One way I have seen the grace of the Lord poured out on me while facing trials is by surrounding me with faithful followers of Christ who have been examples of perseverance in hardship. My friend, Kristen, is one of these sweet friends. The Lord allowed us to meet through the POTS website (dinet.org) that I am a part of and the Lord has used her emails, blogs, and prayers to greatly encourage me and to draw me closer to Himself. Kristen has suffered greatly and continues to persevere and hold to the precious promises of Scripture. I recently asked her to share her testimony to post here because I knew you would be greatly encouraged/challenged by her testimony, as I have been.
A Deeper Need
“A question was asked at my Bible study tonight: When do you experience the most spiritual growth? Without pause, I piped up, “During hard times.”
I wish it wasn’t the case. When I am not in a trial, the last thing I want is to enter into one. When I’m currently enduring difficulty, it is very frustrating to think about growth when I just want relief.
But the truth is, God expresses his love for us by putting his followers in the furnace.
If you had asked me years ago whether I would like to endure a domino-like train of hardship, sending the carefully ordered tiles of my life flying into a pile of chaos, I would have adamantly declined. To think God would take me at 17 and not stop the trials even by age 30, I would have questioned how that shows love. Sometimes we can’t see God’s purposes from our frail vantage point, but we can be sure that his Word is true.
When I was 17, my family discovered that we had long-hidden water damage in the walls of our home. This water intrusion allowed toxic forms of mold to grow, and the toxins affected my health severely. By my senior year of high school, I could barely get out of bed. On the days I could struggle in to school, I sat in a foggy haze of disorientation. Something was wrong, but no one knew what it was. My pediatrician failed to take my symptoms seriously.
Thanks to my mother’s research and persistence, we obtained professional mold testing which revealed high levels of toxins and bacteria in our air, making the house completely uninhabitable. To make things worse, all of our possessions were contaminated as well, and almost everything had to be discarded.
The incredible material loss from this disaster was nothing compared to the emotional and physical impact of chronic illness which followed. I became acutely sensitive to chemicals in my environment that wouldn’t bother the average person. It was to the point where I had to leave my office job and abandon my first college after a semester of intense reactions to the pesticides used around campus.
These back-to-back losses put me in the position of commuting 50 minutes each way to an engineering school near home and facing the obstacles of completing a major when I could only tolerate being in a handful of classroom buildings. Being the weird girl was my new norm, and I had to work twice as hard to attend study sessions, plan my limited time on campus wisely, obtain some lectures via videotape, and work on assignments alone when others worked in groups or with a TA. When I finally graduated with my degree a year later than the rest of my class, I was already on my way to finishing graduate work and looked forward to a promising career.
It was then that my life began to fall apart even more. I started having more concerning physical symptoms that I tried to ignore, but when I passed out at church one morning, I never bounced back. I was diagnosed with POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) along with PDH (Postural Diastolic Hypotension). The cause was unknown, but I felt I had never fully recovered from the damage done by mold and pesticide exposures. A flu virus and stress had pushed my fragile body too far, and now I faced a long road to recovery.
I was not quick to embrace my new vulnerable position of waiting on God. I could no longer work, but I still tried, dragging myself in and feeling lightheaded and ill while I sat in meetings. When I finally passed out at work and was taken out on a gurney, it finally occurred to me that I was not going to be able to overcome this setback with sheer willpower and medication.
I sat at home with the wind knocked out of my sails. I had just turned 24. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t go to school. I had no guarantees about my prognosis, and I could barely get off the couch to go to the bathroom. It was soon after that when my family was suddenly victimized by a group of my grandfather’s caregivers who had been working for us. They stole from my grandparents and eventually from us too. Due to poor police response, this turned into long-term harassment and stalking.
I thought at the time that God would let up, but more obstacles and problems kept coming my way. My grandma had a stroke and developed severe dementia, requiring our full-time care here at home. My father’s anger issues escalated, causing my mother and me great pain and heartache. I wanted to get back to my focus of working, earning money, my career, and eventually marriage and having children. But when I realized that my dreams had been derailed, I had a choice to make. I could accept both good and hardship from God’s hand, or I could become bitter and conclude that a good God would not allow so much pain and loss to happen to his child for so long.
I struggled with the incongruity of God saying he loved me, yet not acting to relieve my intense pain. Trial upon trial drew out over multiple years, but my prayers for deliverance remained unanswered. I finally read a book by Larry Crabb called Shattered Dreams. Initially, I felt skeptical of the thesis – which is that God allows our dreams to shatter so that we can see that He is our ultimate dream.
However, the more I read of the book, the more I began to see that it was true in my own life. The whole time that I had been suffering, a longing was forming in me – for truth to prevail, for compassion from others, for a sense of justice, to see mercy extended to the hurting, and for healing to take place. I found myself gravitating toward people who had also suffered but who had courage and joy. I suddenly realized that my trials had created in me a strong appetite for the very characteristics of Jesus himself! It was a turning point in my life to find my shallow, earthly desires stripped away in order to lay bare my aching, penetrating need for Christ. I was a sinner who had been broken, and I found my Lord sitting by the well offering me the living water of forgiveness and love, rather than the dirty well water of earthly ease I had been convinced I needed for so long.
As I continue in my trials undelivered, I give thanks that God loved me enough to help me discover that my longings for success, approval, and pleasant earthly circumstances were symptoms of a deeper cry – a bigger wound – one that demands Christ and will never heal unless He is my focus and my first love. If you are in a trial – praying to God and still undelivered – take heart that you are a not alone. God is good all the time, and even in our most painful hours, we can count on Christ to carry us until that glorious day when all wrongs will be made right, when we will finally be with Him, the true and ultimate satisfaction of our souls.”
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while,
’He who is coming will come and will not delay.'” Hebrews 10:35-37