My tires were aired, my chain was lubed and the panniers were bulging. Packing was definitely the biggest challenge. Four women preparing for a five day, two hundred fifty-seven mile bicycle ride across the state of Missouri were limited to mascara, toothbrush, T-shirt dress and Chacos. I’ll admit I was a little worried. I had never been to the Katy Trail, though I had researched it extensively and compiled a detailed agenda, which included bed and breakfast reservations as well as dinner plans. I had spent four months meticulously planning the trip.
To conserve space I placed my items into gallon freezer bags and squeezed out the air. In the event of inevitable flat tires, I packed extra tubes and CO2 cartridges. More importantly, I scribbled five scriptures onto index cards. Each verse pertained to strength. Obviously, we were going to need strength to pedal thirty-five to sixty miles each day on the crushed limestone path, but my motives went deeper. I had been diagnosed with myasthenia gravis in my eyes (ocular MG) six weeks earlier. I knew that statistically the disease progresses to affect the muscles of the mouth and neck, shoulders and legs, and more concerning the diaphragm which affects breathing. I was reluctant to admit I already had subtle, but worrisome symptoms.
My intention was to have my riding partners pray a verse over me each day. Two days before we were scheduled to leave, I realized it would be an impossible task. My stereotypical, doctor handwriting is deplorable and the index cards were illegible. I pulled five blank cards out of my abundant supply and painstakingly rewrote each verse as neatly as possible. I placed the crisp new cards in the console of my car so they were in plain sight.
The next day, my life changed forever. Instead of using the cards for the adventure I had planned, God used His word for a very different journey. The day before we were scheduled to leave, I permanently transitioned from surgeon in the operating room to patient in the emergency room struggling for every breath. As I was being transported to a tertiary hospital where specialists were available to treat my rare disease, my daughter arrived and asked what I needed her to bring. With great effort, I whispered, “My purse and my index cards.” Not coincidentally, I was hospitalized for five days. God supplied five strength related scriptures, one for each day. Too weak to hold a Bible, sit up, or even turn a page. His word sustained me.
Myasthenia gravis is a neuromuscular disease that causes profound weakness. My career as an obstetrician/gynecologist was over, my active lifestyle was suddenly derailed and my disease was incurable. I would not have survived without God’s word in my head and in my heart. Seemingly, my life had been turned upside down.
God made Himself believably evident from the very beginning of my illness. He showed me how He was actually turning my life right side up. I had lived in overdrive, treating rest like a four-letter word. He blessed me with a year of Sabbath rest and showed me His love and His strange way of giving me the true desires of my heart. My disabling became my enabling.
As I began to feel slightly stronger, I texted my mother and asked her to bring me her copy of Jesus Calling. She replied, “Sorry, I already left the house.” No one knew I had asked for the devotional book except my mom and God. Within ten minutes, I received a text message from a friend who was on a camping trip with several friends. It was a screenshot of the devotion for the day from Jesus Calling. I was amazed, but God wasn’t finished. The following day, one of my patients screenshot the devotion from the same book and messaged it to me. The next day, one of my co-workers did the same. I felt God’s reassurance He would take care of my every need and want. He knew my needs before I even asked and He provided. He continued to reveal Himself in spectacular ways, allowing me to find purpose and blessings through adversity.
Many times I have heard life can change in an instant. It is true. I was living a filled life, but God wanted to bless me with a fulfilled life. I would not have chosen it, but I would not trade it.
I urge you to diligently hide God’s word in your heart. Actively prepare before the storm comes. Trust Him when your life appears wrecked. He loves you and will lovingly meet all your needs. I was afraid when I was initially diagnosed with ocular myasthenia gravis. Isaiah 41: 10 showed up in several places. I wrote it on an index card and taped it to my bathroom mirror:
“Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength, I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” MSG
And He did.