Life is filled with struggles. We stub our toes, lose our keys, get stuck in traffic. We fight, lose jobs, get stressed out. In the midst of the pain, we cry out to God for help. We get frustrated when we don’t hear an answer. But the thing is, we are only upset because we were expecting a “yes.” God is not a genie, here to grant us our wishes. If the answer were always yes, my mom would be alive today. Sometimes the answer is “No, beloved. You will not get what you want this time, but I know what is best for you and will be with you every step of the way. Trust me.”
I have endured my share of difficult times. I have lost jobs, had my heart shattered, felt physical and emotional pain. Through it all, God has always been by my side. I never doubted that He was there, taking care of me. No matter what happened, He made everything better. But then my faith was tested in the most brutal way I could have ever imagined. Nothing in my life comes close to comparing to what happened in 2009 and 2010.
It started with a cough. I thought my mom had a cold. It turned out that the breast cancer that she had beaten 7 years earlier was back. It had spread to her lungs, filling them with fluid. I can’t tell you how hard it was to watch her struggle to breathe. I prayed to God harder than I’ve ever prayed in my life. I knew that He had the power to take this away from her. She didn’t deserve this agony. Surely He knew that and would not let her suffer anymore.
Mom assured me that she would be fine, and I believed her. Of course she would be fine. I was praying my heart out and God in all His benevolence would hear my prayer and save her. As the cancer progressed over the months and she went through chemo, she told me not to worry. She just had to get through this and beat the cancer and then she would be fine again. Then her lungs got weaker and she needed to go on oxygen. Again, she assured me that this was only temporary and it would all be okay.
By the end of the summer, she was unable to walk more than a few steps on her own. She needed a wheelchair whenever she left the house. This is when it finally clicked in my head that something was seriously wrong. I thought everything was supposed to get better. Why was she getting weaker? Wasn’t God healing her? What was taking so long? We started going to the hospital almost every week for one ailment or another. We often had to stay overnight, which really annoyed my mom. She continued to say she was absolutely fine and she just wanted to stay home.
One day I sat in her hospital room waiting for her to come back from getting a scan of some sort. One of the doctors came in to talk to her and I told her that Mom would be back soon. The doctor must have noticed that I wasn’t very worried and therefore must not know the whole story. She told me that the cancer was progressing quickly and Mom would not last more than a few more months. I sat in shock. That couldn’t be right. Mom said she was fine. God would never let this happen to her. He was going to heal her. Then the reality of the situation dawned on me and I completely lost my mind bawling. I cried harder than I’ve ever cried in my entire life. This couldn’t be happening. How could I live without my mom? She’s my best friend! There must be some mistake. Mom is a lot tougher than they were giving her credit for. She would pull through. But part of me knew that the doctor was right.
I gathered the courage to ask my mom about what the doctor had said. She completely denied it and said not to worry. She said doctors don’t know everything and she would be fine. I feel sick thinking about all the times I sat there in the hospital rooms and chemo rooms every week, smiling and laughing, just hanging out with Mom, completely confident that this was all temporary and everything would be fine. She must have known that it was a lot more serious than she was letting on. She kept the information to herself in order to protect me and the rest of our family. She never once complained. My mom is the strongest woman I have ever known.
Through all of this, my dad understandably became more and more stressed. He, like the rest of us, thought she would be absolutely fine. As Mom became more and more ill, he completely went off the deep end. He was used to controlling everything; it killed him that he could not control this. Worst of all, he didn’t have the faith to know that God was really in charge of this. He simply became more and more angry and took his stress out on everyone around him. When Mom’s parents flew down to see her, he screamed at them to get out of his house. He fumed about how whatever I had told them was WRONG because his wife was FINE. He really yelled at me for telling them that Mom was sick. He wouldn’t allow my mom’s friends to visit her, either. When her best friend heard from me that Mom didn’t have a lot of time left, she flew in from out of state to see her in the hospital. When she entered the hospital room, my dad yelled at her to get out. It was frightening to see him lash out like that.
Mom spent her last few weeks in the ICU. The cancer had spread to her bones and we knew she was nearing the end. During this time, Dad became more and more unbearable. My sisters and I were torn between a desperate desire to spend every second with Mom and an equal desperation to stay away from Dad. This was difficult because he sat right by her in the hospital every day, controlling who could see her. He only left at night, when I or one of my sisters would sleep on a recliner next to her.
“I prayed to God for the strength to walk to the room.”
One day I stood at the end of the hospital hallway, dreading each step to Mom’s room. I was scared of my dad and knew he was in the room. I knew he was angry with me for telling Mom’s family that she was in the hospital. I did not want a fight but I also wanted to see my mom. I prayed to God for the strength to walk to the room. As I prayed, I felt a real physical presence walking with me, holding me. I immediately felt relief, knowing that Jesus was with me, helping me get to Mom, telling me what I should say to my dad. I obeyed and made it into the room. I told my dad how I felt and he apologized for his behavior. It was amazing.
Mom passed away on November 20, 2009, with all of us by her side. I had prayed for healing, and God answered my prayer. It was not what I wanted, but I know that God knew what was best for Mom and allowed her freedom from her suffering. Now she is living in paradise and I am truly happy for her.
The months that followed were very, very strange. How could the world keep spinning? How could we smile or laugh again? We lived in a fog. Dad was very depressed. He reached out to my sisters and I, apologized for his anger and begged to be part of our lives. He started going to church with me. I thought this was the beginning of a strong, loving relationship between father and daughter. I was wrong.
“I learned that God never left me. Even in my most painful times, He was with me.”
In January of 2010 I herniated a disc in my back and it shoved into my sciatic nerve. Over the next several months, I experienced the absolute worst physical pain I ever thought existed. I was only 27! This was completely unfair!! I sat on the couch and screamed and cried in agony. I had to use a walker when I could walk at all. It took 20 minutes to get to the bathroom because every movement sent shock waves of pain through my entire body. I stared at my bottle of pain pills, tempted to take all of them and end my misery. I prayed to God for the strength to get through the pain. I prayed that I would be strong enough to learn whatever I was supposed to learn from this. I learned that God never left me. Even in my most painful times, He was with me. He didn’t take the pain away immediately, but he sent friends and family to help me endure it.
Meanwhile, Dad met a new woman online. Suddenly he stopped going to church with me and spent every waking moment with this woman. I was crushed. I felt abandoned, left to suffer severe physical pain on my own while still hurting from missing Mom. It hurt to feel like he was replacing Mom so quickly, but it also hurt to know that he was no longer remotely interested in spending any time with me, let alone caring that I was in excruciating pain.
Dad kept saying he wanted us to meet his girlfriend. I told him I was truly glad he had found someone to make him happy, but I was not even close to being ready to meet her. It was incredibly uncomfortable for me. I asked him nicely to please not force me or my sisters to be involved with this relationship.
That was the end of Dad’s relationship with his daughters. In May he married the woman, in Vegas of all places, sold our house and told us in no uncertain terms we were on our own. I had just gotten back to work after a few months of barely even being able to walk, so it was extremely difficult for me to support myself. I had to borrow money from my sister. My back was finally better, but it would take a long time to catch up on all of my financial obligations. I prayed to God for guidance. Obviously something had to change.
I felt God leading me across the country to where my extended family lives and where I was born. I felt a strong desire for a fresh start. I listened to God’s voice encouraging me to start over. I accepted His strength to do what needed to be done. In July, I moved across the country in my little car. I moved in with relatives in my hometown. I found a full-time job and am finally able to pay my bills on my own. I found a fabulous church and started teaching Sunday School, 5th grade. I visit my relatives frequently and have never been happier.
I pray constantly to my loving Father, giving thanks to Him for bringing me through the most difficult part of my life. He truly never left me. Throughout all of it, He sent people to help me through the pain. Now I use my experiences to provide comfort to others. I enjoy telling everyone that no matter what happens in life, God is there. No matter how bad it seems, He is there. Through the good and the bad, He is there!!
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.
Love your friend,
A note from Jessica,
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