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Woman Discovers God in the Midst of Suffering

Scott Larson tells the story of a woman who discovered God in the midst of her suffering.

Annette and her husband were missionaries in Western Europe when she began to have pain in her back. When the pain became so unbearable that she could no longer function, even with muscle relaxants, X-rays revealed a tumor the size of a grapefruit that had attached itself to her spinal cord. Though surgery would need to be done immediately, the operation was considered somewhat routine and not a particularly high-risk procedure.
Something went wrong, however. Annette awakened from the surgery paralyzed from the neck down and in constant, excruciating pain. Not long afterward, she, her husband, and their five children returned to the United States where she could be cared for in more appropriate surroundings.
Several years later, Annette's husband invited me to their home for Sunday dinner. I had always admired her, having heard how she refused pain-numbing medications so that she wouldn't also be numbed to all of life. Yet I wasn't sure what to expect from my visit. Would she be bed-bound? Would we only be able to communicate a few minutes before she needed rest?
What I encountered when I entered their home was a beautifully dressed woman whose outward expression revealed little of her physical pain. During my five-hour visit, Annette served as a gracious hostess who shared her story with honesty. She told how when she first came out of the surgery, she and everyone else focused on praying for God to heal her. When that didn't happen and she was confined to 24-hour care at home, she became very depressed. Most people stopped connecting with her. Their lives moved on while Annette's came to a screeching halt. Bible college and missionary training had not equipped her to deal with a life tied to a wheelchair and filled with constant pain.
"I felt that I was left with three choices," said Annette. "To kill myself and end the unbearable suffering for all of us; to abandon my faith in God and merely exist on painkillers; or to put my energies to discovering God in the midst of all of this suffering."
Annette's face beamed. "I chose the third," she said. "And as I began slowly reading the Bible again through the lens of pain and suffering, what I saw was a God who was familiar with both. I thought my pain and suffering had taken me to a place where God could never be found; instead, it was a place where he became more real to me than I had ever known him to be."

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