A friend asked me recently how I know that God is real? My first response was, “well I know God is real because I have a personal relationship with Him, He is not some far off distant figure to me but a very real, present and loving friend”. Our conversation finished and as I reflected on it later I went over in my head what we had discussed. Many questions were raised in our discussion such as well if God is real why do bad things happen? If God is real how do you actually know?
These are such big questions as well as really important ones to ask. I know I don’t have all the answers and to be honest I fumbled my way through answering the questions as best I could at the time. I would describe myself as a slow-cooker thinker. I don’t always have the answers quickly or on the spot, I usually need time to process and to reflect (slow cook them), I can then more clearly express what I believe or want to say. So after some thought I decided I would like to share one of the reasons why I believe that God is real, this is my personal experience and some of the journey I have been on.
When I think of God the word ‘faithful’ comes to mind. During my first year of working after graduating as a early childhood teacher I started to develop some back pain, at first I just put it down to using muscles I hadn’t before and made efforts to be careful about how I lifted children and went about my daily tasks. But as the year progressed I developed increasing stiffness in my spine and experienced almost constant pain. I began to realised that this was much more serious than just sore muscle back pain. Over the next two years I saw what seemed like countless specialists and doctors who eventually diagnosed me with a form of rheumatoid arthritis called Ankylosing Spondylitis.
Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a form of arthritis that mainly effects the spine but it can effect other areas of your body too. It also can lead to ankylosis where new bone formation occurs in the spine causing sections of the spine to fuse in a fixed, immobile position. So basically my spine was developing little boney spikes that were fusing together causing me to find walking and moving very painful and difficult.
I remember a specialist telling me that it was very likely that in 4 years time I would not be able to walk, I would probably be confined to a wheelchair and experience constant pain for the rest of my life. Thinking about this now, it may have seemed like a pretty gloomy prediction for a 22 year old to be told but at the time I was not fearful I knew God was with me. In Him I had hope and the assurance that whatever I faced I did not face it alone. He was always right there beside me, He did not send this to me, in fact His heart was actually breaking to see His child go through this sickness.
During the following year I was put on lots of different medications (many which had nasty side effects), I received physiotherapy, hydrotherapy (water based physiotherapy at the hospital) and I was on countless medications, including morphine injections.
When the pain was really bad it felt like knives or glass being stabbed into my arms and spine. It was tiring to keep going but I tried to remain positive, even if I was having to roll out of bed and crawl to the shower each morning as I waited for my joints to warm up lol. There are always things we can be thankful for even when daily life is so challenging.
During this time I felt God’s hand strongly on my life, I never doubted that He had a plan for this season and I believed He could heal me, it was just a matter of when He chose to do that. I was supported and prayed for by many family and friends during this time which I am forever thankful for. Never underestimate the power of a prayer, it can support someone in so many ways that may be unseen to you.
After persevering as long as I could I had to make the difficult decision to stop working as a preschool teacher and move back to my hometown where the climate was a bit warmer and I could be with my family.
There are heaps of details I could include but I don’t want this post to turn into any more of a novel so I will try to just keep it brief! After returning home to Nelson, I continued to trust God, He knew what my future held, He was looking out for me. I was prayed for by a lovely couple up here and I am so excited to share that I have been totally healed of my arthritis. After just over 3 years of constant pain and stiffness, in an instant I was fully healed.
I no longer have to take any medications, I no longer have any of that pain, I no longer have to struggle just to walk and move everyday. It is hard to believe it is now 8 years ago that I was healed, I still struggle to comprehend the enormity of it. If God had not chosen to heal me then I would most likely be in a wheel chair, unable to walk and in a lot of pain right now. Instead I can walk, I can run, I can dance with my 2 year old totally pain free.
I am so grateful to God for His faithfulness through my every season. He was there in the tough, when I cried by myself alone in my room because the pain was so much, He was there when I was given such a bleak outlook for my future, He was there when I was healed and set free from pain and He continues to be my strength and hope in every situation or circumstance that I face.
I know God is real, because of Him I have strength for each day no matter what it brings and hope for my future. Because of Him I am never alone, I don’t need to be afraid because He has my back. His plans for me are always good, yes bad stuff happens but God is always faithful, He has never let me down and I don’t believe He ever will. I know God is real because He healed me, there is no medical explanation for my healing, only God. In Him I know who I am and in knowing Him I am set free to live a life where I experience His goodness, His love and faithfulness everyday.
In writing this I appreciate that everyone will be at a different stage in their journey. Perhaps you have not had any health issues, maybe you are facing some right now. Perhaps you are currently in the middle of a challenging circumstance, whatever the case I hope my story encourages you. I love this promise found in Jeremiah 29:13 (Message translation).
“When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed” – God
This snippet of my story is just one of the many, many reasons that I believe God is real. Thanks for taking the time to read about my journey and listen to my ‘slow-cooker’ answer to some of the questions my beautiful friend raised.
Photograph credit: Jake Givens