About a week ago, a link to a testimony showed up when I was scrolling through Twitter. I don’t know this girl but she goes to my church and said she felt called to share her testimony after hearing a sermon at church that morning. Since then I’ve had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I need to share my testimony. Not just with one or two people but with anyone who would listen. So here we go.
I grew up going to church. Sunday, Wednesday, Christmas, Easter. I was saved when I was 12 and baptized a few weeks later. In my mind at the time, I was going to heaven when I died because Jesus died on the cross for my sins and since I’m a Christian I have to be nice to people. And that was that.
I carried on as normal preteen/teenager. School every day, church every Sunday and Wednesday, football every Friday night. Until 7th period (English class, gross) on Monday of the 4th week of my sophomore year of high school. To keep things simple and short(ish), I was diagnosed with cancer. In a sense I was a stroke waiting to happen because the tumors had my jugular compressed. I was in and out of the hospital for months for chemo, a few surgeries, and in isolation at one point. At this point, I was indifferent towards God. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t happy. If He was there, great. If He wasn’t, oh well. I knew there were so many people praying for and supporting me but I really didn’t care. However, it’s very obvious to me now that He was there because He has blessed me with the opportunity to love on children in the same place I was. And 3 days before my 16th birthday, I learned I was in remission. How’s that possible without God?? Exactly.
Anyway, I carried on through high school, graduating with everyone that had supported me that year. Of course there were side effects and the aftermath of chemotherapy is never fun but all in all I was doing alright. Then… college.
It was in my first year of college that I was put on medication for anxiety. There was also some depression along the way but since my medication doubled as an antidepressant I never had to outright admit that I was also battling that as well. I went through my own little party phase that year but “straightened up” for sophomore year. That’s when the guilt started to hit me. Why am I here? Why did she die from cancer and I didn’t? She has a son that needs her! Why did he die? He was only a little kid. This only made any anxiety and depression I was feeling worse and fun fact: medication doesn’t work if you don’t take it like you’re supposed to. Instead of turning to God, I let the guilt consume me. So every now and then I would binge drink. I would go months being totally fine but then find out someone else that I knew had passed away or see something that made me think of someone and all I wanted was to stop feeling like I was wrong for living. And alcohol was my way of doing that. When I was drunk, I didn’t have to feel. Sometimes it felt like I had a double life. During the summer breaks, I would volunteer at the children’s hospital smiling from ear to ear. Loving those who I thought needed it most. But inside I was confused and depressed, consumed by the guilt of being here when others weren’t and the guilt left over after drinking too much.
Eventually, I was okay. My junior year came around and my struggles with purpose and identity seemed to have faded into a memory. I was a part of a life group that loved me so well, I was the VP of my sorority and I had just joined another organization on campus full of amazing people. I was all good. Until someone very close to me passed. Nothing compared to the love, beauty and sunshine that radiated from her every time she walked in a room. And then she was just gone. Those same feelings of doubt and guilt came seeping back in. And it made a difficult semester (class wise) that much harder.
If you’re still with me here, thanks for reading this far. It’s about to get so so so good with God and all His miracles.
Towards the end of the semester, a friend came to me telling me how much of an inspiration I was. I thought “yeah, right. If only you knew.” His mom had been battling cancer and he said I had given him hope. I couldn’t believe it. This person who seemed to have it all together was hopeful because of me. What this individual doesn’t know is that by sharing that with me, I saw a small glimmer of the purpose that I was convinced didn’t exist. I saw where my experience could help someone else. I had a reason to be here. Along with this, I was offered an internship in McKinney, TX for the summer (it was paid btw) and I was able to take new volunteers to one of our events at the hospital. Miracle after miracle. Sign after sign He has said “I am here. I love you. I will take care of you.” I don’t need to know His plans. I just need to remember that my life and my purpose is already laid out. He is going to take care of me. God is always going to be there, with open, loving arms. I serve a gracious God who will never forsake me. He may feel a million miles away sometimes but He is actually sitting right next to you.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NLT