17 years ago I was a healthy kid who liked math, and liked to have fun. I planned to be a doctor when I grew up. School was interesting, and I liked playing sports and games with my friends and family. I wanted to enjoy life, succeed, and help people.
Then, one weekend in 2000, that life stopped. I awoke with an excruciating headache. Pain shot through my eyes, face, and the top of my head. I was dizzy, and wanted to throw up. Light hurt my eyes, and sounds were irritating. Trying to sleep was the one thing I could do. I rested all day, sure that I could sleep it off and wake up the next day to return to life as usual.
The next morning the headache remained, as strong as the day before. I was shocked. Pain was not supposed to last that long! The pain was gone on the third day, but it came back within a few days. Over the next weeks and months the headaches lasted longer and longer. Soon, they lasted for more than a month without stopping.
I felt constant pain, which sucked the fun out of my days. I felt worthless, like a broken toy, becoming a doctor and succeeding in life now seemed so far away. I felt stupid, the words I would form in my mouth sounded idiotic when I actually said them. I felt alone – no one I knew could understand what I was going through. I felt hopeless, that there was no help for me. Somewhere in the next year, at around 11 years old, I lost the desire to fight. If this was life, I did not want to live anymore. Death seemed like the best escape. So I waited for what had taken my health to hopefully take my life.
Why did I not kill myself? Because I believed two things: there is a God, and killing myself would bring me from the frying pan into the fire. So I asked God to end my life for me. Somehow getting better seemed to be impossible, and I would die someday, so why not sooner, before I had to suffer any longer?
Several years went by. The thing that stood between me and death was my belief in God. One day, as I stood in my parent’s garage, I had a clear thought pop into my head, “There is no God.” Just as soon as I thought it, I felt God say to me, “You know that there is a God. You know I am real.” I had to agree. I had seen and heard so many things that convinced me of His existence.
Seven years after the headaches started, something new happened. A wise friend taught me about knowing God as a close friend. I felt God tell me, “I love you.” I learned there is great joy in helping others. I gave up the control of my life to God, and gave up the things in my life that I knew He hated. I felt God’s presence, and that finally, someone – Jesus – understood what I was going through. I felt Him there with me in my pain.
A week or so before my 18th birthday, I was praying, and I felt God say to me, “I do not want you to die and go to heaven yet. I have things for you to do, and things for you to learn.” I said “Ok.” Something changed in my heart that day. I no longer wanted to die. I had a new desire to live. Even in the pain, I was so happy.
Almost 10 years later, my headache is less intense, but still there. From that moment until writing this post, every waking moment has included the pain of a headache. Yet I am still so very thankful to be alive. Every day is a gift. Each day filled with pain is also full of life and love. God is with me in the pain, and gives me the strength for each day, and a hope that one day it will be gone. I was broken, but God is putting me back together. I was alone, but the One who suffered more than anyone else is with me. He helps me understand and comfort others who suffer – which makes my suffering worth it. He lifts me up, He gives me worth, He gives life.
This is just one of the many ways that the gospel of Jesus Christ has brought me from death to life.