The pain had become so relentless that even her faith wasn't enough to see her through. Or was it?
Roberta Messner is a beloved contributor to Daily Guideposts and has written devotions for over 20 years. With the publication of Daily Guideposts 2018, we reflect on the amazing spiritual connection between devotional writers and readers. This powerful story is a reminder of the way God speaks to us and through us in beautiful and surprising ways.
Sunday evening, 7:30 p.m. That’s when I would do it.
I sat on the edge of my bed and twisted the cap off my prescription pain medication. Normally one tiny white pill would help ease the pain. Not this time. I emptied the entire bottle into my palm and counted. Thirty-two pills. If I took them all at once, I’d stop breathing, go into cardiac arrest.
I wouldn’t need to write a note for those I left behind. Everyone would know why.
It was a cruel irony, being a registered nurse with an incurable disease. Tonight I would finally cure it for good.
Thirty-two pills. One for each surgery I’d had in my 60 years on earth.
I suffered from an invasive form of neurofibromatosis: noncancerous tumors that grow from nerve cells. Large masses formed in my brain and nasal cavities. The only way to treat them was to cut them out, and they kept growing back. I lived with unrelenting pain.
Two things had always gotten me through: faith and writing. Over the years I wrote many stories about my condition for Guideposts—both devotionals and magazine articles. I tried to show how my trust in God lifted me up when all seemed hopeless. I always concluded with a positive message, hoping to encourage and inspire others.
This was why I suffered, I believed. So I could help others who were also suffering. It was why, even with the pain, I still worked all week at a hospital, tending to the needs of my patients.
After my thirty-second surgery, I wrote a prayer that became something I said to God daily—“Thank you, Lord, for taking care of your own...always.” For that surgery, my doctor had prepared a platelet gel using my own blood cells and injected it into the place the tumor had been—a procedure that he believed would prevent the mass from growing back. He would never have to operate on me again!
The joy I felt was overwhelming...and dangerous. I took a vacation with my sister—the first one I’d been able to take in years—and banged my head in a clumsy fall. The swelling didn’t subside. An MRI showed tumor number 33 in my eye socket.
A large hematoma disfigured the left side of my face. I looked like Frankenstein’s monster. The symptoms got worse—pounding headaches around the clock, the constant tingling and occasional sharp spike of dying nerves. All signs pointing to the fact that the tumor was growing. I begged the doctor to remove it, but he said that it was too risky—I could die on the operating table. I had to live like this for the rest of my life.
Calls from my sister barely registered. I rarely went out anymore. I was too self-conscious about my appearance. When I had to go to work, I hid my face behind my hair and makeup, wore huge glasses and avoided looking anyone in the eye. I sat in the back of the church so I wouldn’t have to lie about being okay. I was tired of faking it.
Those words I’d written, about God taking care of his own...did I even believe them anymore? How could they be true?
I woke up early Sunday morning with a throbbing skull. I could barely make it through church. The hymns I loved were like a chorus of jackhammers. Even here, Lord? Even here I can’t escape?
All the prayer meetings, the anointing sessions and healing services I’d attended over the years in hopes of a miracle—none of them had worked. That’s when I decided. There was nothing left to live for.
Seven-thirty on the dot. I shifted the mound of pain pills in my palm and cupped my hand to my mouth, ready to throw my head back and swallow. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the edge of my nightstand, and on top, the journal and pen I used for drafting my Daily Guideposts devotionals. You told your favorite patient you’d read a devotional to her on Monday....
Why should that matter? What did anything matter now? But I lowered my hand. I’d made it through Friday without thinking it was my last day among my friends and patients. Should I go through one more day? To say goodbye? No one had to know what I was planning. The pills would be waiting for me when I came home from work.
One more day. Then it’s over.
I took my usual dose and made sure to get every last pill back in the bottle. I screwed the top on tight and put the bottle away. I massaged my temples. Maybe this tumor will take me out in the middle of the night....
I dragged myself to my desk early Monday morning—eyes burning, head in a vise.
One of my coworkers poked her head in my door. “The director wants to see you,” she said.
I hauled myself out of my chair and walked down the hall. In the office was the director, along with the hospital’s chief of staff and two women I didn’t recognize.
What was going on? Who were they? Former patients with a complaint? Had I been so distracted by my pain that I’d done something wrong? “Roberta, I’d like you to meet Linda Hudson and her daughter, Beth Rucker,” the chief of staff said as I went in. “I’ll let them tell you why they’re here.”
Linda stepped toward me and grabbed my hands. “We’re from New Martinsville. It’s a five-hour drive from here. Beth and I headed out just before sunrise this morning. We wanted to make the trip here to meet you.”
“You’re the woman who writes the Daily Guideposts devotionals we love to read.”
What? I’d had readers send letters and e-mails...but I’d never had any show up in person. “You came all this way....” I said. I couldn’t tell her the truth—that she’d almost come here for nothing.
“Well, it’s the strangest thing,” Linda said. “Beth and I had been putting the trip off for weeks. Then yesterday evening, around seven-thirty, you fell so heavy on my mind. I started praying for you. I knew I had to see you. Not tomorrow, not next week, but today. I couldn’t wait one more day.”
Editor's Note: Roberta Messner is feeling much better and you can find her writing in the latest edition of Daily Guideposts.
Read a collection of Roberta’s devotionals!
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