Editor’s Note: This is another installment in our “Single and…” series where we will interview singles from all walks of life. It is our hope that you are encouraged by the stories of people who have a similar journey as you, who share the same dreams you have, who face the same hurdles you do, and who can remind you that you are not alone.
Almost anyone who knows Stacy Conville will speak of her incredible faith. She’s a walking testimony of clinging to Christ while living with multiple sclerosis.
Stacy’s heart for missions inspired her to pursue a career in medicine. Before her diagnosis, she had every intention of becoming a medical missionary, but the Lord had other plans for her life.
We caught up with Stacy to ask her what it’s like to be single and living with an illness. Here’s what she had to say…
Will you tell us a little bit about your background with the illness? When were you diagnosed? How long have you been living with it?
Stacy: I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in July of 2000 in my second year of medical school so it’s been over 14 years.
Do you think your singleness has made living with MS even more challenging?
Stacy: Emotionally and spiritually speaking, not really. God has been more than enough to meet my needs in that aspect of dealing with an incurable, progressive disease. He keeps my spirits up and keeps me from being afraid when MS throws me one curveball after another.
Physically speaking, yes. MS is inconvenient and limits what I’m able to do. Having a husband would make some things easier, and I could still feel more independent though technically I would be dependent on him! It just wouldn’t seem that way since a husband becomes your other half, so to speak. Regular activities like dining out, going to movies or ballgames, or traveling out of town for most people are doable alone though they’re more fun with a friend or a husband. These activities and just going to church are not possible for me to do alone.
How important has your church community been to you since your diagnosis?
Stacy: They have been the hands and feet of Jesus to me. God has used the Body to take care of all those routine things I can no longer do for myself. Thankfully I am still able to live in my own home and work full-time. There’s a village, so to speak, that keeps me going not only with practical things like running errands but with their prayers and encouragement.
Being in a wheelchair can sometimes make ministering to others more difficult. How do you see the Lord using you despite your MS?
Stacy: My job as a Family Medicine physician is one area of ministry. Some potential patients have considered my being in a wheelchair a sign of weakness or deficiency as a doctor because I guess they just don’t understand MS. For those who entrust me with their care, it’s an opportunity to let Christ’s love and wisdom shine through and accomplish His purpose for those divine appointments.
It’s also difficult to participate in mission projects especially outside of this country so my main contribution to missions is through financial and prayer support. Though I would love to be able to work with those served by the ministries I support, I instead get to serve on the boards of directors. Ministry looked different from that before I had MS, but I still get to be involved.
I have seen Him receive glory through my living with MS so many times that in some ways I understand why He’s yet to heal me. I still look forward to the day when He will be glorified through that healing!
What verses have been especially close to your heart since your diagnosis?
Stacy: I memorized Psalm 139 in the months leading up to my diagnosis. At that point I didn’t know how the diagnosis would affect my personal or professional life. He just told me over and over through that chapter that He’s sovereign and, though I was caught off guard by this, He knew this would be a part of His perfect plan for my life when He knit me together in my mother’s womb years ago.
He used Psalm 73:23-26 to speak to me when I started having MS exacerbations and would be unable to walk or drive. I would be tempted to worry about waking up blind or unable to stand, which are valid concerns, but hadn’t happened at that point. I was also tempted to believe Satan’s lies that my life was over. I wasn’t going to be able to finish medical school or be a medical missionary. I would obviously be single for the rest of my life, as no one would knowingly choose a disabled spouse. So through these verses, God again affirmed His faithfulness and sovereignty. All of those worries or worse may actually happen, but no one and nothing can take away my relationship with Jesus, which is the only thing I absolutely cannot live without. “I desire You more than anything on earth.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 is a constant reminder that I exist for His glory. No matter the daily inconvenience or occasional pain MS causes, it is the best plan for my life because it brings God the most glory. Our suffering is for His glory because through it we identify with Christ’s sufferings and are refined into His image. This passage reminds me that I am not my own and I am to have an eternal perspective no matter what God allows in my life next.
What words of encouragement would you give to other singles that are dealing with an illness?
Stacy: God is not caught off guard by any illness you are facing. If He has ordained that you walk this road, He will provide all you need to walk in a way that honors Him and accomplishes its purpose in you and those in your realm of influence. You can do this without a spouse but you can’t do this without community. He is enough but He will use the Body of Christ to provide physically, emotionally, and spiritually so you cannot become a hermit and let Satan keep you wallowing in self pity. After all, we are not as those who have no Hope.
If you know someone who is single and living with an illness, will you email them this post to encourage them?
Photo credit: Pete