Several months before I turned 17, I experienced strong chest pains. It became so intense I could barely breathe, carry my books, or even open a door. My parents had left on an important trip, so if I experienced any problems I was to call Grandma who lived close by. She came over in the night, checked my blood pressure, and made the executive decision to take me to the ER.
I put on some clothes and got in the car with Grandma. Though my blood pressure seemed fine, the chest pain caused concern. It had started in my left arm and became progressively worse. On the drive there, the realization of how fast my life could change struck me. What I heard tonight could alter my life forever. Would I receive bad news? Did I have a tumor? Cancer? What was hurting my body? Even after leaving behind the overwhelming thoughts of death I mentioned in my last post, I still worried a bit of what might come.
At first, I struggled sitting in the ER. Nerves and uncertainty plagued me. I hadn’t been to an ER before. What would they find? I had brought my Bible, a journal, and a pen. I used all three in the course of our visit. I opened my Bible to no particular Psalm and found the following verse—
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
Words fail to express the overwhelming peace that filled me. I didn’t have to be scared, rather I chose to trust God. All would be well ... no matter the outcome. I relaxed throughout the rest of my visit, even as they administered tests. Sitting in a room while Grandma and the doctors used words such as heart attack and radiation changed me. Words like those tend to wake one up.
The tests came back. My white blood cell count looked fine; actually, everything looked fine. I still had no answers to the chronic pain that ailed me. My heart plummeted.
After the ER visit, I struggled with wanting answers and wanting them now. As the age of 17 rolled around, I learned the ups and downs of faithfulness. The valley proved long, deep, and seemingly never-ending. I would rise in victory, only to stumble and fall once again. How could I go on? I trusted God with my life, and I knew He comforted me, but oh how I struggled with the chronic pain my senior year. The pain combined with the betrayal of my closest friends and upcoming life decisions transformed my girlish heart into a young woman’s.
I still searched for answers and took test while my body continued to weaken. I fought hard, but discouragement hit just as hard. Shouldn’t 17 year old girls have endurance, physical strength, and a vitality for life? But here I was … 17 and sick, faltering between sorrow and joy.
However, through that year, one of the hardest in my life, I discovered God’s strength. My physical weakness granted me a deeper, clearer understanding of my frailty, and God’s power became evident in my daily life. I realized that I could do nothing without Him. Ever so slowly, I reached the realization that I didn’t want to trade this life of chronic pain for another. I wanted this life, because it brought me closer to Christ. That alone made the difficulties worth it.
I graduated high school, ready for the next step while understanding that I would always be learning. There would never be a point that I had arrived. I accepted this valley of chronic pain and chose a life I never expected I’d choose. A contract to serve as a child care provider at Wolf Mountain Christian Camp replaced my big dreams for the theatrical arts.
Chronic pain became the bridge that pulled me closer to Christ. While I did not know all that it entailed or the trenches that awaited me, I no longer dreaded the valley nor the life before me. The time had come to move forward.
And so I did.