A Flailing Attempt to Discern

“I had always wanted to have a testimony involving a miraculous healing; even better a miraculous healing that coincided with a bright light, a rushing wind, or the doors of the church bursting open (I know the latter sounds extreme but this exact thing happened at the end of my sister’s wedding).

I write this account without a grand narrative involving a miraculous healing at the front of the Vineyard during prayer ministry, or Unchained, or a tongue of fire landing on my head.

I wish this season of my life was finished, but it is not. However, I was convicted while writing this; earlier in life, I always felt somewhat morose after hearing testimonies, because these were often stories of complete healing. They were now on the other side of their ordeal and I rarely felt comforted by their accounts. After all, it is easy to praise God when you are recalling the memory of a storm from the other side of the ocean.

So, I write this for those who are still somewhere between their origin and destination.

I am 31 years old. For one-third of my life, I have dealt with chronic pain. I have spent thousands of dollars and traveled 30,000 miles for treatments, some which worked temporarily, and some which made my condition worse. I have worn splints, had bone surgically removed from my face, and have had my jaw wired shut.

Two years before my pain started to get unbearable, a spiritual mentor of mine suggested I keep a prayer journal. This was an off the cuff remark, but it ended up being an integral part of my story. He told me the Holy Spirit spoke to him through his prayer journal and it was only after he would review his entries, made over time, that he would uncover great truths which he could only attribute to the Holy Spirit. I can attest it is because of my own prayer journal that a message from the Holy Spirit has been received.

The most extreme treatment I had involved jaw surgery in October 2018. It was the preparation for that surgery when I started receiving prayer for the first time at the Vineyard. I don’t have many journal entries for that time, there wasn’t any grand insights. However, this set the stage for future events.

The two years following my surgery was the darkest time of my life. I had no direction. I saw no hope on the horizon as this extreme treatment had been completed and had failed. My pain was at its height and my hope was at its minimum. Yet, I continued to write in my journal, and slowly a light started shining through my devotions and entries that can only be seen in retrospect through a back-reading.

If it wasn’t for my journal, I don’t think I would have ever put the following pieces together. In February 2019, a person at the Vineyard prayed for me on a Saturday night. After talking for a while he said “I think you are going to be healed”.

Then, in November 2019 a different person at the Vineyard prayed for my “continued healing” –odd words considering I hadn’t even started healing. Then later that same month, the same person who prayed for me in February came up to me in the sanctuary with an expectant and smiling face and asked “have you been healed”? I had to inform him, I hadn’t. He seemed a bit let down and said, “Well, I was thinking about you last week and I just had this feeling you had been healed.”

A few months later, at Unchained, a message was given on Bartimaeus. The main points brought up included Bartimaeus sitting on the side of the road, watching people pass him by. Then one day, at the request of Jesus, the disciples said: “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you”. Bartimaeus threw his cloak off to the side and followed.

Aside from the fact that Bartimaeus was miraculously healed, this message seemed tailored to my recent feelings and experiences: How frequently I had felt people pass me by, everyone who I worked with, grew up with, seemed to be moving on in life. There were marriages, births, and new careers. My plan was to stay in Duluth for 3 years, but this affliction had caused me to have to stay for 8 years. I was unable to move on because every day of my life I woke up by assessing my pain, and the job I currently had allowed for the flexibility to work full time and deal with my affliction.

The night of the message on Bartimaeus, one of the pastors called on me to stand and prophesied I would find friendship and community and said I belonged here. Perhaps, most importantly, she said, “You will not be robbed of the characteristics, the good that is in you. There is a melting off, let’s call it a refining”.

The prophetic word was very poignant because my pain would gradually increase the more I smiled and talked with people each day. As a teacher who enjoys interacting with students and laughing, I was extremely worried this affliction was going to destroy the disposition that made me a good teacher! In the end, I felt this pain was going to dissolve my career. After that night, hope started to come back.

In June 2020, I was working with a coworker and in the midst of the conversation, she said rather passively that God answers our prayers at just the right time and not a second sooner. When in the midst of pain, those Christian platitudes tend to give little comfort. However, two hours later I decided to take a drive down some back gravel roads in northwest Minnesota. I took a right, looked in my rearview mirror, and saw a tornado no more than 100 yards away! I slammed on the brakes, grabbed a video camera, jumped out of my car and got a recording before it disappeared.

Why does this matter? Because seeing a tornado was always a dream of mine! To be able to see one, actually have a video camera in the car, and get just enough footage to submit it to a local news organization, was amazing! The National Weather Service emailed me a few days later asking exactly where I was when I took that video. They were shocked, impressed, and slightly confused because there were no nearby thunderstorms that day… just the right time, indeed.

The following fall, my pain was gradually getting worse. I contacted a private clinic in Florida which was considered the world’s leading treatment center for my medical problem. They told me one of their highest recommended doctors happened to be in Minnesota. Did I really want to pursue this? I thought my last doctor was at the top of his field as well, yet it only made things worse and cost more money! I would prefer miraculous healing.

I received prayer every chance I could get. I had been receiving prayer from people at the Vineyard every Sunday. I had my small group pray over me multiple times. I had been to Unchained multiple times. Yet, I was starting to feel lost. Healing hadn’t occurred. My journal is filled with some pretty hopeless phrases and accusations during this time. I didn’t trust myself anymore, or more specifically, I didn’t trust my ability to comprehend what the Holy Spirit was trying to tell me. After all, I had believed that my previous treatments were the right way to go, but they made things worse! I was afraid to move on in treatment, financially and otherwise!

So I surrendered it to my fellow Christians with the hope that their discernment was keener than my own. On February 2021, during worship, I had decided this time I was not going to receive prayer because I believed I had been too frequent and didn’t want the perception of neediness. During the sermon the pastor specifically said we shouldn’t hesitate to receive prayer no matter how many times we received that prayer. It spoke directly to me and I received prayer again that day.

As the person prayed for me, she said: “I’m just getting the word patience, and I really think this word ‘patience’ is about having patience while going through your next phase of treatment”.

This was a profound insight. I had just noticed the words patience and endurance had come up multiple times in my prayer journal over the past two years – nearly 10 times – sometimes from Bible verses, sometimes from my own prayers or meandering thoughts. I had not told her about discovering this pattern prior to her prayer and now the word came up in prayer with a bit more guidance! At that point I knew I was headed in the right direction.

About a month later, I was on my way down to my first appointment with this new doctor. On the radio was a short sermon about the fall of Jericho. Prior to the walls of Jericho falling, Jacob was told by God that Jericho had already been given over to him, but there were still tasks he had to complete before this came to a physical reality. I then remembered that person who prayed for me who revealed he had a feeling that I had finally been healed. Did God answer my prayer at that point? Did they actually receive a prophetic word? Was it just going to take a while before I saw the fruits of that granted prayer?

As I was in the waiting room, I was praying the entire time. I was worried the doctor would just say he didn’t want to take my case because I had been through so many treatments, some of which I wasn’t sure were reversible.
Once I was in the chair and met with the doctor, I felt more confidence rather rapidly. He told me everything I had said made sense to him and he had cases like mine before. Towards the end of the appointment he got up to go, but then he stopped and said: “Just so you know, this isn’t going to be a silver bullet, this is going to take a while to fix. So you are going to need patience, and you are going to have to endure a bit longer”. Well there we go! Those words “patience” and “endurance” once again.

That was the ridiculously obvious message I needed to hear, and it occurred right at the last second, just at the perfect time. Just like the woman had told me on the phone the summer before. Just like that tornado that landed for a perfect 10 seconds.

All the messages came together – part of a communication mosaic of the Holy Spirit, delivered by over 20 members of the Church over several years.

I can’t point to a single follower of Jesus in this personal testimony that gave the most important word to me over the years. They were all integral pieces to this puzzle. I suppose it was more like Morse code. Each prophetic word and prayer was a dot or a dash. The message would have meant nothing without all of those 20+ servants being willing to pray, and the receiver being ready to receive.

So where am I currently in this endurance test? I am in the midst of treatments. This summer I have traveled 5,000 miles for appointments. The people in my life keep reminding me of those two operative words: Patience and endurance. Those words have become a sort of hymn that gave me the nudge to start treatments anew, write the checks, and continue with treatments.

This story does not end on the other side of the affliction. This story ends in the middle, but it’s a story of receiving those messages whispered from the Holy Spirit, delivered by its Church and received by its servant.

Stay tuned.”

— Ryan Hjelle