The headache was overpowering. It pierced a small space just above my left ear and seemed to worsen as the days moved into weeks. At times, the pain made me dizzy, and I would trip or almost fall down the dorm stairs. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t slow down. My sophomore year in college was a blur of joy and activity, and I didn’t want to make time to visit my doctor or to consider the somber possibilities.
But blindness has a way of stopping you.
While driving one night, I lost vision in my left eye. Then I finally admitted that I should seek medical attention. When I did, physicians said everything appeared to be fine. My vision returned, and none of the neurological tests had revealed the dark storm that was closing in on my future.
Two weeks later, I suffered a massive brainstem stroke that left me quadriplegic.
Imprisoned in my own body, I felt completely . . . helpless.
Because I could not speak, I prayed: “Lord, please use me, even now . . . when I cannot move. I know I have not lost my purpose here on earth, and You will be faithful to complete the good work You began in me.”
Praying was the only thing I could do. So I set my mind to do that one thing well. I prayed for the nurses who cared for me in the Intensive Care Unit. I prayed for my family. I prayed for the friends who paced in the waiting room down the hall. I prayed for people I loved and people I didn’t even like. I prayed for anyone and everyone I could remember, even acquaintances I had only met once.
I didn’t realize it then, but I was giving my spiritual gift, even within the confines of paralysis. My spiritual gift is encouragement.Though I was going through a painful trial, I did not let that gift go to waste, and neither did God. In His mercy, He allowed me to help others during a time when I felt helpless myself. From the fountain of a heart that God kept refilling, my prayers for blessing and encouragement spilled over to everyone. I didn’t need much in order to offer that gift. I didn’t need a phone or a notecard or a computer to offer encouragement. I didn’t even need a mouth that moved.
Continuing to give my spiritual gift from a place of helplessness redefined how I view spiritual gifts and how we cultivate them in our community. Sometimes I start to think I need something, that I need a particular situation to be just right before I can really offer my spiritual gift as God intended.
But the gift itself is all we need. And all we have to do is keep giving it.
In Romans 12:6-8 we read,
“In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”
I have been blessed to regain much of my physical ability since my stroke twenty years ago. Yet, I have never forgotten the lesson that God engraved upon my heart through that experience. No matter how helpless we may feel, we can ask God to use us in our current situation. He has given us spiritual gifts so that we have something to give the world in His name. If we ask Him, He can show us creative ways to keep giving our spiritual gifts, even when we can’t imagine how.
The Great Giver will never let a good gift go to waste.
Related: Want to learn more about prayer? Richard Foster’s book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home will help every heart find its home in deeper prayer.Leave a Comment
Sarah S says
Thank you for sharing your story.
Thank you for sharing your story, I too have the gift of encouragement. I have chronic illnesses that prevent me from ” doing” much, but I can always think of ways to encourage others by sending cards, prayers, small gifts, or by just meeting another’s need in a small way. I continue to pray that God will show me how to encourage those who need it most. It may seem like such a small thing, but a little goes a long way and pleases Him beyond measure!!
So glad you have found a way to keep offering your gifts, Kim. Those cards probably mean more than you could ever imagine. Real mail is so rare these days! Keep going!
Susan G. says
Such an inspiring story! I did gasp when I read the words ‘stroke’ and ‘quadriplegic’…at such a young age. I’m in awe what God did for you and through you during this huge trial.
Thanks for this!
ps Just found your site and saw all the exciting photos! So loved the one with George W.! 🙂
Congratulations on Teacher of the Year – a little late! 🙂
May you be abundantly blessed!
I know exactly what you are saying! I recently experienced complete helplessness and found myself overcome with gratitude and thanksgiving. Is that a spiritual gift? I just know in these following days it is getting me through the darkest and loneliest moments of my life…
Isn’t it amazing how effective gratitude is to ease our difficulties. God never leaves us; that’s just who He is. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 89:8 … “Faithfulness is God’s character.”
Nika…I find gratitude in any situation is so healing to the giver and the receiver. I have pondered the question in the past, “Is gratitude one of the highest forms of love?” I would welcome any comments or opinions…
Beautiful, reminds me of how much I fail. Thank you for being so faithful
What an amazing story you shared. And such a great example that He can use us in any circumstances as long as we are willing.
Yes, I think the more a situation seems humanly impossible, the more God has a chance to show what He can do with our surrendered hearts.
Beth Williams says
I have the gift of encouragement. I use it every chance I can!! Love lighting up peoples lives with card, note, money, etc. If I sense a need I will immediately try to think of what I can do to help out. It may be to just pray and see how God works in their lives. It thrills me to no end making people’s lives a little better. People encourage me all the time and this is my way of paying them back–or paying it forward as it were!
Thanks for telling your wonderful story of how God used an almost impossible situation and turned it around!
Janet from FL says
Wow! You shared this so beautifully! Praying cannot be taken from us. I have found that to pray helps me and others at the same time. I had an illness that forced me to look inside for what God still gave me to do. Prayer was God sent. I had not thought of prayer itself as encouragement. I do tell people I am praying for them as encouragement. Now I will also think of my prayers as encouragment. Thanks.
Melinda V Inman says
Thank you for sharing your story! Just as my last homeschooled child settled into college, prison ministry moved to full swing, and my first novel prepared to publish, I was struck down with Epstein Barr. This evolved over the last year and a half into an autoimmune disorder that continues to worsen. Most days I live with flu-like fatigue, dizziness, inability to concentrate, and sharp pain. This capped off over twenty years of continuing loss and hardship.
Job-like I’m scraping by boils in the ash, reminding myself of God’s mercy, reviewing his promises, and seeking his face to ascertain how I can now use my gifts for him. I know he will show me. Of this I am confident. My heart is crushed, but I love him and trust him. I needed your words today. This is God’s mercy to me at this moment. Thank you for using your gift of encouragement for me.
I’m praying for you right now, Melinda. I know you face some days that are harder than others. May God make His sweet presence known to you in all of them. And don’t give up on that book … I don’t know if it is on pause or not … Your novel will have its moment to move forward in spite of your setback. Keep going.
Melinda V Inman says
Thank you, dear Mika, for your prayers. #RefugeNovel published in the middle of it all. By God’s grace I was able to think for the final edits. The challenges now are marketing, prepping my next novels, and keeping up on my blog. That’s it. All other work isn’t possible. My days vary, and I am only able to do about 20% of what I could in the past. All depends of trusting myself to God’s pace and plan for any given day. He is purifying me of self reliance. Thank you for sharing your story on this particular day. I needed everything you said right at the moment it arrived. I was smack dab in the middle of a pity party. God bless you!
PRAISE THE LORD FOR YOUR WONDERFUL STORY. MAY THE LORD BE WITH YOU IN THESE LAST DAYS.
Grieving Mother says
God Is Good! He will use US …. If WE only listen to him !
It is so wonderful that when we are at helpless and unable to “do” anything, the ministry of prayer is available to bring spiritual growth that lifts up others as well. I pray you find the joy of being in His Presence when all there is despair and the doubts creep in. May the Lord use His Word to keep you sustained and strengthened during days of distress. You matter to God and I know He is using your prayers to further His Kingdom.
Amy M says
Such an inspiring story! I have a son with a serious medical condition so sometimes I struggle to remember that God can use my gifts even now. I think I spent time waiting for the right moment to offer up the gifts I have been given and now I’m realizing that God will always make the right moment.