by Bob Russell, ©2018

(Aug. 24, 2018) — As I start this it is 10:30 p.m. on Friday, August 3, 2018.  I returned from another wonderful evening of praise, worship, and a fabulous message from Pastor Don Couch at Vision, Friday night church.  His message tonight was based on Luke, Chapter 5 starting with verse 1.  It is a story about the Apostles doing what Jesus told them to do.  They had fished all night without catching anything but because Jesus told them to try again they did so and had the largest catch they ever had.

Don also told us about how following the prompting of the Holy Spirit has led to success in different areas of his ministry and contacts he would have not had otherwise.  The point was that following the ideas and nudging God gives us will lead us to places we can’t get to on our own.  This was encouraging to me because I believe I am following God’s lead in my life.  I haven’t seen any dramatic results yet, but I believe they are on the way.  I don’t do anything spectacular, but God often responds to the smallest acts of obedience with surprisingly large rewards.

Part of the message was leadership and how some people, like politicians and company executives, get into leadership positions without any real leadership skills, while others exhibit leadership ability without having a position to give them status.  I don’t see myself as a leader in any sense of the word but rather see myself as one who can spread inspiration and faith through the way I have dealt with the effects of the stroke I suffered on August 19, 2014.

Many people have told me they have been inspired by the progress they have seen over the time since the stroke and by the way I have dealt with the debilitating effects of it.  Many have seen me on a regular basis in the last 3+ years and have noticed the improvement in my condition.  Coupled with the original and subsequent prognoses they have been able to see God’s hand on my life.  The only leading I have any inclination to is leading people to Jesus through my attitude and their seeing the constant improvement in my physical status, often improvements I don’t see right away.

I can look back to 2014 and 2015 and see the difference, but seeing the day-to-day or month-to-month improvement is very difficult for me, likely because I live each day with a constant state of disability.  I go to bed each night praying that the next morning will be the morning of total restoration I dreamed about in May 2016.  When I wake up still partly paralyzed I am disappointed but not despondent.  I just say, “Oh, well, tomorrow will be the day.”  I have lived every day like that for 27 months, what seems like a lifetime to me, but I know restoration is coming and will not give up on it because the key to restoration is not giving up on God, keeping my faith intact, no matter how long it takes.  Abraham waited 25 years for Isaac, and Jesus waited 30 years for His ministry.  I hope I don’t have to wait that long, or much longer than today, but God has a plan for me and my job is to follow His plan and wait as patiently as possible for His plan to be implemented.

During the four years since my stroke I have tried to use what ability God is giving me back to serve others in any way I can. Although I am very limited in physical ability I have used each gain to do my best to serve God by doing things He has led me to.  God has granted me great favor with people in every area in which I have become involved.  I find great joy and encouragement from the response I get from people at the little kindness I do.  God has rewarded me exponentially for my obedience, if I can call it obedience.  He has shown me opportunities to impact lives and has used the responses I see to build up my confidence in full recovery from my disabilities.

I believe that God has put people in my life and me in other people’s lives to benefit them and me at the same time.  Countless people have told me that I am a great inspiration to them.  They see my progress, they way I deal with my disability, and how I put the needs of others ahead of my own.  What they don’t really see is that my needs are being met at the very same time.  Those encounters have inspired and encouraged me to improve myself.  The kind words from others in response to my efforts have encouraged me in my recovery as they see improvement in my physical ability that I often don’t see.  I usually have to look back, use hindsight so to speak, to see the improvements.  Living with the constant limitations and expecting faster recovery than I get makes it difficult sometimes to recognize incremental improvements.  Almighty God, the Creator of the universe and everything in it, is working in me and through me, graciously allowing me to be an instrument in the implementation of His plan.  I don’t feel qualified to do anything for God but I have been taught by all of my pastors that God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.  I believe that God is working in me to qualify me for a much higher calling and although being disabled is difficult, I am excited and honored to feel as though He is grooming me for a much more important role in His ultimate plan for my life, a plan that will make going through this seem like a very minor episode.

Marsha, my wonderful wife, has told me that she believes this season of my life will soon be nothing but a bad memory and that I will come out on the end of this journey in a much better situation, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  I am anticipating that with much joy.  Marsha has also commented that one can’t have a testimony without a test and that a testimony is more powerful if one goes through the test without the “moanys.”  We laugh at the wording but I believe she is spot-on.  So far I believe that I have dealt with this situation quite well, not feeling sorry for myself and going into the moanys.  The Holy Bible tells us to count trials as joy, and while it is difficult while enduring the trial, a trial grows the person if one will allow it to.  I am trying very hard to count it as joy in spite of the difficulty and the length of the trial so far.

This is but one season in my life that has spanned 68 years so far.  Right now it seems like the most difficult, but that is likely because it is a current event.  Some much more pleasurable seasons have lasted much longer so I need to keep the correct perspective and remember that this, too, shall end and a better season is ahead of me.  I believe my best days are still ahead of me, even with so many years of good days behind me.  There have been bad seasons, and though I don’t remember any being this bad for this long, maybe time has dimmed the perception.  Some day the last four years may seem not that bad but I will have to wait and see.

Knowing that so many people are praying for me and believing along with me is a great point of encouragement.  Also knowing that Almighty God has me in the palm of His hand gives me much confidence in the future.  He didn’t cause the stroke to punish me or teach me a lesson; satan did this in an attempt to turn me away from God, but it has had the exact opposite effect.  I have grown closer to God during this ordeal and have become a better person.  I used to be angry a lot and often over trivial things, but now I roll with adversity and let it go on by without angry outbursts that were once my trademark, so to speak.  My wife has especially noticed the difference and is pleased to see the improvement.  God loves me despite my faults and is helping me through this and working through me to bring others closer to Him.

I believe satan caused this in a failed attempt to thwart God’s plan or to turn me away from Him.  God has brought me this far and loves me too much to leave me this way.  All I have to do is continue believing and doing what He wants me to do.  He is turning what satan intended for harm into something that is beneficial to myself and others.  Sunday was the fourth anniversary of the stroke and a difficult day for me, as I really hoped that would be the day I would be released from this, but it wasn’t, so I am still looking for THE day.

Pastor Don and others at Vision have been very supportive and encouraging through this ordeal.  I have known Don for about five or six years but just started attending Vision two years ago this month.  I have been greatly blessed by my time at Vision.

I submit this in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, in faith, with the responsibility to honor His work and not let it die from neglect.

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