Shelley Lytle

Shelley Lytle experienced numerous health issues throughout high school and onward, but she held fast to God’s goodness. Even after a radical brain surgery, Shelley counts it all joy and believes God is doing good in her for His glory.

Topics: Suffering | Fear | The Sovereignty of God

The genesis of a struggle

Shelley Lytle didn’t grow up in a Christ-professing household, but God found her anyway. When she was 15, Shelley’s friends from school invited her to a Christian camp, where she met the Lord.

But when she returned home with her heart set on Christ, she wasn’t expecting the journey that was awaiting her.

Within the month, Shelley was diagnosed with arrhythmia. As she moved through high school and approached graduation, her heart condition worsened.

Hopeful that her condition would improve, Shelley’s parents let her go to freshman camp at the college she’d attend and waited for the results of her latest health examination.

During this time, Shelley prayed continuously to the Lord for healing. On one of the last days of camp, she received a call from her doctor.

“They told me my heart condition was gone,” said Shelley. “The medicine was what was causing me to feel bad. I was healed. All I could think was, ‘Lord, you heard me.’”

Why me…again?

But during her sophomore year of college, Shelley started to feel sick again. After several visits to the ER, doctors diagnosed her with a brain malformation called Chiari.

“That year was hard,” said Shelley. “I was like, ‘Lord, what are you doing? Why are you doing this again? I’m 20 years old. I don’t get it.’”

After reviewing Shelley’s scans, a concerned neurologist immediately booked her for brain surgery.

At first, the doctors prescribed medicine and told Shelley that she’d be fine. But seven months after the initial diagnosis, Shelley’s health started to deteriorate. After reviewing Shelley’s scans, a concerned neurologist immediately booked her for brain surgery.

It wasn’t until Shelley was on the operating table that the surgeon discovered how severe and fragile her condition truly was.

An unexpected protection

For years, Shelley’s brain had been rubbing consistently against the lower rear of her skull. As a result, her skull in this area was as thin as a potato chip.

“If I were to have been in a car accident or even turn my head in an abrupt way, it would have snapped and paralyzed me,” said Shelley. “I had no idea. I was like, ‘Lord, you protected me, and I didn’t even know what you protected me from.’”

The procedure was successful. Although Shelley had a long recovery ahead of her from such a radical surgery, she immediately felt relief from the lifted weight of health issues.

Another test?

Unfortunately, Shelley’s season of good health was cut short again when she started experiencing numbness in her hands. But after numerous scans and tests, they couldn’t find a cause for the numbness.

“I just cried out, ‘Lord. Why are you doing this? Why can’t things be easy? I don’t get it, and I want to. I want to know.’”

The doctors finally traced Shelley’s symptoms back to a rare form of neuropathy with only two known treatments available—both of which Shelley had allergic reactions to. The fact that she’s allergic to both steroids puts her in 0.02 percent of the population.

“Through the illness, all the illness, I have to look back at Scripture and say, ‘Lord, You are good, You have been faithful and You are doing this for Your glory and my joy,’” said Shelley.

Jesus is better

Today, Shelley remains perplexed by her health issues, in a treatment stalemate, but leaning on the Lord and His goodness.

“Through the illness, all the illness, I have to look back at Scripture and say, ‘Lord, You are good, You have been faithful and You are doing this for Your glory and my joy,’” said Shelley.

She remembers the peace she felt leading up to her brainstem surgery because she leaned into the Word. She remembers the church body coming and praying for her at the hospital and the effect it had on her unbelieving parents. They started attending church and growing in their understanding of the gospel.

Looking back, Shelley thinks that if she had been healed completely, health would have been her treasure. She’s still struggling and learning, but she understands now that the Lord is better.

“I have to be dependent on Him. I can’t do anything. Right now there’s not a treatment for me, and I have to lean on Him and not my own understanding. I know He is faithful. He is for me and that is what I have to rest on—not what this doctor is saying.”

While some people may only face a handful of moments that remind them how physically fragile and helpless they are, Shelley’s life has been marked by this sensation. She’s the physical embodiment of broken surrender and dependence upon God. Despite the trials and the sorrows, though, she’s learning to treasure Him all the more.

“I have to ask myself, ‘Do I want healing more than I want the Lord? If I am sick for the rest of my life but I get the Lord, which is better?’” said Shelley. “He’s healed me of arrhythmia and Chiari but He’s also saved me from death and healed me of my sin. That’s what’s better.”