Strength beyond the game

College applications, Friday nights with friends, prom. These are things that most seniors spend time worrying about. Senior year is an exciting time that marks the end of one journey but the beginning of another. For the first half of my senior year, those same things consumed my thoughts as well. However, in January things changed.

I had an acute ischemic stroke. Never did I imagine something like that would happen. At the age of 17 I was forced to deal with things that many adults never experience. My family was scared, and it was a tense few days during the initial diagnosis and testing. However, in all that time I was never fearful. As I laid in the hospital at night, I felt like I should be terrified of what happened to me or what could happen. But that wasn’t the case. I had this overwhelming sense of peace that everything would work out fine. Philippians 4:13 tells me, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” I knew I was strong enough to get through any problems because of my strength that comes from Jesus Christ. There is not a doubt in my mind the peace I felt was the Holy Spirit.

I have been a Christian my whole life. I grew up in the church and always knew what the love of Jesus Christ should be like. However, my faith had started to slip during my senior year. It was a very busy time with playing three sports, applying to colleges, and finding any scholarships I could. I told myself I didn’t have time to read my bible or pray as much as I wanted. I always said I would “do it tomorrow.”

Experiencing the health issues I did put a lot of things into perspective. Everyone subconsciously knows that even your next breath isn’t guaranteed. Going through a near life threatening experience showed me how true it is. I realized nothing is guaranteed, and if I am not using every single day to better God’s kingdom, then I am wasting the precious time He has given me. God pulled me through it all, and I am convinced that the issues would have been much worse for me, emotionally and psychologically, if I didn’t have my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. I am reminded of this throughout the gospel.  Time and time again we see Jesus heal those who believe. In Matthew 9:20-22, he helps an ill woman and says, “Your faith has made you well.” I believe my faith is what healed me.

Even though I didn’t experience any lasting deficiencies, I went through so many tests and a lot of stress in the months that followed. I could have easily given up or become angry and frustrated. For a while I did. After the initial issues, some of that peace left me. I hated that the stroke seemed to take over my life. When people saw me, the first thing they did was ask how I was. While I appreciated everyone’s concern, I wanted to think of something other than my health issues. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to get over those feelings. I knew how much worse my stroke could have been.

I was so grateful to be completely back to normal, so instead of becoming withdrawn, I did my best to use the situation to bring glory to God. One way I did this was through basketball. I missed the last couple of weeks of my season. I spent my eighteenth birthday sitting on the bench. I was bummed, but I quickly learned that God gave me an amazing opportunity to minister to my teammates. I didn’t have my performance to focus on, so I worked on improving the dynamic of the team and serving my teammates in any way possible. I took the chance to not think of myself, and it humbled me in more ways than I could have imagined.

Matthew 6:33 says I must first seek God’s kingdom and righteousness. I don’t need to worry about anything else as long as He is first on my list. And again, John 3:30 says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” My situation wasn’t about how it affected me but how God could be shown through it.

It has been six months since my stroke. Amidst the doctors and tests, my faith has strengthened. I thank God every day for the chance he has given me to use my struggles for His will. I go back to Philippians 4:13. It has taken on a new meaning because now I know I can truly do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

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