Grace Every Morning

By Irmhild Bärend, translated by Esther Schwarz   •   December 7, 2007

A swirl of dizziness, a deep fall, sudden darkness! I don’t know how long I lay there unconscious. When I woke up and tried to stand, neither my knees nor my upper body would move. I lay on the floor as if I had been switched off. I was only able to slowly move my neck.

Panic set in. My first thought: I am paralyzed! I knew of some cases with similar symptoms. And my second thought: Where do I get help?

Neighbors heard me calling. Paramedics came, a rescue helicopter took me to the hospital and I had surgery the same day. Not until lying in the ICU did I grasp the full extent of my injuries–the realization hit me like a meteor: You cannot use your arms or hands, your legs or feet. They are there, but they don’t function anymore.

What would you do in a situation like this without faith? How could you bear the matter-of-fact statement of the doctors, “Unfortunately, the injury of your spinal cord is very high up. There is not much hope for a meaningful recovery”? Where would you find strength, courage, confidence when spasticity causes painful cramps again and again, like electric bolts shooting through your body? Where was God when I fell? Why did He allow this to happen?

But I didn’t fall out of His hands, and, more important, I didn’t fall out of His heart. The news of my fall spread like a wildfire. From all corners of the world I received letters, e-mails, phone calls, flowers–all accompanied by the promise, “We’ll pray for you.”

During this time a Bible story of Jesus performing a miracle became precious to me. Four men take their paralyzed friend to Jesus so that He can heal him. But the Son of God is surrounded by a large, impenetrable crowd. So the men remove the roof piece by piece and lower the paralytic with a rope through the hole until he lies at Jesus’ feet–and Jesus heals him!

Every day people make “an opening in the roof” for me. The stretcher on which I’m lying, the ropes used to let me down, are made of flowers that never wither. It’s the prayers of the many who stand before God and plead for me, “Lord, have mercy!”

I was always a swift person–quickly moving, thinking, acting, helping. Now others have become my hands and feet. For every small task, I have to ask for help: a runny nose, hair falling into my face, an itch on my ear–a thousand movements of the hand that I always took for granted and now can’t do anymore … and never can do again. I’ve become a transparent person; almost nothing is left that I can call completely my own.

However, God protected my head and put His angels around my mind. I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to share Jesus with everyone I meet. And I have experienced that doctors, my home-care team, physical therapists and many others are surprisingly open to the Gospel. I was moved to tears when one of my caretakers confided in me that through our talks she finally understood the meaning of forgiveness. Often it seems to me like a direct order from God: “Talk to this person” or “Approach that nurse–she is deeply troubled!”

I also have the privilege to still have many tasks and responsibilities, like editing manuscripts, writing articles, attending meetings and counseling others. “No, I don’t get bored,” I answer when people ask. The opposite is true–24 hours a day are usually not enough for me.

Time and again I feel the warm hands of friends folding in prayer and carrying me every day before the Throne of Grace; friends saying to Jesus, “Here we are again, and here she is. Lord, please help her!”

And God answers prayer. How else is it possible that I am confident and happy? The joy, the adventurous spirit I received–that’s His marvelous answer. How can one live without the certainty that God is present and loves us? How can one live without childlike trust in Him? I rely on Jesus’ promise to Peter, “I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail” (Luke 22:32).

Of course, I also know the feeling of being trapped. To wake up in the morning and think, I am not able to do anything on my own. What if no one were here right now? What if a fire broke out suddenly? What if a heavy storm were to blow off the roof? I would not be able to run away …

Then I think of a quote attributed to Martin Luther: “You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.”

When the dark shadows creep in on me, I ask myself, Are the black birds approaching? Am I dispensing birdseed on the runway? Then I remember that my friends surround me like warriors in a fight. And so the darkness transforms itself into a brightly shining “Fear not!” What strength lies in intercession.

Many times I wished to be able to experience Jesus in the way some other people did–His presence close enough to touch, His eyes filled with indescribable kindness. When I was in the hospital, this wish turned into a scream. I lay there, far away from family, uprooted from my familiar surroundings, thrown into the big unknown. I wept and cried out loud, “Lord, please reveal Yourself to me. I long to see You with all my heart!”

Miracles happened. People all around the world continued to pray, a wheelchair-accessible apartment was found, a car fitted for the needs of handicapped persons was given to me as a gift, and many more things happened.

Only God knows how He talks to any one of us. That has to be sufficient for me. In the Bible there are three words that have come to mean a lot to me: forgiveness, salvation and grace. Grace is my keyword. Every morning God’s grace is available to me, and I experience it anew.

What grace to have faith in Christ and to lay myself in God’s hands again and again, to rely on the fact that He knows how I feel because He surrounds me on every side (Psalm 71:21).

It’s so amazing to talk about the adventure called faith. Even though I cannot use my fingers and hands, God uses me. That is my great joy!

Every day is a new challenge … when the spasms are more painful than usual, when certain movements suddenly are not as smooth as they used to be, when I need to have long periods of bed rest to heal sores. Then I know that my praying friends are standing before God, placing me gently in His arms.

I love this quote by Rabindranath Tagore, an Indian Christian: “Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”

With all my heart I trust in God. He will guide me into the future with all His love because He is so faithful to me.

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