When Loss Is Gain: How Losing My Sight Increased My Faith

Stephanie, Tennessee, USA

[As told to Then God Moved editor Adira Polite]

I lost my sight 13 years ago, just as I was preparing to return to work from maternity leave. My husband and I had so many plans at the time. Now that we’d had our third child, we were planning to buy a house. On top of that, I was finishing my prerequisites for pharmacy school. All of that perished with my sight.

I’d been super sick for a while. After 3 weeks of being unable to eat, I’d finally checked into the hospital. The doctors said it was postpartum depression, but I knew I wasn’t depressed. In fact, I was actually happier than I’d ever been in my life! But, they insisted. 

I went back to the hospital three times in ten days with the exact same complaint. They remained convinced that it was mental illness, so I checked myself into a psychiatric hospital. Almost as soon as I got there, the staff called an ambulance. “You’re not depressed,” they told me. “You’re having a stroke.”

On the way to the hospital, I drifted in and out of consciousness. When I was conscious, I talked and sang to assure myself that I was alive. When I arrived at the hospital, I was assigned to a nurse who was super rude to me. She, like the others, clearly thought I was there for drugs.

Fortunately, God had my back. The nurse walked away from my bedside, but she only got a few steps away before something — Someone — blocked her path. From bed, I could see that she was literally unable to keep walking. She returned to me and said that God had commanded her to pray for me. I was shocked and a little unsettled, but as soon as she began praying, I felt an overwhelming peace. I knew that the doctors would figure it out this time. 

Sure enough, they found that there was fluid building up in my head. The fluid had first begun building up at age 19 and I’d had a shunt implanted to drain it. Now, years later, the shunt had failed. My sickness, my inability to eat, my lack of consciousness — all of this was the result of the failed shunt. The resulting build-up was putting immense pressure on my brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves, threatening my vision. I was rushed into emergency surgery, but it was too late. My optic nerves were crushed. 

My husband and kids hadn’t arrived by the time I was rolled into recovery, so it was just me, the praying nurse, and the surgeon. When I realized that my sight was gone, I began crying hysterically. The nurse just held me and encouraged me to lean on God. “I trust God with everything,” I remember her saying. “Even with the way I do my hair.” 

My husband missed the doctor’s call, so he arrived to the hospital in good spirits. “How’d it go? I’m sure it went well.” Then, he joked, “Just don’t tell me you’re blind.” Of course, I broke down again. That was an incredibly difficult conversation. I was even more nervous to tell my kids, who were ages seven and six. But, when they arrived, they were totally unbothered. Both were preoccupied with when I was coming home, telling me about school, and eating their Wendy’s Frosty. 

When I got home, I went through all seven stages of grief. I’d wake up in the morning and put my glasses on in the hopes that something had changed. The denial evolved into anger, then just plain sadness.

My family and friends were there for me, but no one knew what to do with me…at least, no one except God. I knew what the Bible had to say about my situation and, though I believed, I’d never fully put those words into action. I’d never had to “walk by faith, not by sight” — until now.

With time, I began to see how God had prepared my family for this. My husband hadn’t worked in years, but right before I got sick, a job mysteriously fell into place. On top of that, his new schedule perfectly aligned with those of my other caretakers. In the months before my illness, he’d also randomly begun handling all of our children’s paperwork — something I’d always done, but was now unable to do.

When these shifts occurred, we’d both remarked that the change of pace was odd; in hindsight, it’s obvious that God had prearranged our new life for us. As I began to lean into God, He revealed Himself to me. One Sunday, He used a sermon on His sovereignty to teach me this difficult truth: He had the right to take my sight away. Sight was His to give and take.

Not only that, but there’s also a special purpose in blindness. As I later discovered, disabilities appear throughout the Bible and blindness appears more times than any other. God has a purpose for it. 

To be clear, that purpose is not punishment. Contrary to what some believers claim, blindness is not the result of one’s sins or a mark of Satan. In John 9:1-3, Jesus and His disciples cross paths with a blind man. The disciples ask Jesus whose sins had caused the man’s blindness. Jesus responds, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned…but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” 

In the following verses, Jesus heals the man. Many deduce from this passage that God will heal every blind person of faith. I, too, believed this for a while; I went to church for “healings” more times than I can count — and each attempt broke me. Fortunately, God has since shown me that His purpose in disability is complex and varied; Jesus displayed God’s works through the healing of the blind man, but in my life, He’s displaying His works through my blindness.

Namely, God is using me to reach those with disabilities like mine. I teach Braille to the blind and visually impaired in my community and train people to utilize Apple’s accessibility features. I also assisted in the recent launch of Menus4All,  a phone application that uses Apple and Android “talking” screen-reading functions to offer accessible menus for over 50,000 restaurants in over 12,000 cities. 

Suffice it to say, I no longer pray for my healing; I pray for God’s will. Because of my blindness, I am playing a role in incredible, crucial developments. How can I see the joy on a blind woman’s face after she learns to text her son for the first time and think that God made a mistake in putting me in this position?

I don’t pray for my healing; I’ve already been healed. And I don’t worry about the things I don’t see over here. I may not be able to see on this side of eternity, but I know I will in the next. 

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