by Janet Stone
In the early 1970s, I was a new mother struggling with serious health problems and trying to care for an infant when I could hardly get through the day without collapsing. As my daughter was learning to crawl I was so ill I would barricade a section in the living room with pillows and cushions and lie on the couch. Although we now know I have an immune deficiency and a neuromuscular disease that contributed to the chronic health problems, at the time I thought I just wasn’t trying hard enough and that I was a terrible mother.
My husband was serving in the Air Force and we were stationed in South Dakota, far from family and friends. Our church became our family but did not understand my struggles and I was sinking deeper into despair about my situation. We went home to Arizona for Christmas that year and I went to a local doctor to see if we could figure out what was wrong. He put me on a “stomach relaxer” which turned out to be a strong tranquilizer, and I was in a car accident when someone pulled in front of me and I couldn’t respond quickly enough. After finding out what the medication actually was, I determined I would not take anything for the anxiety because of the safety issues.
My mother had heard good things about a local Christian psychologist and made an appointment for me a few days before we were scheduled to fly back to South Dakota. She listened to my concerns and then said that although she was not able to discern the cause of the symptoms in a single visit, she was going to give me something that she was confident would help. She handed me a book titled Handbook to Happiness by Dr. Charles Solomon.
I started reading the book right away and it became my lifeline. As I understood what it meant to be “crucified with Christ” as noted in Galatians 2:20, my inadequacy was no longer the focus and the anxiety began to fade. However, my physical symptoms continued to escalate and I was dealing with constant nausea and stomach pain on top of the fatigue. My husband took me to the emergency room several times when I collapsed, but all they would do is give me a shot of a tranquilizer. One day as I prayed for guidance it seemed that God was leading me to see a doctor outside of the military. We did not have insurance for this and could not afford to pay cash, but I kept hearing, “Trust Me.”
I picked up a phone book and opened up the yellow pages to the section on physicians. As I started turning the pages, one name jumped out at me. I made an appointment having no idea how this was going to turn out. The doctor was a kind, older gentleman, and after doing an exam and running some tests, he said, “If you had come to see me a year ago I would not have known how to help you. But my wife just went through the same thing so now I know what to do.” It turned out she’d had an infected appendix but it was not enough to cause full-blown appendicitis, just chronic nausea and flu-like symptoms. So he wanted to schedule me for surgery and said he would look for any other issues while he was operating. I told him we could not afford it, and he said, “The base hospital commander is a good friend of mine. He’s retiring in a few weeks but let me see what I can do.” So he made a call and the whole cost was covered. During the surgery, he also found a cyst that was causing issues as well, and my health finally began to improve.
This was just the beginning of decades of experiences where God periodically allowed me to go through physical suffering, sometimes to the point of death, but He always gave me peace and the assurance that He was in control. I think of Psalm 34:19, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Once I understood that my life was in Christ and that I was already experiencing eternal life, I didn’t need to fear death.
My constant physical challenges gave me the desire to learn more about our “fearfully and wonderfully made” bodies. As I was able, I took courses in nutrition, biology, and chemistry but my worsening immune system prevented me from finishing a degree and I had to live increasingly isolated to avoid contracting infections. The internet became a portal to the world as I turned to patient advocacy work and moderated online support groups. I was able to make an impact on many lives just sitting in a small room with a computer.
Last year I felt that God was calling me to get the credentials I needed to become a certified Christian counselor. I had attended an Exchanged Life workshop in Missouri through a ministry associated with Grace Fellowship International (GFI) and knew this was the counseling approach that fit my convictions and had been proven to be reliable throughout my life. I was excited to reconnect with GFI and find out that they had a certification program, so I began the studies needed to complete the requirements. In the fall I celebrated my 50th wedding anniversary and became a member of my church’s care team so that I could share the truths that had been so life-changing for me.
One of the greatest blessings in the past year is that I finally realized my dream of completing a degree in biomedical science and I am now a graduate student in a public health program. I work with researchers and continue to represent patients with rare diseases around the world (literally the uttermost parts of the earth). Every week I have opportunities to assist wonderful people from many countries, races, and religions. My focus is to alleviate suffering, both physical and mental, as my Savior did in His ministry. It can take months and even years to invest in someone’s life so that they trust you and are willing to hear the gospel which is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” But I love the planting and watering and it’s such a joy when I get to participate in the harvest as well.
Most of my day is spent immersed in a secular culture that is becoming increasingly hostile to Christians and our beliefs. It would be easy to hide under a bushel and avoid the stress, but that is not our calling. Every evening I have a prayer time before bed to reflect on the day, ask for forgiveness where I have failed, and pray for guidance and wisdom for the next day’s challenges. I’m grateful for the Christian friends from GFI who support me in prayer and encourage me in my daily walk…my “nevertheless” journey. I memorized Galatians 2:20 in the King James Version years ago and it’s still my favorite translation of the verse!
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
We congratulate Janet for completing GFI’s certification in Exchanged Life Counseling. You can contact her at email@example.com