Bitter or Better

Responding to Life’s Unexpected

An unborn child dies in the womb. A plane carrying more than one hundred passengers explodes mid air. A new dad dies in an auto accident on the way to see his new baby girl. A woman walks into her office and discovers her desk has been cleared out. A youth pastor with a wife and four children is diagnosed with liver cancer.

No one expects suffering, but suffering is a part of life. Suffering can make us bitter, or make us better.

When I was seventeen, I was diagnosed with a rare brain disorder. This rare condition causes the pressure inside the skull and spinal column to increase for no apparent reason causing excruciating headaches, nausea and vomiting. For years, these horrible headaches had been part of my life but we didn’t have any answers. One morning, I woke up and couldn’t see. The pressure in my head had become so severe causing extra fluid to press on the optic nerve causing my blindness. The specialist decided to place a shunt in my brain to drain the fluid. He believed this was the best chance of saving my vision. So, on December 4, 2013, I had my first of many more surgeries.

Fortunately, the shunt offered instant relief, but my incisions were not healing properly so more surgery was required. It’s hard to fathom, but three and a half years later I have undergone 36 brain surgeries. Per viewing the X-rays, my skull looks like a bowling ball. There also have been a couple of serious brain infections, which have almost cost me my life. I’m asked all the time how I keep going through all of the pain. My answer is simple: Jesus.

Growing up, I was taught a powerful truth found in Philippians 4:6. Do not be anxious about anything, but instead pray about everything. I never realized how much peace this truth holds. Before every surgery I pray for God’s will to be done. I give everything to Him, and God has granted me overwhelming peace every single time.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

However, if I said I never questioned why this has happened to me, I would certainly be telling a lie. The amazing thing is, when I do ask why, Jesus answers me with the assurance that He is with me, and provides sufficient grace to see me through. I may never know this side of heaven why, but I do know this: nothing happens to any of His children without first being sifted through His mighty hands. I also know there is a much bigger picture than myself lying in the hospital bed every other month. I am able to use my illness to show the love of Jesus to others. I am humbled He uses me to make Him known. Knowing some have seen the Lord through my suffering has made all of this pain and all of my broken dreams absolutely worth it. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Though my body is physically sick, I have never felt more love in my entire life. So many people have reached out to me, and for that, I’m very grateful. Throughout this tough process I have been blessed with tons of prayers and a fantastic support system. Refusing to attend any pity parties I may want to throw, they choose instead to pray tirelessly. Everyone tells me I am being so brave and optimistic; those who know me best know that’s not always true – but I am strong because my strength comes from God. “My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2 NIV).

Being sick is no fun, but I remember what Paul writes in Philippians 3:10-12. “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (NIV).

When I’m at my lowest emotionally and consider choking the next person who asks me to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten, I consciously remember how Jesus suffered and died on my behalf, and I am in awe. He chose to suffer for me. A crown of thorns was shoved onto Jesus’ head causing excruciating pain. Having terrible headaches makes me feel closer to God because it is a reminder of the pain He went through to save my soul.

I am not making big money or graduating college like I planned and sometimes it’s easy to feel like a failure. But, I know God is working out His plan for me. I know it looks nothing like what I dreamed my life would be, but I look forward everyday to growing into the woman He has designed me to be. More surgeries? Probably. But when things are hard, I know God is still God, and God is still good. He has blessed me way beyond what I deserve. Life happens, but Jesus will take hold of you just as He has taken hold of me. I know He never leaves or lets go of His children. So, we can give Him glory today and in the future through our unexpected life adventures.


Kayln Watts is a 22-year-old caregiver and nanny. Residing in West Columbia, SC, she enjoys playing with her nieces, hanging out with friends, reading and cross-stitching. Her desire is to remain healthy enough to return to Uganda where she loves working with orphaned children.

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