A High School Student’s Personal Experience With Crisis and What Actually Helped

Discover the inspiring journey of a high school senior from Texas who navigated through illness with the unwavering support of her community, highlighting the importance of compassion and presence in the lives of teens in crisis

One of the more difficult parts of leading in youth ministry is leading through crisis. While no one wants a crisis to happen in their community, knowing what actions steps to take and what messaging to share in the event of one is important. That’s why XP3 Students created the resource Hurt. It’s also why we wanted to share a student’s story of going through a crisis (illness) and how the church showed up for her. Here is Leila’s story: 

My name is Leila Giordano, and I am a high school senior from Texas. During an illness, I experienced the beautiful blessing of being surrounded and loved by so many, and I would love to share how their support greatly encouraged my journey of healing. I pray that sharing how they helped may encourage you as you support others going through their own suffering. I also hope that you will experience God’s comfort and be reminded that He is near to the brokenhearted. 

As soon as they left the synagogue, they went into Simon and Andrew’s house with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law was lying in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. So he went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she began to serve them. -Mark 1:29-31 HCSB

When he entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the doorway, and he was speaking the message to them. Then they came to him bringing a paralytic, carried by four men. Since they were not able to bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above where He was. And when they had broken through, they lowered the stretcher on which the paralytic was lying. Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” -Mark 2:1-5 HCSB

I will never forget those who “lowered me through the roof” to see Jesus in the midst of my crisis. I will never forget those who told Jesus at once about my situation and, through their fervent prayers, brought me to meet with Jesus myself. I got to experience Jesus through their love- reminding me that just like His beloved lost sheep or Simon’s mother-in-law, He took me by the hand and raised me up. Today, I get to serve Him because of the faith of those who loved me enough to share Jesus with me in the midst of my deepest suffering.

In tragedy or crisis, we can so easily lose sight of Jesus. My vision was blurred through the tears that I wept and the dust that had been kicked up from what seemed like fleeting hope. I hold it so precious to me that other adults in my life recognized how dim my vision was and fought so hard for me to see Jesus instead. 

I can remember the countless nights when the pain was so heavy, and I would sit sobbing underneath the staircase of the hospital I lived in. I will never forget the nurse who would sit beside me with paintbrushes and paper, and we would paint until the pain wasn’t so intense. And when that didn’t work, she would wait beside me and make space for me to feel it all. If even that didn’t work, she would take me to my room and sit and cry with me until I fell asleep.

I will never forget the chef in the facility who baked me the most beautiful cake for my birthday because I couldn’t celebrate with my family that year. She knew I was sick and probably wouldn’t be able to eat it, but she baked it anyway.

I will never forget the adults at the beautiful church I get to call home who just sat with me as I sobbed once I came back home or continued to encourage and check in on me week after week.

Through their actions, I saw more clearly that Jesus was in it with me too. Just as these adults were willing to get down and step into the pit, I saw Jesus doing the same. In fact, I saw Him initiating and leading us all through it. I could see more clearly. Of course, it wasn’t ever perfect, but I don’t think it had to be. The light that I could see captivated me much more than the darkness did. 

Here are three things that helped me during this experience:

Physical expressions of care

Just like the cake, sometimes those who are suffering need a tangible reminder that they are not left alone in it. When crisis struck, the hugs, warm meals, and sweet treats lifted my spirits and reminded me that I was still remembered and loved.

Making space

Sometimes, when my illness felt too heavy to carry, I needed someone to acknowledge that. I can remember so many times when it helped to just be around people who made space for me to cry, for me to share, or for me to sit and think without being alone. 

Remembering Jesus

During this time in my life, an insane number of thoughts were flying around my head. I would spend so much time focusing on the immediate concerns that I would often forget that Jesus was still with me in the suffering. Those who comforted me did so by reminding me of Jesus. They reminded me of His character, love, and presence in every area of my life, even when I couldn’t feel it. 

When I was suffering, I desired comfort. I praise the Lord today for those who were kind enough to show me that comfort and ultimately point me to the Great Comforter. May your journey be filled with the comfort of Jesus as you comfort others through their own experience of tragedy.

Through stories like Leila’s, we see the power of being present and creating a safe place for students who are walking through hurt in their lives. In order to better equip ministry and small group leaders to navigate a crisis, we created our Hurt Crisis Response Kit. We’ve packed it with helpful tools and assets to support adults investing in the faith and future of students as they help students walk the road to healing.

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