updated March 20, 2023
Much has happened to author Sara Stophel since she published her
After 8 years as a widow, and after an apparent whirlwind long distance courtship, she is engaged to be married in just 6 weeks. Her new husband should never forget their anniversary since their wedding date is January 1. I haven’t met him yet but I highly approve since he works in healthcare.
Her friends are delighted and you will be too, after reading her memoir. In Trumped by Sovereignty Sara poignantly relates her late husband’s illness and death, and describes how she coped through that as well as the difficult years after.
TRUMPED BY SOVEREIGNTY:
Juggling Faith, Healing, And Submission to God’s Perfect Plans
BY SARA STOPHEL
“Damen Ballard, twenty-five, left his apartment on April 19, 1995, to grab a pack of cigarettes at the convenience store. On his way back he took the shortcut…crossing I-44 on foot at rush hour. He was hit and became a John Doe while doctors tried to save his life. Even as we were watching the terrible news of the Oklahoma City bombing down the road…and fighting against all of those feelings of desperation when we discovered no hearts would be coming…Chuck’s new heart was just two floors above us in the very same hospital.”
Sovereignty is a word you may not use or even hear often; I know I don’t. Scholars use it in a political sense, like the sovereignty (authority) of a nation. Maybe that’s why Sara Stophel offers this definition on the back cover of her book;
“‘Sovereignty’ means that God, as the ruler of the universe, has the right to do whatever he wants. Further, he is in complete control over everything that happens.
In a game of cards, a trump card overrules any card previously played … But what happens when that “game” is actually life? And what happens when you realize that God’s sovereignty is the final trump card?”
Trumped by Sovereignty is two stories in one book. One story relates the multiple medical challenges faced by Sara, her husband Chuck, their children and extended family. The other story describes how Sara coped with these challenges, especially in relationship to her Christian faith.
I have known Sara and her family for several years and already knew much of their story although not all. I find Sara to be direct, truthful and frank. She does not mince words.
(I did not consult Sara prior to writing this review. I paid for my copy of her book.)
This is not one of those how we went through a horrible experience and survived by our unshakable faith stories; it is how we went through extraordinary stress testing our faith which survived and grew anyway.
Sara doesn’t boast about how she changed her problems; she admits that her problems caused her to change the way she looks at life, faith and God.
The medical story
Sara’s book describes multiple medical conditions that afflicted her family (yes, afflicted is exactly the right word). The list reads like a medical textbook, so you may need to look up some of the terms; she does not describe them in detailed scientific terms. (I’ve included some links for you to use.)
Between Sara, her husband Chuck, their children and extended family they endured –
- Diabetes mellitus, complicated by kidney failure requiring dialysis
- Ventricular septal defect (a hole in the heart) requiring surgery
- Lymphatic Histiocytosis
- Premature birth with subsequent apnea (breathing stopped) requiring a monitor
- Cardiomyopathy (heart unable to pump blood effectively) requiring a heart transplant and defibrillator
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Septic shock
The faith story
Sara and Chuck met in college, a Christian university known for teaching and believing in divine healing. However, Sara’s denomination, although Christian, did not teach Biblical healing. So as a new concept for her, she found it difficult to reconcile as her family’s serious health issues continued to worsen and not respond to medical treatment much less prayer.
She does not expect you to believe that she endured these challenges and tragedies due to strong and unwavering faith; rather she freely admits otherwise. As she puts it, her “truster” frequently breaks and needs repair.
“I could not commune with a God who did not honor my bigger-than-mustard-seed faith. I was more than certain God loved people…but I was also nearly certain He just needed me as a tool of transparency. My truster was broken. Having loved God my whole life, I couldn’t think of anything better…anywhere else to turn…so I just kept on serving and assuming the love and peace of God were for everyone but me.”
Sara uses humor in her writing, just like she does in life; she has to in order to get through some of the days she lives. You will laugh, cry, or both at some of her stories like-
- Her annual physical (which was a year late) with her doctor, Dr. LionKing (an offbeat humorous pronunciation of his real name)
- Her first CPR class after a family death
And you may get angry as she describes her shabby treatment by the IRS, the cell phone company, and the local fire department first responders who refused to take her critically ill husband to the hospital.
I encourage you to buy and read Trumped by Sovereignty. I know Sara and her family which means I also know that their challenges are not over; in fact, they may be bigger than ever. I believe she will continue to face them with the same courage and humor that she has so far; and maybe in a few years she will write volume 2 of her story.
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