How do you hold onto courage while grieving your health?

Whether it’s the result of a diagnosis, an accident or the effects of aging, our health can evaporate in a flash. We grieve the loss of anyone or anything precious to us — including the loss of our health. 

Graduating from college, Vahen was eager to serve the Lord. Receiving a marriage proposal from Vaughan King, with whom she had much in common, including a similar name, Vahen was ecstatic. Serving God as a married couple would be even sweeter. Their future looked full of promise.

Seven days later, Vahen’s life took a dramatic turn.

Out of nowhere, excruciating pain in her upper chest and back invaded Vahen’s body while she dressed for church. Rapidly losing feeling and movement in her legs, Vahen dialed 911. Minute by minute, paralysis spread.

At the hospital, doctors worried her lungs would stop working and she would die. What a dramatic change of events. Vahen had woken up that morning as a healthy 23-year-old.

By evening, Vahen was paralyzed from the chest down and a feeding tube was inserted. The specialists did not know what was wrong.

Overwhelmed with fear, she cried out, “God, I’m so scared!” Vahen sensed God responding with, “I am with you always.”

A myriad of tests later, Vahen was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis. It is a virus that attacks the nerves of the spinal cord and causes paralysis. The doctor’s assessment was devastating. “There is nothing we can do. You will need full-time care and require a wheelchair.”

“Do I still have a fiance?”

With all the uncertainty surrounding her health, Vahen’s biggest question was, “Do I still have a fiancé?” 

Vaughan surprised her with this declaration,” I love you, Vahen. God gave you to me. I’m not going to give you back now and say you’re not good enough.”    

Propelled by love, they focused on Vahen’s rehabilitation, planned their wedding, and prayed for healing.

But the collective and fervent prayers of many who knew Vahen were not answered as they hoped.

Compounding their grief, people said things that deeply hurt. Words like, “Maybe you’re not healed because there’s sin in your life” or “You just don’t have enough faith.” These comments from well-meaning people landed harsh blows.    

And there were more devastating losses yet to grieve.

A few years later, the Kings experienced the heartbreaking miscarriage of twins.

Characteristically optimistic and cheerful, Vahen found herself in unfamiliar territory–angry at God and everyone around her. Suffering silently through repeated disappointments, Vahen withdrew from God, her husband, and others. Marital unfaithfulness became an avenue for Vahen to numb the pain.

While there was no funeral or casket to validate Vahen’s losses, they were painful and scarring.  

Reaching a point of desperation, Vahen realized that she had a choice to make. Remaining emotionally paralyzed by fear and heartache was not the path to hope and healing.  

Everything changed when Vahen surrendered her pain and brokenness to the Lord. She felt Him say to her heart, “I can use that!”   

In 2017, a friend convinced Vahen to compete in the first Miss Wheelchair Canada. A surprised Vahen won the title! Soon after, Vahen competed internationally and won the prestigious title of “Miss Kindness World. Not only her beauty, but her character has won awards.  

Vahen radiates light, hope and courage from the inside out. While the realities of her wheelchair and losses have not changed, Vahen lives with a contagious courage that clings to Christ. It’s a daily choice. 

As the founder of “Going Farther”, speaker and author of 2 books, Vahen is a signpost pointing to the transformational power of Jesus Christ. In her most recent book, “Contagious Courage”, Vahen shares how she not only survived her losses but is now thriving. But more than that she helps you to do the same. And that’s why I strongly recommend this book! As you’ve heard me say, we all grieve losses that God invites us to surrender to Him. He promises to recycle our pain for His good purpose.

Vahen says, “While Transverse Myelitis set me on a path I would never have chosen, it has led me to find strength I didn’t know existed.”

2 Corinthians 19:9 NIV is informing Vahen’s choice to hold on to courage. “But he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 

Recently the Kings celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary. Serving the Lord looks dramatically different from their dreams as a young couple. But their adventures with Jesus have gone farther than they could have imagined. And their trust in a loving God has gone deeper.   

How about you? Are you grieving the loss of your health or another significant disappointment?

Will you choose to ask Christ to fill you with contagious courage as you walk through uncertainty?

His grace is sufficient for you, too.

Cheering you on,

Picture of Shirley Thiessen

Shirley Thiessen

Author and speaker helping you bring hope to broken, grieving hearts.