Danny Wuerffel's Greatest Challenge
By Russ Martin with Lee Webb
The 700 Club
CBN.com - Danny Wuerffel is among college football’s most celebrated players. He won the 1996 Heisman trophy and led the Florida Gators to their first National Championship. But all the accolades didn’t lead him on the journey he expected. In June of 2011, what he thought was just a normal stomach virus, turned out to be something far more serious.
Danny: “At 5:00 AM, someone knocked on my bedroom door and woke me up. I go to the door, I open the door and it’s the doctor. “
Lee: “At 5:00 in the morning?”
Danny: “At 5:00 AM. And I said, “you’re not here to tell me I’m okay, are you?” He said,” no, I’m here to see if you’re breathing.” I said, “what?” He said, “I think you have Guillain-Barre. And if you’re not careful, you can get prep—paralyzed so quickly that your breathing stops.” ”
The doctor was right - Danny has Gullian-Barre Syndrome. It’s a disorder that causes your immune system, in effect, to turn on itself; attacking your nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes, paralysis. You might not know he's sick, but just sitting down to do this interview took all the strength he could muster.
Danny: “This difficult scenario has forced me to accept some things about my heart and life and reality that I really needed to learn that, unfortunately you just usually don’t learn when things are going well, when business is great, when everyone’s healthy, when you’re winning games, you know, when you’re accepting trophies.”
Lee: “Tell us what it is that –that He’s shown you through this?”
Danny: “If we’re honest, even as Christians, it’s not that God makes everything easy and wonderful for us. It can be really hard. And—and how do we deal with that? We usually just don’t. We don’t want to, we want to act like it’s not there. But to accept some of those things that we just can’t change and to trust God through them, to me is the doorway to intimacy with the Lord, intimacy with people, and accepting and embracing life as God’s created it to be.”
This is not the first time Danny has had to deal the uncertainties and challenges of life. His success on the college gridiron didn’t translate to his NFL career. So, in 2002, he decided to hang up his helmet and turn his attention to full-time Christian ministry. He reached out to troubled kids on the roughest street in New Orleans, Desire Street. At the time, it was considered the worst community in the country. Just as his ministry was making a mark, hurricane Katrina struck. Danny and his wife, Jessica, lost everything and Desire Street Ministries was submerged in eight-feet of murky water. The ministry relocated to Atlanta, but his work and, indeed, his life came to another grinding halt.
Danny: “This was a really different experience for me, because when Katrina hit, the response was kick it into gear helping people. It was almost a speed up, you know. You go from 50 mph to 100 and we stayed there for a long time. And so this was a different type of challenge. This was going from 50 to 0. And everything stopped. And, you know, sometimes it’s a lot harder to be still; to be quiet than it is just—just to go. I think we love to go because it almost protects us from what might come up if it’s still and quiet.”
Lee: “Danny, how would you respond to those who might be reading what you’re saying here and saying well, you know, it sounds like he just doesn’t have enough faith here to believe that God can heal him through that. How would you respond to that?”
Danny: “I don’t for a minute doubt that God could make me totally well this moment. I believe He could grow my hair back if He wanted to. I think He could move this building; He could do anything He wanted to. I trust that. But that’s not always how He works. And as much as we want that to be, that’s just not always how He does it. I think the key is can you trust Him when He does it a different way than you want. To me that takes greater faith. I think it takes greater faith to be sick than it does to be healed. God is God of both.”
Lee: “God has found a new way for you to be able to relate to those people that you’ve dedicated your life to minister to?”
Danny: “It just hit me that, in my helplessness, I had everyone around to comfort, to care, to take care of me. And yet in our own country there are little kids that not only do they have this feeling and reality of being helpless, but the very ones that are there to care for them and take care of them, they’re either absent or often not there doing it. But there are, and this is where I get real excited, there are some amazing heroes in the inner city that are being the father to the fatherless, taking care of the orphans and the widows. They are giving their lives, themselves and what motivates me is we want to be there for them.“
Doctors diagnosed and began treatment early enough that they believe he will make a full recovery. But that could take months. And even though Danny faces the unknown, his goals remain clear.
Danny: “ I want to be more focused, to be more passionate, to continue to be as thoughtful as possible, to make the biggest impact that we can in the few short years that we have. We may wake up one day with a few heartbeats left. Or maybe it’s 10, 20, 30, 40 years, I don’t know. But I do know that, I’m going to be doing everything I can between now & then.”
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