Originally published in The Christian Institute
Twenty-nine-year-old Johanna Watkins cannot touch her husband or even be in the same room as him.
After getting married, she was diagnosed with a complicated condition called Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, rendering her severely allergic to scents, foods, sunlight and other people.
The former teacher, from Minnesota, lives in a sealed attic bedroom, with special filters to purify the air.
Joy in God
But despite her pain and isolation, Johanna and her husband Scott have found amazing joy in God and remain firmly committed to one another.
In an interview on the BBC’s World Service programme, they described their struggles and hope for the future.
Scott told the programme: “There’s not an easy way around this problem. I want to keep Johanna safe and me going to see her compromises her safety. One of the ways I can take care of her now is by not going to see her.”
‘Till death do us part’
Johanna said: “They don’t know if I will get well, and so we hope and we pray that I will”.
Talking about their marriage, she added: “On our wedding day we made vows to each other that till death do us part. No matter what life brought.
“We every day try to learn more about how we can love each other and we hold on to hope in God and I can tell you that even if I have this until I am 90 years old I would be committed to my husband with that vow”.
Gifts and blessings
Later in the interview, Johanna was asked what she does to pass time alone in her room.
She revealed that she listens to a Christian song each morning to motivate her, saying she is “reminded of all of the good gifts God has given me”.
“I have many gifts in my life, many blessings that I have to be thankful for and that reminds me to not become selfish, and to just make it all about me”.
Johanna opened up about her faith in an article for the Gospel Coalition website last month:
“If it weren’t for God, I’d have given up long ago. But while I’ve been broken and empty, God has been faithful and strong. He has borne every grief.
“Never have I been alone. He has lifted my head and filled my anguished heart with a joy unlike any I’ve ever known before.”
She concluded: “While I still pray for physical healing and don’t know why God chose this road for me, this suffering has been a grace, because God has used it to help me love him more.”