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From Wreck to Riches

by Bridget Gazlay

I grew up going to church and did all the right things. I knew a lot ABOUT God, and was a decent kid, but like many people, didn’t think I needed God. I was doing just fine on my own. I was a straight-A student, active in the community, popular in school, a good athlete and musician. Everything was about me.

Things changed during my second year of college. All of a sudden I wasn’t able to do the things I used to do. I started getting extremely tired and wasn’t sleeping well. I was having a hard time keeping up with my school work. After several years of seeing doctors, I found out I had a chronic illness called fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic fatigue, intense muscle pain, sleeping problems, stomach problems, headaches – whatever is associated with nerves and muscles. A person cannot die from this illness but it can be very debilitating and is usually life-long.

At the time of my diagnosis, I was only 19 years old, and I was absolutely devastated. I mean, I had my whole life ahead of me and I had to live with this! Up to this point, I had done everything myself, by my own skills. Now that my abilities were taken away, I didn’t know what to do. I never trusted God with anything, and I wasn’t about to then. I remember thinking, “How can God possibly use me anyway? I can barely move because of the pain and I am too tired to talk. How in the world would I be able to serve God? What good could I possible do?”

Much of that first year was spent in self-pity and depression. Questions like, “Why did I have to get this disease?” and “How come I am the only one in my family to have it?” seemed to enter my mind more than I could count. I focused on what I couldn’t do rather than on what I could do. Physical pain took center stage in my life.

As the year went on, things seemed to get worse and worse. I finally came to a point where I prayed to God and asked Him to take over my life because I couldn’t deal with it anymore. I really didn’t think there was anything positive I could do with my life… but I told God that I would be willing to do whatever He wanted – but He was going to have to give me the strength and energy to do it. (But, like I said, I really didn’t think there was anything I could do.) Boy, was I wrong about that!

That day was a turning point in my life. Since then God has given me a purpose and a reason to live. I realized I went through what I did so that I could help other people. I now write devotionals for Rest Ministries, a ministry that touches those who live with chronic illnesses. I am a youth leader in my church, and often use my own struggles as examples of how God can work. I mentor others in chronic pain, because I’ve been there. I sing on the worship team even though my daily schedule can be tiring. My first craft book was published June of 2005, so now I am also able to share how God inspires my creativity. God is doing more in my life than I ever thought possible. I certainly cannot say my life is dull and boring!

Yes, I still live with a chronic illness (and now, daily migraines and severe endometriosis), but God gives me the energy and strength I need to do His work. In fact, most people wouldn’t even guess that I live with several illnesses, and that in itself is a testimony to God’s power, love, and grace in my life!

Isaiah 40:31 comes to mind, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” This verse is so true in my life. Not once has God NOT given me the strength to do what He has asked me to do. Sure, I still have bad times where I don’t feel well and I have to rest – but I could also tell you story after story of how God has miraculously healed me so I could go to speaking engagements or so I could meet one-on-one with individuals. Serving Christ is so exciting to me because He makes the weak strong: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

And sure, sometimes I still can’t see how God can use me. But those are the times that God always seems to be nearest to me. And as I continue to trust God He blesses me more and more. Having a chronic illness has taught me to see what’s really important in life. I have learned to appreciate the opportunities God gives me to minister to other hurting people. I have learned to take one day at a time.

I used to think that God couldn’t use me and that I might as well die, because it would be better for everyone. I could have lived my life the way it was before – living in self-pity and with no purpose. But now I look at the life God has given me and I rejoice that I am able to be part of His plan. What a privilege it is to serve Him. I wouldn’t trade my life with anyone else – because God chose ME to serve Him in this special way!

I believe God uses the struggles and trials we go through to shape us into the people He wants us to be. I know if I hadn’t gotten sick years ago, I wouldn’t be doing what I am now; I had my own idea of what my life would look like. It’s amazing to look back and see how God orchestrated everything in my life. I am excited to see what the future holds. I know that if God holds my life in His hands that amazing and miraculous things can happen!

©2006 Bridget Gazlay. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bio:
Bridget Gazlay resides in beautiful West Michigan where she works full time as an Administrative Assistant. Her free time includes crafting and working with her first book, Fabric Cards. She also serves with Campus Crusade for Christ, writes for Rest Ministries, sings on a worship team, and mentors youth. To learn more about Bridget check out her web page at: http://home.ccci.org/gazlay or send her an email at
b4fabric-devotional@yahoo.com.