By Karen Kingsriter
“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.” Isaiah 43:2
It all began one ordinary night in Nairobi, Kenya – into our 5th year of missionary service. I’d just gone to bed when – out of the blue – my body started trembling – strongly enough to rattle the bed. I didn’t feel ill, and had no idea why I was shaking. But it was to be the start of a very frightening and bewildering time in my life when anxiety and panic would overwhelm me.
The emotional stress of not knowing why this was happening to me began to take its toll. It left me feeling out of control and totally spent, physically and emotionally. Some days I stayed in bed because spasms of uncontrollable shaking racked my body – from head to toe. Never in my life had I experienced anything like this before.
“But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.” Psalm 22:19
When my parents called long distance from the US, it frightened me that I didn’t have the strength to take their call. I’d never been so weak and helpless. Mom told me – much later – how terrible she felt when she couldn’t speak with me.
“We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” 2 Cor. 1:8-9
In desperation, I asked several close colleagues to come pray for me. God responded, and a Word was given that this time of suffering was for a purpose; He would see me through safely. I clung to that like a drowning person thrown a lifeline because I knew that I would be rescued! This gave me desperately-needed reassurance and hope!
“But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction.” Job 36:15
I had an appointment with a kind-hearted Seventh Day Adventist physician. After describing what I’d been experiencing, I asked him how long it would take before I felt ‘like myself’ again. Without blinking an eye, the doctor replied, “About a year and a half.” (mentally, I did a….”Are you kidding me?”) I knew, then, that I’d been through the “fire” – and it would take time, patience, and the Lord’s grace to restore my emotional and physical strength. That wise doctor prescribed the following: a little medication, adequate rest, and frequent prayer.
“For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” Psalm 22:24
Sometimes, I still wonder ‘why’? But it’s OK because I know now that God had really important things to teach me, and He needed my undivided attention! Though this personal summary is simplified, the lessons have been divinely inspired:
– God is ultimately the only Source for every part of my life – period.
– Even though I was depleted, depressed, and distraught, I KNEW I was still standing on the Rock of my Salvation. Despite how I felt, I was secure in Him!
– Having survived the terrifying experience of unreasonable and uncontrollable anxiety, I have since had many opportunities to reassure like-sufferers. “You WILL – with the Lord’s help – live through this and be okay! In fact, you’ll be stronger! Have courage!”
– My compassion deepened for others who were struggling with something they could not fix.
– It prepared me for a new phase of ministry: leading a support group for missionary women in Belgium, called “Heart to Heart”…. something I had never done before, nor even imagined. But God had a plan for those dear women.
– A new realization of how much we need each other. I stepped up my “May I pray with you about that?” interaction with friends and family.
– During my worst moments, reading Scripture, praying, and listening to worship music all brought peace and calmness to my troubled spirit. I learned how to lean on the Lord – in my darkest hours – and He was always there!
“My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.” Psalm 119:71
The Lord turned my season of anguish into a heavenly school of learning – for my spiritual growth. (“…suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope…Romans 5:3)
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13
Are you in deep waters? Underneath are the Everlasting Arms. You will not drown!
Karen Kingsriter serves as an International Student Services Representative for Global University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.