When I was fourteen, I was in first year high school enjoying time with friends and problematic of petty things that then seemed the world to me. I don’t know what I would have done if the story you’re about to read here happened to me.
If you’re going through something that has gotten you living in fear or uncertainty, this is going to be such a boost for you. This story is a worthwhile read for everyone!
by Janina Marie Rivera
“God, I want to die. But if You don’t want me to die yet, then please help me live.”
This was a prayer I uttered when I was fourteen years old. I was diagnosed with an Arterio-Venous Malformation, or what is commonly referred to as AVM. An AVM occurs in 1% of the human population and sets the stage for the bursting of a blood vessel in the brain. An AVM can burst at any age, and is the result of a genetic tangle where certain blood vessels wrongly attach to each other or do not grow out. An AVM is often described as a ticking time bomb.
My AVM happened to burst right on top of my optic system, and right along the path of my limbic system; the systems in the brain that deal with vision and emotions respectively. When it burst, I could barely lift my head. I had the most intense of headaches—as if an anvil fell on the right side of my skull. My eyesight grew so bad that my vision looked like shattered glass.
After a month, the blurriness of my vision subsided ’til I realized that I had lost ½ of my visual field—from the middle of my nose to the whole of my left side. Then came a whole slew of hospital procedures which partially ended when gamma radiation was used to alter the DNA of my AVM.
More than the physical side of my AVM, I was in utter despair when it came to my psychological frame of mind. Although I slowly recuperated and found myself back in school, I was afraid of entering places like the mall with its crowd of people. I was afraid of eating out. I was afraid of the movies. I was afraid that I’d lose my ability to breathe. I would panic. Sweat. Grow cold. Turn flatulent. Shake. When I couldn’t control my fear, I’d run to the bathroom to vomit. I doomed myself into thinking that I would be horribly fearful for the rest of my life.
However, in the midst of all this, God was becoming so real to me. I clung to a verse in the Bible which said, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusteth in thee.” (Isaiah 26:3) Whenever a panic attack would come, I’d cry out to God and say the verse over and over. In whatever way I could possibly manage, I tried to focus on Jesus and speak Scripture over my circumstances.
Also, I had to take baby steps to make my faith real. I barely had any boldness in me, but with the little faith I had, I forced myself to go out and eat out whenever I felt brave enough. I remember opening the gate of my house one night, trying to imagine how it felt like to leave the house without fear. I walked along the length of my street alone and sad. I looked up at the vast sky, thinking of how small I was. Did God really care about me—His most pitiful, fearful creature?
Pitiful, fearful creature. That was my identity of myself. Did God think the same way of me?
One afternoon, at a small group session where I shared my fears with fellow Christians, God spoke to my heart. While I wept in prayer, He said these words as only a loving Father could: “Janina, you are a child after my own heart. I will end this now.”
God made me realize that He had an identity for me. I was His child. He was my Father, and He was far stronger than any of my fears. And what was His heart? His heart was brave. His heart was strong. His heart was peaceful. His heart was love. I could rest my head on his bosom and hear his heartbeat for me.
Fear must flee when PERFECT LOVE enters the picture. God is LOVE. When He speaks, the storm around us is stilled. When He speaks, the chains holding us captive are broken. In Him, we receive freedom.
It’s been twenty years since my AVM burst. Christ has become my boldness and strength. Nowadays, I can say that I am the opposite of pitiful and fearful. I am someone who loves eating out. I enjoy the movies. I like exploring new places. I go on mission trips both locally and abroad. Physically, I still deal with headaches. I am also still partially blind, seeing only half a normal person’s visual field. Just the same, when I think about the Lord, and how He has journeyed with me through sickness, I cannot help but praise Him for His perfect love that casts out fear.
Reading Janina’s story, I am overwhelmed by how God’s love has totally diminished fear in her life. God’s love is so abundant, even in the toughest times of our lives; we just need to allow Him to embrace us with it and empower us with His strength to face what we’re going through, in total trust and faith.
Janina’s is one of the three entries winning my blog’s 1st anniversary giveaway. Do take time to read the other two:
- Going Beyond Quarter Life Crisis (Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow by Cristel Gutierrez): If you’re going through life/direction crisis or a hodge podge of things dragging you down, you can well relate to this story.
- Defying the Odds (by Bernadette Morales): If you feel powerless over what’s happening, or if you’ve been told that what you wanted was close to impossible (or totally impossible), like having been medically diagnosed with a “sure” ending, take time to read this story that will help you dare to hope against the odds.
I am the happy wife of my happy husband, Pao. We are overly grateful that I am now 14 weeks pregnant with our second child. I am the author of the book, When God Could’ve But He Didn’t, which is available in ebook at Amazon/Kindle, and will be available in paperback edition very soon!