The teenage years are often associated with vibrant health and seemingly inexhaustible energy. Some young people, however, are limited by serious illness. Is that true of you? If so, you may be encouraged by the experiences of V’loria, Justin, and Nisa—all three of whom are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Note how they are able to deal with their debilitating health problems.
I’ve had fibromyalgia since I was 14. By the time I was 20, I also had arthritis, lupus, and Lyme disease. It’s hard to do all the things you want to do when you always feel weak. At times, I was paralyzed from the hips down and needed a wheelchair.
Worse than the physical aspect of my illnesses was the mental torment I put myself through for not being able to do simple tasks such as writing or opening a jar. I would see children walking and wonder why it was so hard for me to do so. I felt like a failure.
Thankfully, I had help—not only from family members but also from the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses that I am associated with. Those from the congregation often visited me, which made me feel less alone. Some invited me to social events, even though it’s not easy getting me out of my wheelchair and in and out of a car.
The older ones in the congregation were especially helpful because they knew what it was like to have health problems. They helped me accept my limitations and not feel guilty about not being able to do as much as others. When I am at congregation meetings and in the ministry is when I am the happiest. (Hebrews 10:25) On those occasions, I realize that despite my illnesses, I’m really not that different from others.
I keep in mind that Jehovah gives us what we need in order to endure. For example, the Bible says that even if a person is wasting away on the outside, the person he is inside can be “renewed from day to day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16) That is certainly how I feel!
To think about: If you are afflicted with a serious health problem, why is it important to reach out to others? If you are healthy, how can you support someone who is sick?—Proverbs 17:17.
I fell to the floor and couldn’t get up. My chest felt tight and I couldn’t move. I was rushed to the emergency room. At first, the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. But after several more incidents, they reached a diagnosis—Lyme disease.
Lyme disease took a toll on my nervous system. In fact, I still shake, sometimes uncontrollably, even though it is several years since I was diagnosed. There are days when my body will ache or my fingers will hurt so badly that I can’t even move them. It’s as if my joints were all rusted.
I used to think to myself, ‘I’m too young to be sick,’ and that made me angry. I would cry to God each day, asking him, “Why am I going through this?” I even began to feel that God had abandoned me. But then I thought about Job in the Bible. Job didn’t fully understand why he had to face so many challenges, yet he remained faithful to God. If Job could do that with the enormous problems he faced, I can do the same.
I have great support from the elders in my congregation. They always check up on me and ask me how I’m feeling. One elder told me to call him whenever I needed to talk, whatever the hour. I thank Jehovah every day for friends like these!—Isaiah 32:1, 2.
Sometimes when we face serious illness, we forget the obvious—that Jehovah knows what we’re going through. The Bible says: “Throw your burden on Jehovah, and he will sustain you.” (Psalm 55:22) That is what I try to do each day.
When I was in my mid-teens, I was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome—a disorder that affects the joints, making them weak. Marfan syndrome can also affect your heart, eyes, and other vital organs. I’m not in pain every day, but when I am, it can be severe.
When I was first diagnosed, I cried a lot. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do all the things that I enjoy doing. For example, I enjoy dancing, and to think that one day it might be too painful for me to do that—and maybe even too painful for me to walk—made me fearful of the future.
My sister was very supportive. She helped me to get out of that phase of feeling sorry for myself. She told me that I shouldn’t live in fear, because that would consume my life. She also encouraged me to persevere in prayer, because if anyone knew and understood exactly what I was going through, it was Jehovah.—1 Peter 5:7.
One scripture that really encourages me is Psalm 18:6, which says: “In my distress I called on Jehovah, to my God I kept crying for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him for help reached his ears.” That verse helped me to realize that when I pray to Jehovah and ask him to help me cope, he will hear me and help me. He is always there for me.
I’ve learned that it’s OK to feel sad and even upset about a tragedy that confronts us because those feelings are normal—as long as we don’t let those feelings consume our life and affect our friendship with God. He is not the cause of our problems, and he will never leave us as long as we put him first in our life.—James 4:8.
To think about: Is God to blame for our suffering?—James 1:13.