By Karen Itzel
Leading up to January 1, 2021 God did not ask me if I wanted to grow and I'm glad he didn't. I probably would've said yes as long as it didn't hurt. I had no idea what the next few months would hold. On January 1 I got sick with Covid. I was one of the small percentage of people who got deathly ill even though I had no pre-existing conditions. I was hospitalized and within a couple of days the doctors knew my case was more than a smaller hospital could deal with so they flew me to the University of Maryland on a helicopter to hopefully save my life. I was on a ventilator for approximately 16 days and in the ICU for about a month, medically paralyzed and sedated. On the day I woke up from the sedation, still on the ventilator, I remember lying in the bed, unable to move or talk. I was trying to understand why I was in the hospital and honestly I was afraid. As I tried to find something to cling to I could only remember the Bible verse, Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God”. So I began repeating it over and over in my mind. It gave me that peace that passes all understanding. It was the one truth that I knew would not change or fail me. I was convinced that even if I didn't survive whatever was wrong, He would be with me whether in life or death. He chose to sustain my life but this trial that my family and I went through wasn't random; rather it was for a purpose. He was pruning all of us so that we could grow. It isn't easy to always think of it that way in the midst of the trial, But remembering that this was actually God faithfully doing what He promised in Philippians 1:6, to continue the good work He began in me the day I was saved, changed my perspective.
A pastor once said the vinedresser is never nearer the branches than when he is pruning them, and I have found this to be true. Walking to the edge of the valley of the shadow of death grew my faith in ways I wouldn't have grown otherwise, for I knew I did not walk alone. It is such a comfort that all of the challenges that I went through, and that have followed the sickness, continue to be a part of His work in me, continuing to sanctify me for my good and for His glory. While this pruning is really hard I'm so thankful that I can trust that He truly is the master gardener. The fruit He is producing as He shears away my fleshly failings is really good, for He is good and His purposes are always right. He is with me through all of it and He is faithful. He is lovingly growing me even when....especially when...it hurts.