“God’s fingerprints are all over our stories—if only we would open our eyes to see them.”
Brooklyn Veenstra, a junior health sciences major, said this after telling her story of how God took painful circumstances in her life and turned them into blessings.
Chronic illnesses are a serious struggle for many people, including several students at BJU.
But these students say they’ve learned that God can use their struggles to glorify Him and help them grow.
Three students at BJU shared how they are affected by their illnesses and how God uses them for good in their lives.
As a sophomore in high school, Veenstra had severe, constant migraines.
Thirty-nine doctors later, one doctor discovered a rapidly-growing tumor on her brain—one that would have eventually compressed her brain.
After two brain surgeries, Veenstra made the hard choice to take a whole year off school.
This meant that, while her class went on to enjoy their senior year and graduate high school together, she had to take the year off to recover from brain surgery.
“It was stretching,” she said. “I didn’t want to watch my class graduate without me.”
Even through this, Veenstra saw God’s hands in the details.
“We can see so clearly God’s fingerprints through every surgery and every timing,” she said.
During Veenstra’s senior year, her dad was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer that took him to heaven within a year.
“I would have been away at school,” she said. “Instead, I was right by his side.”
Now, in college, Veenstra still struggles with the chronic migraines.
“Maybe I won’t be healed on this side of glory, but I’ve learned that’s okay,” she said.
Veenstra described how chronic migraines are a kind of invisible suffering—something that people cannot see when just looking at her.
Her struggles with migraines have taught her to be aware of other people’s invisible sufferings.
For her, being transparent and knowing her own limitations are important in helping her deal with the migraines.
Veenstra saw the love of fellow Christians around her through this.
“I never realized how understanding [the] faculty is,” she said.
She said one faculty member in particular, Dr. Robert Lee from the department of chemistry and physics, makes it a point to always ask how she is doing.
Her roommate last year was such an encouragement to her.
“I just have to praise God for my roommate last year,” she said. “I was so spoiled! She is incredible.”
She said all of her friends have been a huge support system for her.
But ultimately, she finds her strength in Christ.
“Just remember [He] is our anchor,” Veenstra said. “And we can be rooted in that.”
Anna Joyce, a senior international studies major, said she’s learned to lean on God and not her own abilities through her two bouts with Lyme disease.
As a college sophomore, Joyce contracted Lyme from a mosquito bite.
“It was a different kind of exhaustion,” she said.
Constant tiredness, joint pain and brain fog plagued her year as she struggled to fight it off.
“I had to read a paragraph five or six times just to comprehend what it was saying,” she said.
Her junior year, she got a second round of Lyme.
“I wasn’t super worried about it because I’ve had it before,” Joyce said.
But this time, her Lyme disease caused not just physical struggles but also anxiety and depression.
“Before I had Lyme I was incredibly self-sufficient,” Joyce said. “I didn’t like to get help from people.”
Through her two bouts with Lyme, she had to lean on others to take care of her physically and mentally.
“When I had a lot of anxiety, I didn’t want to share that with people,” she said. “God totally broke that facade.”
Joyce said one of the biggest blessings has been having Anna Campbell, who also has Lyme, as her roommate for the past two years.
“Having two people [with Lyme] in the same room turned out to be a blessing because her good days were my bad days, and vice versa,” Joyce said.
Joyce and her fiancé plan to go into a business of homeopathic medicine and treating people’s problems naturally since this approach helped Joyce treat her Lyme disease.
“I saw the value in natural treatment,” she said.
Joyce knew she wanted to have her own business one day, but through her struggles with Lyme, God directed her to have a passion specifically for helping people in this way.
Karissa Oberman, a sophomore special education major, said the past several years have been life-changing.
However, these years have served as a constant reminder to ask God for help.
Oberman’s trials began in junior high when she became extremely lethargic and developed fibromyalgia.
Since then, it has been one struggle after another—vocal cord dysfunction, rheumatoid arthritis, a ruptured cyst, endometriosis and more recently familial hemiplegic migraines.
“Looking back, I’m thankful, because each one prepared me for the next,” she said.
Familial hemiplegic migraines cause one side of Oberman’s brain to either communicate too fast or to cut off communication completely.
This results in either heart problems from her heart beating too fast or seizures and strokes leaving her whole left side paralyzed.
“Basically, my neurological system is very messed up,” she said.
Oberman took a break from school halfway through her first semester sophomore year and was out of school for about two and a half years.
She said even throughout this time, people from school continued to encourage her.
Her society, the Dragons, prayed for her and sent her birthday gifts.
“They are my family,” Oberman said.
Recently she came back to BJU to finish her degree.
“Coming back to school was a huge step,” Oberman said.
Soon after starting school again, she had to get a pacemaker, she had a seizure and she got kidney stones.
“I wondered if this was really the Lord’s will for me,” she said.
But Oberman said God provided the funds for her to stay in the residence halls and He placed a burden on her heart for special education.
A faculty member once told her that God is the only one who opens and closes doors. If the door isn’t closed, then keep trusting God.
“That’s what I’m doing,” Oberman said. “By God’s grace, I’m going to keep walking through the door and [keep] going to school.”
Since then, God has shown her that she is on the right track.
She absolutely loves working at the Learning Resource Center at Bob Jones Academy.
The students have told Oberman that she’s an amazing teacher.
“[This] was really validation that I was doing the right thing,” she said.
Oberman admitted that she still struggles. “But I [ask myself], ‘Can God handle five minutes? Is God’s grace good enough for five minutes?’ Yes! So focus on those five minutes. Then trust God for the next five minutes. And just keep going and going.”