended my church’s Bible study series, The Strong and Weak, where I learnt seemingly simple lessons that left a deep impact on me.

I learnt that our God Almighty is the one who has authority. God loves us because He is good, not because we are good. And I learnt that while God is all powerful (Mark 16:6, Matthew 28:5-6), He chose to be vulnerable by sending His Son Jesus Christ to die for us on the Cross.

God literally became flesh and blood, so that He could be killed for our sake on the Cross to restore the broken relationship between Him and His people.

God loves us because He is good, not because we are good.

Understanding these truths helped me unlearn all the wrong conceptions I had about exhibiting vulnerability. And as I gradually learnt to be vulnerable, I found I was no longer afraid of being genuine and authentic, and my capacity to exhibit love to others without fear and condemnation was enhanced. I could comfortably be the radiant, dynamic and energy-filled woman whom God always wanted me to be. 

As I consciously worked on improving my spiritual and emotional health, my loved ones reached out to tell me that they had felt the emotional connection and warmth whenever I reached out to them, especially when they were facing times of tremendous struggles and crises.

I’m of the view that life cannot revolve around oneself – we need to love others (Mark 12:30-31). So one of the greatest joys in my life is knowing that there are individuals who do allow me to reach out to them and feel loved by it.

Loving involves risk, for the other party can hurt me or not respond to me – worst of all, they may even turn away from me.

However, what overcomes fear is love. Love is transformative: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

It was only through being vulnerable with people I could trust that I could exemplify and align my actions to reflect God’s love to the best of my ability. In the past, out of “love” for my family and friends, I just could not bear to reveal to them the full extent of my suffering. However, what I came to see is that hiding the truth from them is unjust, and if I was in their position, I would be tremendously hurt.

So though my physical health had declined, God turned my brokenness around for my good.

My heartfelt prayer for those who can relate to what I’ve shared, is that you will trust God to make all things beautiful in his timing (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Do not be discouraged for God will redeem and restore you.

May you have the strength to believe that God is working His purposes through you, even though you may not see it now. Our God is a God who has made us for a relationship with Him and His people. Together with our brothers and sisters in Christ, let us hope to someday proclaim: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Your brokenness is an opportunity for God’s transformative power to shine. He can enable you to exemplify a kind of compassion that you would never have imagined to be possible.

Yes, all things are possible with God.

The author’s name has been changed for confidentiality.