Darrin Ray had it rough from an early age; nobody could deny him that.
He was born with a bilateral cleft palate. For Ray, now 50, that meant surgery after surgery as a child and no end to the bullying his peers showered upon him.
Raised in a Christian home, Ray questioned how this constant pain could come from a God who is always good, he told the Christian Post.
The implications of his condition went further than just his appearance.
"When I would undergo a surgery, doctors would put splints on my arms to keep me from touching my face, so I never developed good hand-eye coordination," he says. "I couldn’t play sports and I looked so different from peers that I was the constant target of jabs and bullying.
"I felt like God had abandoned me and made me ‘ugly’ because He didn’t love me."
But then, life finally seemed to become good for Ray. He was living in California, happily married with a three-year-old daughter. His income was steady.
He felt God calling him into ministry, so he started seminary and studied Christian counseling.
"Life was good," Ray says.
He was a deacon at his local church, a leader to many. He says he was learning new things daily through the scriptures about how to counsel others.
Until Aug. 20, 2006.
It was a normal morning. He'd gotten up to go to church that morning, put his daughter in the back seat, and was about a mile from his home in a school zone when suddenly, the morning wasn't so normal anymore.
"A man who was intoxicated and high on prescription pills came the other way going 60 miles an hour. And he crossed the double yellow line and hit me head-on," Ray remembers.
Even though he was only going 20 miles per hour, Ray says the combined crash was akin to driving into a brick wall at 90 miles an hour.
The fallout was immediate and disasterous.
Ray's legs were crushed by the front of the car and his arm was covered in battery acid after his car battery exploded.
He says paramedics needed to use the Jaws of Life to peel the car away from him.
"I was bleeding to death ... it was a terrifying experience," Ray says.
His left femur had been broken in several places. His right ankle had been shattered.
His daughter, thankfully, emerged with only a scratch.
A month later, Ray had been through several surgeries when doctors told him it would be years of more surgical work before his ankle and foot would be repaired. A total reconstruction was required.
"They told me I entered the hospital in the body of a 30-year-old man and left in the body of a 70-year-old man," Ray says.
Even after all that time, money, and work, there was no guarantee Ray's foot and ankle would be healed.
There was another option. Amputation.
"I didn't know what I should do," Ray recalls. Then, he got a visit from the hospital chaplain.
Jerry Roberts had been a support to Ray throughout his time in hospital since the crash.
He told Roberts, "Darrin, I know God's placed a calling on your life. Do you think that calling is to be a professional patient for the rest of your life?"
"And that really hit me," Ray says. "He said, ‘I can't make the decision for you, but I think you know the decision you need to make. Make the decision that’s going to allow you to do what God wants you to do.’
"I chose amputation."
Ray did the surgery and returned to seminary. But he says he was still filled with rage towards the man who had drastically changed the life of him and his family.
"It was the man’s fourth DUI, and the state had revoked his license," Ray says. "It was easy for me to be unforgiving to him."
But God softened Ray's heart. In court, expecting a big, burly, evil-looking man, instead Ray saw a 49-year-old who looked more like he was 70.
"God used that to soften my heart and dispel what I originally thought he would look like."
Ray also stumbled across the Sermon on the Mount in his Bible reading one day.
"Forgive us your debts as we forgive our debtors," Ray read. "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."
Ray says he didn't feel like forgiving the man, but knew it was what God wanted him to do.
Later, Ray asked the judge in court to forgive the man of the debt he owed to Ray's family.
The judged asked him why he would want to forgive him of that.
"I told him, ‘Because I have a Savior that forgave me. He paid my debts that I could never repay.’
"When I freed that man, I was instantly freed from bitterness and anger," Ray says. "When you truly think about how much Christ has forgiven you, it helps you to forgive others who have wronged you. Now, I’m able to walk in freedom and wholeness."
Today, Ray ministers to seniors and those with disabilities. He uses his own experiences to remind others with physical struggles that God has never abandoned them.
"When I got to the point where I said, ‘Lord, here I am, do with me as you will,' that’s when I saw Him do miraculous things in my life. That’s when He helped me forgive. I saw Him open doors I never thought would open. God took the broken pieces of my life and He put them back into something completely different to make me whole again," Ray says.
His experiences make Ray certain there is a God. And He is good.
"We have to trust HIm, we have to look to Him, even when we don’t see Him there," Ray says.
"When you surrender yourself to Him, with everything you are, you will see His hand at work."