Hanan's Story: Learning To Be Still

Updated: May 28

By Hanan Van Holst

Although my story is long, I hope to show how the Lord carried me through trials and how He used them to refine me. "Behold I have refined you but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction" (Isaiah 48:10).

I have a wonderful husband and family. I like to refer to my husband as my rock; whose faith never wavers and who always points me to "the Rock that is higher than I” (Ps 61:2).  I grew up in a Christian home and heard the gospel preached every Sunday.

Although I was saved at a young age, it took me years to fully appreciate God's unconditional love for me. When trials came, it felt like God had forgotten me. Looking back, I clearly saw that He was watching over me.

After three IVF cycles, I was thrilled to be pregnant. Unfortunately, I developed pre-eclampsia and went into congestive heart failure at twenty-one weeks.

During the five weeks I was in the hospital waiting for my son's birth, I experienced a great deal of anxiety as I realized I had no control over my situation. I again felt abandoned by God. My husband stayed with me through the nights, praying, reading, and reminding me that God hears, cares, and is in control.

He would often sing to me a hymn that has become "our song." The words brought such comfort and peace to my heart.

Here is the second verse of “Day by Day”:

Ev’ry day the Lord Himself is near me,

With a special mercy for each hour;

All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,

He whose name is Counsellor and Pow’r.

The protection of His child and treasure

Is a charge that on Himself He laid;

“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”

This the pledge to me He made. (Carolina Sandell Berg)

I had to stay in the hospital until my son was born at twenty-six weeks. Nurses cautioned us that this would be an emotional roller coaster ride. They weren't kidding.

Our boy underwent surgeries and overcame many complications. He came home eight months later; now we now have a happy seven-year-old. I was convinced that we had our measure of trials and life would become more uneventful. Little did we know what was ahead.

On May 29, 2017, my life took an unexpected turn. I woke up with no feeling in my toes. The second day, the numbness progressed up my feet, so we made a trip to the hospital where I was told the cause was anxiety and sent home with a sedative. The third day, I had slurred speech and weakness in my arms and legs.

Was it a stroke? My husband called an ambulance. The paramedics again told me that it was anxiety and convinced me to stay home. That night, having trouble breathing, I was rushed to the hospital where I was intubated since I could not breathe on my own.

A spinal tap and other tests were done and later, I awoke in ICU, on a breathing machine, completely paralyzed from head to toe; I couldn’t even move my eyelids. Although I was fully aware, I had no way to communicate; I was locked-in.

The neurologist told me that I had Guillain-Barré Syndrome. It's a rare autoimmune disorder which typically follows a virus or infection (I had a stomach virus a week earlier). After my antibodies attacked this virus, they also attacked my peripheral nervous system, which caused paralysis and tremendous pain. I was traumatized and in complete shock; I wanted to die.