“When Jesus saw their [active] faith [springing from confidence in Him], He said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5 AMP
“I say to you, get up, pick up your mat and go home.” Mark 2:11 AMP
You never know important a tight-knit community of faith-filled friends who love you and pray for you are until you find yourself desperately needing them. That type of bond, faith, and honor is something I will treasure for the rest of my life. Over the last several weeks, I was reminded why God says our faith tribes are an essential. We need each other (Romans 12:4-5).
About a year ago, my husband and I visited a special beach where he had proposed to me several years ago. On that location, stood a towering, old bald cypress tree. A once vibrant, majestic tree was a reminder of the many years and tropical storms that had passed through the area. The tree’s roots were exposed, tangled, and broken. The needles were gone. The branches had been ripped from the trunk from the previous year’s storm, and the tree had finally died.
Determined to keep the precious memory of our special tree alive, we snatched a piece of it and brought it home, knowing Hurricane Michael, which was just a few days away from making landfall, would ensure we’d never see it again. It was a memento, a treasure we would never forget; and I had big plans to memorialize it.
One late afternoon, I used a small electronic sander on the tough bark of the tree piece to prep it for the art project I had planned. Brown dust thickly piled on the garage floor and my feet within forty-five minutes. I probably would have continued sanding the rest of the evening if allowed; but a loud thunderstorm (thank you, Jesus!) came out of nowhere, forcing me to stop as the lightning came dangerously close to the house.
Frustrated, I turned off the electric sander, peeled off the face mask and glasses, and sat down on the garage steps leading into the house. That was when I realized something in my body didn’t feel right. The air felt heavier than I remembered before sanding. My nose felt unusually congested, and I coughed repeatedly. I decided maybe my sinuses were just a little irritated but didn’t give it much thought.
The next morning, I woke up feeling like I had the flu. My body ached. I had chills. I was running a slight fever. My nose was totally stopped up, and I had a bit of a sore throat. That’s when I realized the horrible truth: I must have unknowingly breathed in some amount of bark particles.
I was scheduled to co-lead singing for worship at church that morning. I wondered how I would sing when I sounded like I had spent the night yelling at a ball game and smoking about ten packs of cigarettes, but I managed to struggle through the service. I didn’t feel right. What was happening to me? I wondered. How much bark did I actually breathe in?
That night I had terrible dreams, like I did for many nights to follow, about drowning. The following days weren’t much better than the nights. The flu symptoms died down; but within a few short days, I found myself gasping for air randomly throughout the day, stuck in a waking nightmare. It felt like an elephant climbed upon my chest and sat on me.
From that day through the many weeks to follow, I found myself at urgent care and the doctor’s office. They gave me inhalers and steroids and allergy medications. All the medicine helped me cope with the worst of the symptoms, but it didn’t stop them. I suffered continuous allergic asthmatic attacks, some of which lasted hours at a time. The worst days were filled with asthma-induced panic attacks and the long nights of dreaming about shadows chasing or strangling me (and a protective figure standing between me and my oppressors — was it Jesus?). My body was under attack and so was my now very weary spirit. To call those days and nights “hellish” would be too nice a word.
It’s in the moments like what I describe above, you find yourself thankful for the ones in your life who don’t give up and fight for you when you can’t fight for yourself. My husband spent many days and nights holding me and praying for me through the attacks and all the tears. Each time, when I said it was too much to go on, and I felt like I was not strong enough to fight for the next breath, he prayed. He asked God to bring peace and order to my body; and each time, the raging physical, emotional, and spiritual storm within me quieted. My tears stopped, and I rested.
I also have a small but mighty group of friends interceding and praying for me. I had dinner with one of my closest friends on a particularly rough evening. She saw my slumped posture and the sullen expression on my face (I was so tired of fighting for air) and declared health and wholeness for my body while we sat in the restaurant booth. She gripped my hands and prayed fervently, commanding the sickness to leave, not caring who was watching. Again like before with my husband, my body obeyed. The lung spasms stopped, and we had good dinner conversation that night. For several hours, I felt relief and peace.
The battle raged for a couple of weeks longer, and it appeared I was actually getting sicker instead of recovering. But the funny thing is, that’s often when God shows up — when things look most hopeless. I sat on the edge of my bed, late into a Tuesday night, wondering if I needed to go to the emergency room because I might die in my sleep. The next morning, I cried all the way to work. I was so tired. I couldn’t fight anymore, but the One who hears our cries and the prayers of faithful friends was fighting for me. And my friends were still interceding and praying for me daily.
That night, I stayed home from our monthly church dinner to rest. At the same moment I was praying Mark 2:5-11 over myself that evening, unbeknownst to me, my husband and my friends were praying the same scripture over me. I knew I couldn’t fight anymore. I couldn’t let fear control me either. I just simply prayed, “Lord, let me be restored because of the faith of my friends.”
Suddenly, it was like that bully-of-an-elephant moved from my chest. I began breathing deeply without even realizing it. Then it hit me — I didn’t need to fight for each breath! I was breathing without giving it a second thought! Something had changed. And I knew my friends had prayed, and Father God had answered that prayer for wholeness in my body.
When my husband returned home, it was confirmed: I had prayed for the faith of my friends to heal me, and my friends had prayed the same prayer. I was blown away. But was it true? Was I getting better?
Six days have passed, and I continue to improve with impressive speed. I no longer need the inhalers. I’m still on a low dose steroid per my doctor’s orders; but honestly, I don’t feel like I need it. I can laugh again. I can breathe again. I see hope again. And it’s all because of the God who hears the cries of His children and a small, but powerful group of faithful friends.
Be that kind of friend and change someone else’s life like they changed mine. I am forever grateful.