From praying for her dog to losing part of her colon, Kathy has found God in the deep places of despair.
Kathy Keller is the wife of a well-known U.S. Christian preacher and author, Tim Keller.
Kathy's journey to Jesus began when she was a teenager, and her long walk with God through suffering has taught her how to praise Him and make His name great no matter the circumstances. Here is her story in her own words:
"God will use any means to seek and save us; in my case it was my sick beagle, Pepper, who was dying of a degenerative disease, and me trying to pray for the first time in my life. I only knew the Lord's Prayer, so I would race through that, and get to the part where I cried and begged God to heal my dog.
"One night I was rushing through '...Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven ...' when I felt as if I had just run full tilt into a brick wall. What on earth had I just said??! That I wanted God's will to be done? No, not at all. I wanted MY will to be done; God was just a means to accomplish that.
"But ... that's not what the prayer Jesus taught said! I felt frozen in a moment of eternity, with giant spotlights trained on me while all the heavens waited to see which way I would move. What would it be? Thy will be done – and of course that would mean that my dog would die, and I would no doubt end up a missionary in a pith helmet, unmarried and alone in a humid place filled with bugs (or so my imagination told me.)
"Or would I demand my will be done, even though that would be futile, trying to fight with God. Still, I could try! I could go my own way and try to wrest whatever happiness life had to offer by insisting on my will.
"How long this moment lasted I will never know... it felt like a long, long time that my soul debated between Thy/My. In the end, knowing I was signing Pepper's death warrant, I dissolved in tears, yielding to God, and embracing His will and all the suffering and unhappiness it was sure to bring.
"And for the only time in my life, I heard (in my head) God's voice saying 'It's not your dog's life I wanted; it's YOUR life.' Astonished, my tears stopped, and I leaped out of bed, rushed to the basement where my poor ailing dog had her box, and told her that she was going to be OK.
"And, of course, she was. God wasted a perfectly good miracle and healed my beagle, much to the puzzlement of our veterinarian, who claimed that severed nerves don't regenerate and backbones don't re-grow."
Kathy, like so many other Christians, found out that when we give up what we want most to God, we get back so much more than we could ever have wished for. Far from wanting to steal our happiness, God wants to give us unwavering joy and abundant life - although it may look very different from what we imagine, as she goes on to explain.
"After that time, I recognised that I had been claimed by God, and had yielded to that claim, but I knew not one thing about being a sinner who needed forgiveness or what God had done to procure that forgiveness. It wasn't until college that I met serious believers who trusted the Bible as God's Word. And it wasn't until seminary that I heard about substitutionary atonement [Jesus dying on the cross to pay for our sins]. In between I was a raging self-righteous goody-two-shoes, judgmental and lonely.
"In 1991 I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, an autoimmune condition that fit right in with my family's collection of autoimmune conditions: I had sisters with Birt-Hogg-Dube, RA, Hashimoto's, Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, and I was able, over the years, to add Sjogren's disease, psoritic arthritis, and thyroiditis to our collection.
"What began as a mild case was exacerbated by receiving exactly the wrong medication (prescribed by a doctor) for my version of Crohn's, plus what I was later told was a 'gut killer' antibiotic (prescribed by another doctor) when I had a MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection caused by another doctor performing minor surgery.
"By 2002 things were so bad that my surgeon recommended a 'temporary ileostomy' and he removed more than a foot of my colon that he described to Tim as looking like a burnt match. Seven surgeries later, the attempt to rejoin my colon succeeded for a space of two weeks, and then failed, leaving me with peritonitis and a permanent stoma.
"In the 17 years since then I have had numerous follow-up surgeries, some of which caused perforations, others peritonitis and month-long hospital stays – two of which left me with open wounds that took months (in one case, 12 months) to heal, even with additional surgery and 13 visits to the hyperbaric chamber for oxygen therapy.
"Apparently people have prayed for me around the world, for which I am profoundly grateful. What I wish I could tell them is this: God has pushed me to the edge with these crippling medical conditions and occasional brush with death. And I am so grateful to Him for it.
"I can't imagine any other way of breaking through my religious busyness or my confidence in my superior understanding of the ways of God.
"I grieved over the lost years of service to God; grieved over my sins of omission – my failure to love my husband, my children, my neighbours, the people I knew were crying out for connection. I repented for the massive failure of my life, for gifts unused, grace untasted, opportunities to love wasted.
"What God gave to me was the recognition that I could glorify Him just as easily in my bedridden, shrunken life, as I could have on my feet and healthy. Better, far better, in fact, because all that health had been squandered on me, my agendas, my plans, my calendar. With nothing to give, I could still glorify God by yielding my trust to Him, by believing that He loved me and was still willing to use me.
"This became my refrain: 'Lord, I don't see how this (botched surgery, stubborn infection, unhealed wound that needed to be dressed and packed for over a year) will glorify You; but if it does, then I embrace it. If it glorifies You to have me here, in this place, then OK. I accept it. I embrace it. I am so happy to have a way to testify to Your love, and wisdom and grace that is not above my microscopic abilities. Be glorified, O Lord, in me.'
"I am on my feet again, and nothing that I know of is waiting to land me in hospital, or bed or grave, but that will come. For me, for all of us.
"Meanwhile, I marvel at how I missed this for so long. I Corinthians 10:31 says: 'Whether therefore you eat or drink or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God.'
"'Whatsoever' is a BROAD word, encompassing not only our active life, but our passive, suffering life.
"I can glorify Him, I WILL glorify Him, from whatever depths He ordains for me," Kathy concludes.•