The Word Among Us

August 2015 Issue

I Will Never Abandon You

God is teaching me to walk by faith, not by sight

By: Barbara Brophy

I Will Never Abandon You: God is teaching me to walk by faith, not by sight by Barbara Brophy

Have you ever noticed how concepts like sight and blindness, light and darkness seem to be all over the Bible? Many people take these images and verses for granted, but they have an especially powerful hold on me. My favorite one is God’s invitation to “walk by faith, not by sight,” to trust in his love no matter what the external “evidence” may tell us (2 Corinthians 5:7). Here’s why.

The Blind Shall See. My mother noticed something abnormal about my eyes within the first few weeks of my birth. They were unusually small and trembled persistently. She would lay me on her lap, lean her face in close to mine, and wonder why I failed to make eye contact.

An eye specialist determined that I had severe cataracts in both eyes. Surgeries for removal were scheduled, but there was little hope for improvement. The doctor warned that I would likely be legally blind. Though I might be able to see the big “E” at the top of eye charts, I’d never drive a car or read a normal book.

My parents were heartbroken. Crying alone in her bedroom, my mother asked God, “Why did you let us down like this?” But because of their faith and their relationship with the Lord, my parents didn’t allow grief to consume their lives. Rooted in faith, they fasted, offered novenas and Masses, and prayed over me for healing with a number of their friends.

Over the next several months, my vision improved rapidly. I recognized family members’ faces, could point out trucks on the highway, and enjoyed hunting for Cheerios underneath my high chair. I needed to wear high-powered contact lenses and, later, special cataract glasses—but I could see!

Looming Doubts. From an early age, I was aware of the miracles that had occurred when I was a baby. My parents would tell me how grateful they were that Jesus had given me sight. And because I continued to have eye problems after that initial healing, they also kept on praying.

At age five, I was diagnosed with glaucoma. Medication controlled the condition for a few years, but around my tenth birthday, it became necessary to operate. Surgical treatment is generally a risky, last-ditch option that involves implanting tubes within the eye to drain fluid. Yet each of the three times I underwent this procedure, my eyes responded unusually well. Doctors continued to be astounded at how good my eyesight was. I was able to attend grade school without any problems, to read my sisters’ American Girl books, and even to cultivate a passion for drawing.

You might assume that someone who has been healed several times through other people’s prayers would have unshakable faith in God. But, lulled into a comfortable cycle of blessings and relying on the faith of others, I had never established my own solid relationship with the Lord. Doubts began to fill my mind.

At the high school I attended, I’d hear my Catholic friends arguing about things like the ”correct” way to worship God and the ”best” kind of Mass. A number of classmates were involved in an ecumenical charismatic prayer group, while several others looked down on it. I was confused and put off by these frequent disputes.

If Catholics were supposed to be one in Christ, why did they disagree to such an extent? To complicate matters, a priest at my parish had recently been arrested for alleged sexual assault. If Catholics were so pious, why were they facing charges of molestation?

Curled up in bed with my laptop, I spent evenings scouring religious blogs looking for answers, but I would always wind up more confused. Eventually, I chose to quietly abandon my religious upbringing. I sealed my mind from any spiritual influence and decided to attribute my past medical successes to luck or science.

A Voice in the Void. At some point, however, the grave implications of my eye problems finally dawned on me. I don’t know what prompted this. Maybe it was embarrassment that all my friends got their driver’s license before I could. Maybe it was the cynicism I had cultivated as a result of my newfound agnosticism. Maybe it was simply growing older and realizing I wouldn’t always have my parents to carry me.

I was full of dread but too proud to admit it.

Then one rainy March afternoon, the same week I was rejected from my top-choice university, I visited my glaucoma specialist for what was supposed to be a routine checkup. It revealed that the tube in my right eye had stopped functioning; the fluid had built up, and my eye pressures were dangerously high. I needed another operation.

As I fidgeted with the cuffs of my sweatshirt, I wondered if I was being punished for my doubts. Suddenly, I heard a man’s voice: “I will never abandon you.” I looked around the examining room, but no speaker was in sight—the voice was in my head. I strained to reason with myself. Surely this was a delusion triggered by the shock of bad news.

Yet no matter how hard I fought to dismiss the experience, I knew God had spoken to me. What I had heard was so unusual, so far from my normal train of thought, that it couldn’t have come from me. Besides, those words resonated with something deep inside me, something I had been trying to suppress for months.

That moment opened up a whole new reality. I realized that God was real, that he loved me deeply, and that I could lean on him. His promise became my thread of certainty.

Walking by Faith. Like many Christian students at secular universities, I’ve faced loneliness, insecurity, and scorn for my beliefs. Yet over these past two years, my faith in Christ and his word has kept my feet on solid ground. “I will never abandon you” is my strength when professors ridicule me for my beliefs. It’s my peace when I develop a new eye symptom and must give up a day of classes to sit in a doctor’s office.

Though I currently see well enough to drive a car and manage the heavy reading load of my college curriculum, my eyes have aged prematurely. I’m always at risk for retinal detachment, and the devices installed over the years don’t have lifetime warranties. I wonder how I will pay the medical bills or visit specialists without my parents’ help. Yet when I remember God’s promise to me, I am at peace.

I don’t know what the Lord is doing in all of this. Perhaps he will heal me completely one day; perhaps he will allow me to lose my vision; perhaps things will continue as they are. No matter what happens, however, I can be secure knowing that God loves me and has my ultimate good in mind. I have chosen not to focus on what could go wrong but rather to “walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).” Though the burden is shifting to me, I don’t carry it alone.

Barbara Brophy is a student at George Mason University and an intern at The Word Among Us Press.