Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Psalm 61:1-4
These are letters from Where Is God Ministries readers who wanted to share their Testimony of God’s love amidst their struggles.
Emilie’s Hope. Written by Emilie Zabel
Hi! Though I have MS I am still able to work 32 hours/week (it was 40, but now I take a day off to rest!!). Actually, right now I have more than a day off—I lost my balance this week, fell, and broke a rib! Yes, I feel stupid for falling, but that’s one of the things I face on a daily basis—lack of balance. Maybe you face that as one of your symptoms, too. . .
I’ve had to stop some activities, but I’m still doing others—trying to get the right balance between pushing myself ENOUGH so as to not “give in”, yet not pushing myself TOO hard. Can you relate to that?
In MY experience with MS, I can’t talk about it without talking about God in my life. He has given me such a peace about this whole thing! I have NOT ONCE been angry that this is a part of my life now—and I KNOW that’s from Him, ‘cause I sure couldn’t feel that way on my own! Sure, I feel frustrated because I can’t do what I used to be able to do, I drop things all the time, I walk into doorways, I get TIRED, I fall and break ribs (!!). . .you can fill in your own things! It IS frustrating!! I used to be the person who always helped other people and now I’M the one people are doing things for—and that’s really hard!! I cry, I moan, I get frustrated, I cry again. . .but I’ve also come to a conclusion—MS and what it does to my BODY doesn’t define who I am as a person! It’s who I am within! And, for me, that’s where God comes in! Jesus Christ died on the cross to take away our sin and give us eternal life with Him!! And He promises certain things even though my body is deteriorating: Because I’ve made Him my personal Savior by placing my trust in Him, I will be with Him forever! And another awesome thing–I will have a NEW BODY! And I read this from the Bible this week: “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.” (II Corinthians 4:16) THAT’S what I’m talking about when I say that my body doesn’t define who I am or how I’m going to live my life. Yes, my body and MS restrict what I can do physically, but that doesn’t define who I am! And that’s been a really “freeing” thing for me!!
It’s still a struggle, and we struggle together! But I hope you will LOOK TO GOD as I am learning to do—He really DOES make a difference!!
Every Step of the Way. Written by Tena Furnish
As a reporter for a my hometown newspaper, I thrived on the “organized chaos” of the newsroom. Phones ringing, editors shouting, police scanners crackling, fax machines beeping, and keyboards clacking away were all part of the symphony that made up my day. I loved my job, and if at times my family took a back seat to my career, I felt like it was worth it. I was a Christian reporter working at a secular newspaper, and was proud of the job I knew the Lord had given me. Because my beat included all Emergency Services, I often went places others could not, giving me openings to witness or to pray in crisis situations.
While watching officers negotiate with a man who was holding hostages, I could pray for the safety of those hostages and the officers, as well as the suspect’s surrender. When the father of a 12-year-old drowning victim told me “I would pray if I knew how” I could tell him that I knew how to pray, then pray with him.
While working on deadline one morning, I stood up to get a soda and immediately fell back to my knees. A white hot pain shot through my forehead, pain so severe I could not walk or talk through it. That day began a six month long journey of doctor visits, tests, procedures, and a search for answers in a quest to discover what had happened. Test after test came back normal as I got worse by the day.
Doctors told me I had a brain tumor, but they couldn’t find it on any tests. Finally, in frustration, my husband and I made the 12 hour trip to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. We arrived without an appointment, because the next available appointment would have been more than four months away. My husband walked up to the receptionist, said “she doesn’t have an appointment, but she is very sick,” and we began our vigil of waiting on standby, praying that in this, our last hope, we would find answers. After several weeks, we did find answers, but no easy solutions.
The monster now had a name, but it did not have that easy fix we had also hoped for. I was diagnosed with a cerebral spinal fluid leak, a tear in the lining of my brain that causes spinal fluid to leak into my body. The leak was so extreme that my brain had changed position inside my skull. This causes intense headaches, headaches so extreme it hurts to breath. The condition is complicated by the fact that surgery is not an option because of where the leak is located. The condition is further complicated by the fact that new tears can form easily, from something as simple as picking up an object that weighs a few pounds or even from sneezing.
I wondered why God would take me away from the job He gave me. I was doing His work. Through this illness, I am still doing His work, although in a much different way. Because I live in a small city, and because of my profession, I am easily recognized. When I became ill, it was well known in our community. Because people recognize me, they approach me and ask how I am doing. This gives me an opening to witness to them and tell them that God is sustaining me, in spite of the pain. It also usually leads them to tell me about a need in their life, which allows me to pray with them.
I have also realized there are many Christians who are ill with chronic or life threatening conditions who are struggling with their faith as they try to remain upbeat and positive in a church environment that does not always understand that although God is capable of healing instantly, He sometimes chooses not to through no fault of the beleiver.
Most importantly, though, I have learned about me. I have learned that my family taking a back seat to my career, even in the name of God, is not okay. My husband and my son are precious gifts from God not to be taken lightly. I have learned that God is always there, through the overwhelming pain, through the procedures and the tests, through the tears, through the hospitalizations, through the many doctor’s visits, through those endless days and nights when it hurts too much to sleep, and He is there when the pain has finally abated, when the tests are finally done, when there are no more needles to endure and we can be released to go home one more time. He is there when the day is endless and He is there at the end of the day. He is there while we are waiting on our big miracle and He is there in so many other ways, in “small” miracles, if there is such a thing.
God is not punishing me. He is allowing me to take the most amazing journey of my life, giving me knowledge and understanding I never would have gained in any other way. I had often prayed for Him to use me. He is doing so, in a way more powerful than I ever imagined. It is a different journey than I had imagined, but it is a journey that has been worth it, every step of the way.
Just As I Am. An excerpt from Sherri Connell. Copyright © 2004. Printing with permission only from WIGM.
As a little girl, I had so many hopes and dreams with a heart and zest for life that seemed unstoppable! I often worked two jobs, attended classes, sang and danced in musicals, performed in choirs, modeled, rode my horse and lifted weights; I was definitely a workaholic!
When I was in college, I began getting symptoms of a neurological disorder. Even so, despite my physical symptoms, I continued to pursue my acting and modeling career and had finally received a few offers that I hoped would be my “big break.”
I had asked Jesus into my heart at the age of 14, but I really had not let Him be the King of my life. I began to pray about God’s will in my career decisions. The Lord proceeded to bombard me with songs and discussion on the radio that spoke to me as if He were giving me a direct answer, “No, Sherri. I do not want you to take these worldly jobs.”
I then decided to give my talents to the purpose of the Kingdom. I joined a Christian band and began writing Christian musicals. I went back to college and obtained several degrees.
Several months before my graduation ceremony, I went to step out of bed and fell flat on my face. My left leg was completely asleep. I continued to rapidly worsen until I could barely even sit up and was paralyzed from the ribs down. I was admitted to the hospital for tests and treatment and released with a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.
Even though I left the hospital very ill, I was sure that I would just go home and get some rest and soon be back to work and on stage. Much to my dismay, after many years of doctor visits, tests, procedures, treatments and medications, I was still too ill to even care for my own daily needs.
In this quest to regain my health, it was discovered that I also had Late-Chronic Lyme Disease from a tick bite when I was 14. By now, I had lost my career, my dreams, my hobbies and my friends. I had all the faith in the world that God could heal me, but He kept saying, “No.” So, what purpose could He possible have for me in this state?
From the time I was first diagnosed with MS, I started writing in my journal about living with chronic illness. Wayne suggested that I put some of my thoughts up on the net. We named the site, The Invisible Disabilities Advocate. The title arose from the misunderstanding that an impairment must be visible, in order to be real.
God took this little fish and loaf of bread and multiplied it beyond belief! I never could have imagined that from my home, sprawled across my chair, with messy clothes and dirty hair, my thoughts could reach out to thousands of hurting people!
The Lord is faithful to complete HIS work. He is using me in a much mightier, more vital way than being on Broadway, in a magazine or on some commercial ever would have been! Praise the Lord!
Still, living with a disabling illness can be extremely challenging, isolating and frustrating, but God is faithful and has never left my side.
When you pray for me, and for others in my situation, please do not just pray for healing; also pray for perseverance, joy and peace. We need God’s strength to endure the constant storm, until God decides to remove our pain.
I know without a doubt that our Lord can choose to repair this body at any time and I want that more than anyone will ever know! Thus, I will continue to earnestly hope and pray for healing. However, I have learned that true faith means believing that God knows best, even when He tells us “no.” Proverbs says, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight” (Proverbs 3:5 & 6).
Therefore, I must seek HIS will in everything I do. When I am fixated on MY will, I become depressed and miss out on the amazing work He is already doing through me… just as I am.
Mary’s Shoes. Written by Mary Kellerman
I can relate to Sherri’s story – it was like reading my own. I too was a model and in pageants – worked 80 to 85 hrs a week at one job, or 50 at one and would have a second, all while going to school. All my life however I’ve always been sickly – 4 or 5 times a year w/ pneumonia and other times bronchitis, fighting kidney infections, bladder disease, and scoliosis (wore a milwaukee back brace all thru jr. high and high school).
I got out of my brace and was determined not to let my health detain me from letting the “outside” look like a beauty queen – because then no one would know how much the pain inside was physically and emotionally. I have had over 45 operations, been told my immune system and central nervous system is deteriorated – and now have parkinson’s disease, which is progressing. I am only 38 – and have been battling this all my life. I had a hysterectomy at 27 – after many operations – only to loose my fight w/ ovarian cancer. I’ve lost my bladder, and part of my intestines.
My esophagus is pretty shot – I have to use a voice amplifier, choke alot, and drool at times. I know one day I will loose the rest of my intestines – and my left kidney (which I take medication for and almost lost last summer – I now have polycystic kidney disease thanks to my ostomy). I have thyroid disease, arthritis, and numerous other conditions as well. I am in constant pain – fall a lot and have fractured several bones due to this –even had to have screw stabilization because of a severe fracture (I would never recommend that operation to anyone – the outcome is far more painful than the fracture). I shake, I cannot move at times and freeze up, I have to use oxygen and a nebulizer.
When I do go out its only for dr.’s appts or more testing – then as hard as it is I will “dress up” I do my hair (but my husband usually has to pry the curling iron out of my hair -my friend cuts my hair so I can use my fingers to run thru it instead of trying to hold a comb or brush, and rare occasions it may take me hours but I curl it and get it up. I’ve given up makeup (heaven forbid) – except those “rare days” I do put on mascara and eyeliner – again hubby pries them out of my hand and I have to prop my arm up on the wall and guide that hand w/ the other and it takes for ever to accomplish.
I have trouble remember things – I have to make sure if its something important to write it down (you may find 3 or 4 lists of the same thing on my desk because I’ve forgotten I’ve wrote it or afraid I will forget to write it down). I do rarely (maybe every 2 or 3 weeks have hubby take me to the tanning salon – I can no longer drive. But, its not just for the “color” so you cannot see the dark circles under my eyes before my dr visits, but the heat also feels good. However- my hips are giving out and getting in and out of the beds are getting too hard. I have to lay face down so I can breathe – I cannot lay on my back, and w/ the hips freezing up I have to sleep in a chair. People tell me I look so good – then there are those who knew me when I modeled (I do still look the same for the most part, I just went from 100 lbs to 140 lbs because of all the medication, am hooked up to oxygen, use a walker or wheelchair, and at times my face is numb) – but I look the same. I try very hard on days I have appts to accomplish this – so i do get remarks about – but you don’t look like your that sick (no I just have tubes hanging out for nothing). But, those who’ve known me when I did pageants and modeled now laugh – I’ve never understood that.
I was raised to always be compassionate to your fellow mankind. I just deal w/ it with humor and faith. A lot of people over the years never knew how sick I was – I was so good at hiding it and having such a “positive attitude” (as I’m told) that a lot of people were surprised when I reached the point I am at now. They didn’t realize I’ve been fighting for years before I reached this point. My doctors have all said I am an inspiration to them and I should write a book -maybe one day. I know there are a lot of people who have gone thru a lot themselves – and I do hope they find that a tremendous sense of humor and a tremendous amount of faith will get them through. I know what my health problems are – my doctor does too – and to me that’s all that matters. People may think that because they cannot see our illnesses there not real – well, I just hope one day they won’t have to walk in our shoes.
The Strength Within. Written by Joan Ernst
Have you ever wondered why some people seem to be survivors and others just seem to give up?
With some of us there seems to be an inner strength that we can call upon. Some times we don’t even realize it is there, but when we need it we can call it up into use. God gives us that inner strength to fight with. He knows that as we travel though this life there will be times that we just don’t have the physical, mental or spiritual strength to fight the battles that come up. For some of us that battle is illness, chronic, never ending pain, problems that can’t be fixed by the surgeon’s hand. Battles that no matter how hard we try, we can’t win.
When the doctors told my husband that I was going to die, he drew on that STRENGTH WITHIN, his faith in Jesus Christ. I was unconscious so could not pray for myself, I had no idea of the battle that was going on for my life. I had no idea that the doctors had given up on me, that they along with the nurses stood around crying and saying “this shouldn’t have happened”. No one was to blame for what happened to me, but the strength that my precious husband drew on sustained him for what ever was to come. If he lost me he knew he would see me again because he knew I would be waiting for him in heaven. But for some reason he felt he had to fight for me. He wasn’t ready to let go even though it seemed everyone else had. Slowly, as he prayed small changes began taking place, gradually I began to come around. The doctors thought I would be in a wheel chair and in a semi-vegatative state. Ah, but my husband and my Father in heaven had other ideas and I praise God that none of what they said would happen did happen.
There are days when the pain is stronger than others as my heart struggles against a 70 percent blockage in an inaccessible area. At such times fear creeps in with its icy cold fingers but I have found that I have an inner strength within me that enables me to fight through it. That strength is always there, I just have to call it into focus. I can cry out “Jesus help me”, I can’t see Him with my physical eyes but I can feel His presence and His touch. He is within me, He is MY STRENGTH WITHIN. He helps me work through the pain and the tired feeling when I feel I can’t drag my body another step.
You see He lives within me, I am His temple and He takes pride in keeping me going when I can no longer go on my own. I am His child and He is MY STRENGTH WITHIN! He is there for all of us, we just have to call on Him. He wants to be your STRENGTH WITHIN.
Teri’s Strength. Written by Teri Parker
I am a woman in my 40’s that has had Fibromyalgia since I have been 12 years old. A day without any pain is very rare. I can say though that through this I have come to know the grace and the peace of My Lord. For years people thought I was “crazy” because I looked so good. People who I thought were friends, would keep asking me are you still sick and tired? But my Savior has been my strength through my illness and pain, He has made me much more sensitive to other people’s sufferings. God has comforted me with His comfort so I can comfort others.
Like Paul, I have many times asked Him to remove this thorn. But as of today, He has chosen not to. This does not mean that my faith is not strong enough, like some have told me. It means that God is allowing this pain to humble me and keep me from pride. I know that others who have this illness are sometimes bed ridden and can not function. I praise God that in my weakness He is strong. He has allowed me to active enough to serve Him in ministry, but weak enough to know that it is Him giving me that strength. It is not by might or by power but by His Spirit. I have learned to depend on the one who gave me life, and as long as He chooses to allow the pain in my life, I choose to give Him all the glory through it.
Value in Suffering. Lessons from Pastor Michael Bloodgood. Written by Janine Ridings.
“Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” Job 13:15
I met Pastor Michael at the N.W. Pastors’ Conference. He has been through a life threatening health crisis this past year, so I asked him to share with me a little bit about what he has learned through the experience. He said, “One of the most important things he learned is that the first thing to pray for when a person is ill is wisdom, not physical healing.” Wow! Now that’s a foreign concept to most people, isn’t it? He points out that, “Every person who is prayed for and gets healed will die eventually.” So true!
Pastor Michael has learned the important lesson that there is value in suffering. According to Pastor Michael, his health crisis was the best thing that ever happened to him. To hear him say this was such a breath of fresh air, as many times people who are chronically ill are made to feel that they are ill due to sin in their lives or a lack of faith. He cut through all those crazy notions with his Godly, biblical approach to the topic of illness and suffering. Thank you, Pastor Michael!
To hear Pastor Michael’s testimony of what God taught him through his near fatal health crisis, go to: The Return of Pastor Bloodgood.
A few of the scriptures Pastor Michael used in his sermon are:
I Peter 1:3-9
I Peter 2:20
I Peter 4:19
Currently Pastor Michael’s health is stable and he is well on his way to recovery. Please pray for a return to full functioning of his vocal cords as they were affected by his illness. May the Lord continue to heal Pastor Michael and bless his ministry!
Janine Ridings. Founder of Aroma of Christ Ministry, a ministry to those with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.
A Wounded Servant. Written by Kim Mills.
In 1980 I was a young vibrant Pastor in rural Indiana, with an excited, growing church and was dedicated to proclaiming the remarkable message of faith. Then it was all destroyed by an illness that eventually robbed me of my Family, Ministry and all hope. I am going to attempt, in a couple of paragraphs, to relate what I experienced over the next few years. This is something that is very hard for me to re-live since I have tried desperately to block much of it out of my mind. Some of what I will share may seem like I was in such a “negative” state of mind that I would be my own downfall. Just remember that at our weakest point, God can and will intervene. I hope you can follow this painful stage in my life.
I suffer from a seizure disorder, very brittle diabetes, and a rare condition of being extremely hypersensitive to all synthetic insulin that causes my blood sugar to be driven to life threatening lows without warning. I first became inflicted with these conditions in 1971 but it didn’t progress to its current state until 1981. Since that time I have been hospitalized 41 times which resulted in nearly three years of hospitalization. Doctors witnessed my blood sugar levels going from highs of 500 to lows of 8 in less than an hour. Complicating matters more was the fact that my body has no ability to detect the sugar dropping. I’ve also experienced hundreds of 911 calls. In 1987 I had an extremely violent “Status Epilepticus” seizure which lasted six hours resulting in a fractured spine and a week in intensive care. I was given a 20% chance of survival during this trauma. Even though I was blind to it at the time, God was still intervening in my life.
My condition was literally destroying my life and I was becoming recklessly angry at God. I left the Ministry in 1984 due to my inability to function in that capacity any longer. Shortly thereafter I made the biggest mistake of my life and left my wife and young daughter. I moved into a small apartment where my anger and depression overwhelmed me. Suicide was attempted twice. Doctors told me I was unlikely to reach the age of 40 and at that point I vowed to never darken the doors of a church again. Many times I would lose consciousness, with radically low blood sugar readings, and remain on my apartment floor for more than 36 hours before someone would find me and call for an ambulance.
I finally entered counseling but my mind was so confused I made little progress. Due to my health, a job was simply impossible. I ended up living in my car in parking lots all around town. This continued for about a month until I had a near fatal auto accident while having a seizure at the wheel. While recovering in the hospital, I was introduced to an attorney who told me he could help secure Social Security Disability benefits for me. At that point I moved in with my Mother, which was a blessing but very hard on her. My disability was finally approved and for the first time in a long time, I started making a little progress.
Over the years, my heart continued to be very bitter causing a very cynical outlook on life. During all this time I had been developing computer skills that began to pave the way for change. I was contacted by a new business in Louisiana asking if I would be interested in a position with their company. With little thought, I moved to Louisiana, trying to reestablish my life by returning to the work force, but all to no avail, it failed. I became a very lonely and isolated man with anger ruling my life.
I found myself 1500 miles from family without a friend in the world, and it didn’t end there. In June 2000, Social Security informed me that my disability benefits would soon be discontinued, due my attempt to work. This caused complete devastation and a great fear. Suicide, I came to believe, was my only alternative. So I contacted a local medical school and donated my body to their Science and Research Department, after which I began the steps toward taking my life.
Driven by the fear of losing all I had gained, I went to the Internet looking for assistance in saving my Disability Benefits. I found a unique web site called “The Invisible Disabilities Advocate” and began a communication with Mrs. Sherri Connell, the wife of the founder of the site. After meeting Sherri, my life changed in a dramatic extraordinary way. Hearing of Sherri’s own disability and her daily struggle to survive, my condition now seemed to be an insignificant detour in my life. Sherri shared with me her faith in God, and how He provided her with the fortitude to meet her daily struggles with faith and determination. Sherri gave me the name of someone to contact regarding my Disability benefits. That contact put me in touch with a well-known attorney in Louisiana who took my case and won, hands down.
Interestingly, the Administrative Law Judge, that heard my case, approved the continuation of my benefits on the spot, stating that “my case should never have reached her desk.” After fifteen years of a ruthless bitterness toward God, I knelt beside my bed and wept my way back into His arms. Sherri Connell’s intervention in my life had accomplished something, unbeknownst to her, that I was certain would never be attained…Kim Mills being back in fellowship with the Almighty!
It’s been two years since this remarkable woman made an irreversible impact on my life. I’m a long way from being where I need to be in my relationship with God, but I’ve made significant progress. For the first time in 20 years, I view my disability as a possible “opportunity” to be an instrument that God can use to bring a bit of hope to someone under similar circumstances. There is still a lot of confusion and anger still raises its ugly head on occasion, but I now feel there’s hope. Instead of waking each morning looking for a way to end my life, I now face each day with new vigor and determination, thanks to Sherri and IDA. I wrote a poem to Sherri, and her husband Wayne, that expresses my new resolve and I would like to end with it.
Then I Met You. Written by Kim Mills.
Instead of Despair, I Thirsted for Triumph,
and Then I Met You.
While Feeling Forsaken, I Longed for Peace,
And Then I Met You.
In Spite of Misfortune, I Desired a Blessing,
And Then I Met You.
Feeling So Lonely, I Yearned for A Friend,
And Then I Met You.
Kim Mills went home to be with the Lord on May 1, 2009. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends.