I was a typical teen at the beginning of my sophomore year. I attended church with my family once or twice a month, did well enough in school, had close friends, and was active in sports. By the start of the second semester, however, I was anything but typical.
I fought hard to maintain a facade that everything was okay, but my increasingly bizarre symptoms and behaviors soon made it impossible. My hands and feet began to betray me, and my equilibrium was becoming a problem. I lost my ability to write legibly, and my teachers had to assign a classmate to take notes for me.
It was difficult to explain to my basketball coach why I could no longer handle the ball or rebound properly. Frustrated, I quit the team.
I began having tics and would unknowingly clench my fist, skip, or make low-pitched grunts. As you can imagine, my peers took notice. But that wasn’t all. Loud noises, only present to me, were sounding in my head. I heard slamming doors and distant, loud explosions.
I began experiencing great outbursts of frustration and anger, especially at home. My parents’ mild-mannered son was gone, and they feverishly sought answers from professionals. It was a confusing time for all of us, including my siblings, who often bore the brunt of my outbursts.
Pediatricians seemed untroubled at first. They said I was a 15-year-old boy and chalked it up to hormones. Tics, they assured us, were common in adolescents; I’d grow out of them.
Despite what the doctors said, I knew something was wrong, especially once the voices started. They were loud, angry, and aggressive. I chose not to tell my already alarmed parents or anyone else about my new “friends.”
Weeks passed and these schizophrenic hallucinations all but consumed me. I kept numerous journals of dark conversations. Those voices hounded me, telling me to end my life and how best to do it.
Frightened, I finally confessed to my mom what I was enduring. The doctors told her to observe me closely in case I acted on those suicidal suggestions.
Life at school grew more difficult. The kids were sure I’d lost my mind; many bullied me. They didn’t know what to do with Josh-the-Psycho, who walked the halls muttering to himself.
Months into this ordeal, Mom finally found a doctor who cared enough to investigate what was wrong. He suspected a new but controversial disease called PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections) was ravishing my brain and body. He explained that the recent strep infection I’d had had sparked an underlying infection I’d probably had since I was a baby.
He went on to tell us that PANDAS is usually curable after a couple months of basic antibiotics. Our hopes soared, and I started treatment immediately while the doctor closely monitored my blood work.
After several rounds of different medications, however, very little changed. The voices in my head cruelly mocked my efforts to regain my health. And then, the doctor told us that in rare cases, PANDAS might not be cured and over time could affect my organs and even lead to coma or death.
Hearing this was terrifying. I might die? “Yep, you will,” the voices gleefully confirmed. I was already having trouble with my kidneys.
“Oh God,” I cried out. “Help me!” I might have been young, but even I could see that the doctors and medicine weren’t helping. There was nothing left for me unless God did something. He was my only hope.
I’d never really prayed before and had no idea what I was doing. Yes, I had attended church and I believed God existed, but that was it. My family had never faced anything we couldn’t overcome, and we were all on our knees now, hoping to witness something miraculous.
My friend who took notes for me in class invited me to a Bible study he attended with a few classmates. Unlike other kids who pushed me away, these guys embraced me and helped me navigate the disease and the bullying at school. They also introduced me to the loving, saving God of the Bible. I don’t know what I would have done without them.
I went all-out crazy, learning about God and faith. I studied the Bible, grasping at theology and apologetics. I drank in biblical stories, all of them, and wondered… Could the God who performed those miracles back then perform a miracle in my life now?
I wondered if God would ever release me from the clutches of this terrible disease. My circumstances weren’t pointing to better days. But with the help of my friends and God’s Word, I became confident that God would do something for me (Psalm 27:13).
My junior year passed in a blur, but I kept hoping against all odds that I would be healed (Romans 4:18). Still, nothing changed. And then, right before my senior year, I attended a Christian camp in the North Carolina mountains with my sister, Bible study friends, and 500 other teenagers. I had to laugh when I saw a scheduled naptime. Teenagers taking naps? Yeah, right.
On the second day of camp, July 5, 2017, I got in my bunk for that required naptime, but I couldn’t sleep. An urgency to pray rose in my spirit, and I couldn’t be still; I had to go outside.
I snuck out of the cabin and went to the worship tent. As I entered that empty space, the voices in my head grew louder than ever. I felt like I was going insane.
Desperate for peace, I dropped to my knees, closed my eyes, and prayed. A few minutes later, I was startled by a deafening silence. The raucous voices in my head had ceased, as if someone had flipped a switch.
A beam of light pierced me and then rose toward heaven. I panicked. And then I heard a new voice. It was unwavering and authoritative, yet kind.
“Son, I did not forget you. Get up and never be the same.” The light beam suddenly shifted and aimed at me again. A sacred silence filled the space.
I jumped up, shaking.
What just happened? Whatever it was, I was feeling weirdly good. I sprinted back to the cabin to find my best friend, who knew immediately that something was different. My tics were gone and my balance restored. I told him what had happened, and he asked, “Is it possible you’re healed?”
I grabbed a pen and paper and began to write. Every word was legible. Stunned, we burst out in laughter. Had God healed me? I was almost afraid to believe it.
That evening at chapel, my sister confirmed my healing. We hadn’t seen each other all day, so she had no reason to expect any change in me. When she saw me, though, she knew immediately that something was different. I told her what happened, and then she shared what she had experienced during naptime.
While I was in the tent praying, God had given my sister a dream where I was walking beside her, completely healed. We were ecstatic.
A camp leader gave my parents a heads-up, and when we got home, they couldn’t believe their eyes. They were overjoyed.
“I’m good,” I told them, grinning. “I’m really good.” We hugged each other, celebrating through tears.
A visit with my doctor confirmed that the infection was completely gone. He was baffled as he studied my blood work.
Since that moment, I have been determined to testify to the miracle-working power of God. I want everyone to know that, yes, the God who performed miracles thousands of years ago is still performing miracles today.
Not long after my healing, God revealed to me in a dream that I would be in ministry by the time I turned 18 and a pastor by 20. I’m 21 now, and both have come to pass. God has given me other dreams of future ministry that He has shown will unify churches. I’m excited to watch Him unfold my future. It must be good, or the devil wouldn’t have tried so hard to take me out.
The Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:19, drives my zeal for God. I want to go into the world and make disciples for Jesus Christ. I also want to rouse believers to the reality that God is still a miracle worker. So many don’t believe He does that anymore.
That’s a lie Satan wants us to accept, but God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He doesn’t change!
If you’re in the middle of something painfully dark and confusing right now, please don’t lose hope or faith in God. I know it’s hard, but “hold tightly without wavering…for God can be trusted to keep his promise” (Hebrews 10:23 NLT). God has not forgotten you.
Keep coming boldly but reverently to His throne of grace. That’s where you’ll find the help you need (Hebrews 4:16). The Lord will strengthen you with His joy and peace. Sometimes, we have to walk a journey of pain to experience the beautiful revelation of a miracle.
Don’t be afraid to admit to others that you are struggling. Some things, like suicidal thoughts, shouldn’t be dealt with alone. Surround yourself with trusted people. Be honest. The devil will taunt you and tell you that you have no hope and that death is the answer. Don’t listen. Combat those lying voices with God’s truth. When you resist the devil, he will flee (James 4:7).
In my senior year of high school, I earned a new name: Jesus Boy. Some meant it to poke fun, but that’s okay. I wear that name like a badge of honor. There’s no one I’d rather be.
JOSH ROGISTER is the youth pastor at Christ Hope Church where he helps people of all ages develop their own authentic relationship with Jesus.