“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done. Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.” (Psalm 105:1-4)
I sat down at my 30-year high school reunion determined to have fun. It was 80 degrees that summer night and heat was my enemy. I knew I’d need to drink lots of Gatorade, keep my feet elevated, and hope. I rested most of the day, drank extra fluids, prayed, and was ready to enjoy myself. But the weather was a concern.
I looked more relaxed than most, as my chronic illness makes it impossible for me to sit normally–I need to elevate my legs to keep my blood pressure more stable. Sometimes I use two chairs, other times I just wrangle my legs on one. Early on two people approached.
I remember the young man as a skinny, kind kid in high school. He had grown into a hulking, handsome man. The first thing out of his mouth was “So what is your story?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
He had read a little about my Rest Ministries work on Facebook and wanted to know more. So I told him and his lovely wife about dysautonomia and my faith in God. He interjected that he was a two-time cancer survivor and would never have persevered without God. His stories of faith were about his daily blessings and the hardest part of his struggles was seeing what it had done to his family.
It was as if nothing else mattered in that tent full of classmates–some I had not seen since attending the previous reunion 10 years earlier, some since graduating in 1982. We were in our own little world then, talking about God, illness, and the blessings during our struggles. This was about 20 minutes into the night–I could have left then and been happy hearing their stories of faith.
Without my illness I would never have had the opportunity to come in contact with this generous couple; hear their story; and share our experiences. God brought us together and we were there to praise Him.
The night progressed and I had the pure pleasure of seeing old friends I had not in so long. I reconnected with one of my dearest friends who I lost touch with after my wedding. We vowed to stay in touch this time.
Late in the evening someone came up and saw me stretched out on two chairs. She asked if I had an ankle injury. I explained why I sit oddly and she said her husband had a brain tumor. What?, I thought. We talked about his struggles; how it changed the family system; his treatment; how God has blessed their lives and how they rely on Him to survive. Wow, what an amazing conversation, all because I had my legs up on a chair.
I left the reunion happy for several reasons. What was most profound was my experience would have been much different if I was not chronically ill. And that I have God to thank for. What a night.
Prayer: Dear Lord: Thank you for surprises you bring into my life. Let me be open to see the positives that come with having a chronic illness. Please help others who are struggling see that there is hope and praise that comes with their struggles. Amen.
About the author:
Laura Seil Ruszczyk lives in New York with her husband and three kids. She retired in July from her job as an elementary school counselor. She is writing a book about her struggles with dysautonomia _ a neurological condition in which the autonomic nervous system breaks, affected such things as blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and temperature regulation.
What opportunities have you had to share stories of faith with others? What surprises have you experienced that have come out of dealing with your chronic illness?
In this video Mark Hall, the lead singer of the contemporary Christian music group Casting Crowns, shares his stories of faith and his faith as a child, including the academic struggles he had as a third-grader.