“But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them.”

– Paulo Coelho

Illustration by A.M.  RemalanteLEANING on the cubicle’s partition, I threw up my breakfast and the medicine I have just taken. And outside the wooden door, I could hear my friend asking me if I was fine. But what I sensed more was her intense worry since I went inside that cubicle.

Minutes felt like hours and my stomach had no pity on me. It was empty, yet it continued to contract, forcing even the acid out my mouth. I felt a burning sensation in my chest. My knees felt weak, and I was trembling all over. By then, I didn’t know that it was the start of something debilitating.

Weeks passed and what happened that day kept repeating. I would eat, and threw up. I would arrive on duty on time, and the clinical instructor would ask me why I still showed up. She would sent me home and ask me to spend my day resting.

Fear was keeping me from resting peacefully. Aside from the bad effects vomiting would cause to my body, I was afraid of the diagnosis doctors would make. Four doctors checked me and none of them gave me the cure I was looking for.

Years ago, I was diagnosed to have gastroesophageal reflux disease, which causes the food to backflow to my mouth. Back then, it was controlled and I had no problems. Through diagnostic tests, doctors determined that gastric irritation caused it to worsen.

Everyday, I was getting sick of living such a painful routine, with a heavy burden of responsibilities hovering on my head. I was losing my will to live. I began to ask God a question: why let me live through this?

Ilaw ng tahanan

He didn’t answer me in an instant, and I was impatient. I needed a reason for all of the distress I was going through. I answered my own question- perhaps it was for all Masses I missed, sins I committed, people I didn’t forgive, frustrations and wishes that shouldn’t be asked in the first place. Maybe, the payment he wanted for my debts was my pain, not my achievements. He wanted me to see myself eaten slowly by my own body. If I knew back then that He takes everything in consideration, I wouldn’t have asked Him to think twice before He allows another painful experience.

It turned out that I was the one who thought twice.

I wondered if God really wanted to see me in pain. Instead of posing another question to Him, I asked myself if it was Christian to think of God that way- as an impersonal lender of life who wanted pain and suffering as payment for sins.

I started with the first lesson I have learned about God. God is good.

If God is good, He wouldn’t harm me and he wouldn’t enjoy watching me suffer. He created me not out of spite, but out of goodness and love. I searched for a reason to regain my will to live despite the pain I was going through everyday. I hanged on to the first lesson I learned, and I knew God would give me the answer. Holding on that belief, I regained my will to go on.

Several weeks passed and with all the medical help I got, I was back again in the hospital. I saw my young patients with worse condition than mine, and yet they would still smile and thank God for their life.

Clothes make the man

When I thought that I was weak and could not handle pain anymore, those patients showed me that in suffering, God is the source of strength.


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