Rare Disease Can’t Break Teen’s Firm Faith in God

The biblical book of Job has deep personal meaning to Michele Anderson. For nearly four years, she had walked in Job’s shoes. She understood his suffering. She endured his pain.

The Tulsa, Oklahoma, native withstood constant, excruciating pain since a freak reaction to surgery. She was in pain the second she woke up in the morning. She was in pain when she took a shower and got dressed. She was in pain when the wind blew on her. She was in pain throughout the day. She was even in pain when she slept at night.

But Michele wouldn’t complain. Though the pain was her daily companion, she refused to let it be her conqueror, too.

No known cure
Michele’s ordeal started when she underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a meniscus tear in her kneecap. During the operation, the nerves in and around her knee overreacted, leaving the knee locked in place and throbbing in pain.

After months of physical therapy, body casting and visits to doctors, Michele was sent to a specialist, who diagnosed her with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), a rare disease with no known cure and no proven source of relief. Not even painkillers and daily visits to a pain management clinic could take the suffering away.

Trusting God, clinging to His promises
While she worked with her doctor in an experimental program, Michele turned to the best medicine she found for her disorder: God’s Word. Proverbs 3:5-6 is her favorite passage — Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. She believed God was allowing the suffering as part of His plan for her life.

When asked at the time by Awana about her condition, she said, “I don’t question God, but I wonder how He’s going to use this. He uses me to help other people by being an encouragement and example and taught me compassion for other people in pain and how Christ can work through the pain and help daily to get through it. I can remember verses when in pain or not feeling well.”

'She’s my encouragement’
Michele’s mother, Toni, marveled at how her daughter graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA and a bevy of honors, played the piano and sung solos at their church in spite of the disease. She earned the Citation Award while largely working on her own and even memorized the entire books of James and Proverbs.

The driving force behind Michele’s optimism through the disease was determination to become an overseas missionary. She was so convinced of God’s calling that she was willing to undergo amputation and use an artificial leg to fulfill her dream.

“She wrote a blank check to the Lord and gave Him her life,” Toni told Awana. “She signed the check and left it blank so He could fill in the blanks however He chose. She’s my encouragement.”