Op-Ed: My Life as the Unanswered Prayer
I spent my teenage years in and out of doctor’s appointments, injecting myself with medicine designed to kill my immune system, all because of an autoimmune disease triggered by a life-changing accident. As I watched the medicines and autoimmune diseases rob me of my physical body, health and childhood, my faith in God dwindled. I felt as though God had turned His back on me.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” states Jeremiah 29:11.
This Bible verse is probably one of the most easily recognizable. In times of trouble, we lean into this knowing God has a plan for us. What about when the plan is unclear? How do we react then?
When I was 12 years old, I attempted to do a front flip on a trampoline. When I landed flat on my back, the wind was knocked out of me, an electric shock ran through my body and I experienced the worst pain I had ever felt.
A few doctor's appointments, X-rays and MRIs later, I learned that I had broken five ribs, torn my sternum in half, disintegrated three vertebral discs in my thoracic spine, and herniated vertebral discs in both my neck and lower back.
One MRI showed I had an extra vertebra, the bones that make up the spinal column. According to the doctors, everyone is born with this extra bone, but it usually fuses to the tailbone before the age of four. They concluded this anomaly was what gave my spine extra flexibility and kept me from being paralyzed – or even worse, dead.
Three months later, an MRI was done that stumped my doctors. The extra vertebra was completely gone. The doctor had no medical explanation.
“Do you believe in God?” asked the doctor.
I was 13 years old and was told that God had performed a miracle for me. He had kept me alive and walking. I thought that He would surely continue to heal and restore me to the person I was before the accident.
I started doing physical therapy and the pain continued to get worse. The doctors told me the damage to my spine was too much, and I eventually would need surgery.
After another round of MRIs, I learned that the accident and immobilization triggered an inflammatory autoimmune disease.
A few hospital appointments later, I was on a cocktail of medicines designed to kill my immune system. I tried to hold onto my faith in God and believe He would heal me.
Still, he did not. A few years went by and a failed attempt at killing this autoimmune disease led me into a deep depression and a disbelief in God himself.
I spent several more years with this mindset. I ended up drifting away from God even more, not even believing in Him anymore.
One day, I shared my story with another classmate and brutally attacked his faith in God.
“What a gift it is to have had a miracle from God,” he responded. “To be able to share a story that is so challenging, yet God was watching out for you. You are proof that miracles can happen.”
I remember thinking, “This is the rudest thing anyone has ever said to me.”
A few months later, I went on a mission trip with my family’s church as a volunteer for the youth. On this trip, we shared the gospel door-to-door in Jacksonville, Florida. A few days in, we encountered a person who was mad at God.
“He does not want to hear my prayers,” she responded to the group. “I have been nothing but faithful to Him. Now I have cancer, and He won’t help me. I still believe in Him, but I am just mad.”
I understood exactly what she meant. After all, that was how I felt too. We talked about her diagnosis and struggle, praying for patience during this trial. Leaving her house, I wondered what would happen to her. Would she beat cancer? Why was God ignoring the requests of others?
That is when it clicked. God was not ignoring me. My prayers for healing were not being answered, but maybe that was for a reason.
The biblical story of Job serves as an example. Job was always a faithful man of God, yet he lost everything, including his family, wealth and health.
Job’s friends came to sit with him as he suffered in an attempt to justify that suffering. They blamed it on his sin, saying he deserved worse. Eventually, after debating with his friends, Job was restored by God.
Job’s story teaches us that sin is not the cause of Earthly suffering; not for Job and not for anyone. Faith in Jesus causes the abolishment of sin because of His death on the cross. Why would He further punish us?
Instead of cursing ourselves, our life or even God as I did for so long, we should praise God, praising for our life and this world. This is easier said than done, but holding anger toward God only causes more harm to the suffering person.
The Mental Health Foundation of the UK shares that the human mind and body are connected. Taking a negative outlook on the situation can produce more physical health symptoms, such as headaches, increased fatigue or even chronic issues.
The best response is faith in God, as we learned from Job.
“Who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body,” states Philippians 3:21.
This verse reflects a restoration plan that God had for everyone once in Heaven. While we may not understand the plan while on Earth, we have hope for eternity free of suffering.
My suffering allows me to be more compassionate and understanding to my patients in the medical field. I hope to one day be the type of physician who understands their patient’s pain. While I may wish my suffering to disappear, I am grateful that a miracle has lessened the amount of difficulty I face. My experience helps me relate to others and to show them they are not alone.
By Savannah Carr