Nothing shakes our foundations like a life-altering diagnosis, and that’s what Rebekah Dredge received in September 2022. 

Mild symptoms meant that a slow-growing spinal cord tumour went undetected for years, but it had become so large it threatened to leave Mrs Dredge with quadriplegia. Surgery was not without its risks either – it also carried a 50 per cent chance of leaving her severely disabled. 

The night before her surgery, she couldn't bring herself to pray. “I was thinking a lot about submission, and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying, ‘Your will be done’. And I actually couldn’t pray that,” she recalls.

Her theological foundations were shaken but strong – having been strengthened through studying a Diploma of Theology a few years earlier at Mary Andrews College (MAC). Her time had deepened her understanding of the unity of God’s people through Christ. She knew and could trust the prayers of his people to carry her through. In the darkness, she drew comfort from knowing that her church was praying for her when she couldn’t pray for herself. 

“Rather than praying [that night], I was counting the number of people praying for me,” Mrs Dredge says. “It struck me that it was like counting sheep – only I was counting God’s sheep, the flock of the Good Shepherd. That gave me enormous encouragement and comfort to be part of the body of Christ in my distress.” 

There were signs of success immediately following surgery, but three days in the ICU were still to come as part of the treatment plan, which were terrifying and lonely. She was required to lie flat to prevent fluid leaks and promote the healing of her spinal cord. 

“My entry level to communing with God was to complain like a psalmist… I started with Psalm 22: ‘My God my God, why have you forsaken me?’ And in praying through these words and laying out my complaints to God, I had the realisation that I shared those words with Jesus himself, who entered the pit in order to rescue his people.”

She says that during her studies at Mary Andrews College there was a lot of talk about lament, and how the psalmists are completely honest with their emotions before the Lord. “Often the psalmist comes full circle and commits himself once more to trusting in God. That was certainly my pattern of prayer in ICU.” 

In God’s kindness, Mrs Dredge was able to walk out of hospital six weeks later with mobility in all her limbs, but is still navigating chronic pain and body limitations. She was able to explore her experience through studying Disability Ministry at MAC.

“It’s been a really helpful time to process my new limitations within a theological context,” she says. “I’ve been processing a lot of my own personal journey out loud with the class in the context of trying to understand disability from a theological perspective.” 

Ms Dredge is grateful that the lessons learned at MAC were such a blessing to her in a time of significant suffering. 

“My diploma turned out to be a valuable investment for a time in the wilderness,” she says. “While there are still physical and spiritual struggles, looking back at God’s handiwork helps me to trust him with my future.”