My name is Rachel, and I am writing this testimony to share God’s faithfulness to me during the four and a half years of disability I lived through.
At 27 years old, I was fit and well, recently married and working in a good career. Life was on track. I’d never had any history of illness, but one day I decided to try out a new exercise class. Over the next few days, my legs started to become rigid and I struggled to bend them or bear my own weight without severe pain. When my urine turned brown I went to A&E. At the hospital, medics told me my leg muscles had suddenly deteriorated and the proteins were being released into my blood stream. It took several days for this to stabilise, and I became very weak. Yet, I thought there was hope because I was told I would return to normal and build new muscle if I built up my activity levels little by little.
I was allowed home, and was signed off work. At first I rested. Later I started to go downstairs. Day by day I increased my walking distances. But this caused a lot of pain – even showering and moving around our tiny upstairs space was a challenge. Each time I attempted to build up, it took increasingly less activity to trigger the pain, before I was back in bed again. And so for the first six months, I spent my time in the house, doing the bare minimum to get by. Life was becoming more restricted, so I asked my GP to refer me for aids – stools to help with cooking and showering, and a wheelchair, as I wanted some freedom.
I was tested for different conditions to see why I wasn’t recovering, and had to live with uncertainty about whether something sinister had triggered my sudden disability. I saw a stream of physios and did the exercises they gave, but the overall pattern of boom and bust prevailed.
I wanted to know if I would recover but health professionals always spoke of learning to manage the condition. I turned to the God who has always seen me through the thick and thin of life. I asked if He would heal me. Over the four and half years I was ill, different people prayed for me and shared the same message seven times – often word for word:
‘Be still and know that I am God’.
On many occasions this was accompanied by
‘and your healing will flow from this’.
God was talking about stillness inside me, since my mind was always wrestling with what happened. I clung to all the words God gave me and wanted to be faithful in praying for them to come to be, whether it took weeks or months or whether I grew old and died trying. I could accept what had happened, but I wouldn’t resign myself to it in the light of what God had said.
Through this time of ill health, God taught me the importance of stilling my mind to make Him my meditation. Not whether I’d lose my job (which I did), whether I’d be disabled forever, whether we’d have enough money, or whether I’d cope with each medical appointment. It wasn’t an easy process and I wasn’t the best student, but He taught me to trust He would look after me in all these things.
Four years down the line from becoming disabled, my life was a little more stable – we’d moved to a flat next to our church to decrease the demands on me, and relapses were now monthly rather than weekly. My husband and family were amazing in helping me stay motivated and carrying the weight of the household responsibilities. God provided for me in so many ways during this time, but my lifestyle was still very limited. I could walk around my flat a little, rationed throughout the day. I had to use a wheelchair for the rest of the time inside, and all the time outside. It was a far cry from being well, so I attempted to push the boundaries of my lifestyle in different ways. I tried to walk further, but it always triggered getting worse. So then I tried to volunteer more, but that was the same. Likewise, I couldn’t increase my social life. I had reached the limit of how well I would get and time wasn’t making any difference anymore. It was frightening to realise this. At this point two friends prayed for me about healing and said ‘you just need some fine tuning and you’ll be ready to go’. I remember feeling frustrated because I felt so far from being well – like a complete overhaul was needed, not fine tuning. I still believed the words God gave me but had to learn to live with the tension that it wasn’t happening at that point. In retrospect, I believe learning to be faithful to God when you live in spiritual tension is a crossroads where faith for healing can grow or die. It is important to not to let disappointment or offense take over, but to deliberately choose to invest in hope and trust.
Six months later, I was at a Christian conference in a church not far from my home. I spent a lot of time listening to God, and telling Him how I felt. I remember crying and saying to God ‘these were supposed to be the best days of my life’ and really clearly hearing Him say back ‘I get to say when the best days of your life are’. This jolted me. I can’t explain it, but I felt closer to Him than ever and I experienced His love so deeply that week, and it felt like such a safe place to take risks from. Then I heard a scripture from Galatians 4 being read. It talked about being God’s child, and the difference between an heir who has a guardian (and so is not really able to access his inheritance) and a full heir. Galatians says we are full heirs. The version that was being read said
‘everything the Father has belongs to us’.
Faith was deposited in my heart and I just knew this included healing, like it was mine to take. The next day this faith grew, and it felt like it was alive and active in me. At the lunch break, I was compelled to push my wheelchair home and knew it was God’s strength propelling me, and not my own. The walk only takes a couple of minutes, but I had never managed that distance without triggering problems. I got home and there was no pain.
My husband returned home and I explained it to him. We were both a little stunned but we agreed I should keep going as long as I wasn’t experiencing any symptoms. I walked back to the conference. I stood for ministry for a lot longer than my usual standing tolerance. At the end of the day, they set up a tunnel of people who prayed as delegates walked through. The tunnel went around the entire room and it was a large conference centre, so I began to pray and wrestle in my head that I could do it. God has a sense of humour – the first person who prayed for me called out as I walked past ‘Be still and know that I am God’.
I increased how far I walked each day and we took the wheelchair out incase symptoms broke through, but we found nothing was triggering pain anymore. Some of my shoes, ones I’d had for years, gave me blisters. I never thought I’d be happy to get a blister! I loved being able to hold my husband’s hand and walk. After several weeks of continually testing and extending boundaries, we realised this must be a full healing and I made the call for the wheelchair to be picked up.
Just as sudden disability turns your life upside down, so does healing! It felt unreal to me. Just like a hazy dream. Each day I would wake up and think ‘did that really happen?’ How do I build up my life again? I decided the first six months I would build myself up physically and give myself time to get my head around the shift. God provided all I needed and within six months I was offered full time work, even though I had thought no one would want to employ me again.
It’s 2019 now and I am eight years healed. My life is unrecognisable from that time. I now have two young children, and if you told the person I was back then they were in store, it would have blown my mind. Even though I believed healing would come, it is immeasurably more than I could imagine.
Thankfully I was also cleared of any underlying illness. The only thing they could trace in my history was evidence of a viral muscle inflammation. My specialist suggested I could have had this virus when I started exercising, and it made me susceptible to the muscle wasting. If I had never exercised at that point in time, it may never have happened.
Prayer does bring victory because it connects you into God. It is exhausting to pray for healing all the time, and I’d encourage people to keep it in proportion so you can sustain it over the long term. Make sure you are seeking God first, not just what He can do for you. Spending time in His presence is healing in and of itself. Try to rest there and still your mind and heart to spend quality time with Him. Invest in what He says to you – whether it’s about healing or something that seems unrelated. Write it down, thank Him for it, read and learn scriptures that back it up, sing songs about it, and make it the meditation of your heart. It’s His way of helping you choose life and sustain whatever you’re going through, for as long as you go through it.