I was really excited to begin high school. However… that quickly changed. The first semester of my freshman year, I had barely any friends. I was severely bullied and the administration didn’t believe it when my parents called to report it. As a result of the bullying, I started to look down on myself in every way. I took the anger and hurt that I felt because of others and turned it on myself. I started to fall deeper and deeper into pain and sorrow, and I was struggling to climb out of it.
At the very beginning of my second semester, in a freak medical accident, I suddenly lost my ability to walk. I had to be hospitalized and stay at a rehab center for a long period of time, beginning to rebuild my life and relearn how to do so many things that I had taken for granted. I didn’t understand how things could get any worse. I didn’t understand why God would put me through so much.
But soon, everything changed. He entered my life in the most real way I have ever experienced, at the least expected time. When I thought nobody loved me, my hospitalization made me realize how wrong I was. When I arrived at my room at the rehab hospital, which had a beautiful view of the Basilica in D.C., I went into the bathroom and found a scapular sitting in the otherwise empty trashcan. I quickly took these things as signs that I was exactly where I was meant to be.
I had a priest and seminarian from my parish who visited me regularly, and also a nun who brought me communion every day and would sit and chat with me for a bit. All three were there to help out my family in any way they could. Along with them, many family members and friends also visited me and assured me of their prayers quite often.
One day, my youth minister came to visit and brought me posters that my youth group had signed with personalized messages. I had attended youth group probably just once or twice before and most of these kids didn’t even know me, yet I could feel the authentic love in their words and it touched me.
I started to see my suffering in a different light… not as something burdensome, but something beautiful. I realized what a great opportunity God had blessed me with through my illness. Most people would expect those who are so sick to be depressed and lifeless inside. I knew that God was calling me to show everyone His love, and most of all, His joy. God showed me just how blessed I am in my life, and I fell in love with Him all over again during one of the most difficult things I’ve ever been through.
I had parents who loved me unconditionally and never left my side. Meanwhile, a little girl down the hall with brain damage was struggling much more than I was and I never saw her parents once during my whole stay. When I got home, I still could not fully walk, but I started going to Life Teen. I found the most amazing people I have ever met waiting for me with open arms, loving me with a selfless, Christ-like love. I made friends that today remain the best friends I’ve ever had, and I have made everlasting friendships that call me on to holiness.
When we suffer, we are united to Christ in an even deeper way than we could ever fathom. It binds us to Him — who suffered and died a horrific death for each of us. If through suffering and pain I can be more like Jesus, how can I ever think of that as a burden? Losing my ability to walk was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Now, I’m about to begin my senior year at a different school. I am fully healed. And I’m joyfully falling deeper and deeper in love with Love Himself each and every day. I encourage everyone to embrace the suffering that the Lord allows to happen in your life, for it is truly the greatest gift of all. Just look at the saints and how great their suffering was. Those who suffered the most are some of the holiest people. So the next time you are suffering, praise God, for you are blessed (James 1:2-3).
Editor’s Note: This blog is part of a series of blogs that relate to our 2014 theme Inspire[d]. If you would like to submit about a blog about an Inspire[d] story that you have, please see these guidelines.