After a successful junior season at University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota, Anna Brecht entered her final year anticipating much of the same.
But before her season could even begin, Brecht tweaked her hip in the weight room during a team workout and knew something was off. Not wanting to jeopardize her senior year, she pushed through practices until the pain persisted to the point where she had to admit the problem and got an MRI. Results showed a tear in her left hip labrum and other damage.
The Cougars’ guard and First Team All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference athlete went into surgery with an optimism that she’d soon be on the mend and back in the game. A short while into her rehab, however, she noticed her other hip started to hurt. Sure enough, it was another torn labrum. A second surgery corrected the tear, but it took a toll mentally, physically and spiritually as she spent another five weeks rehabbing, often with long stretches of time alone.
“I checked out,” the Sioux Falls native admitted. “I was sad and disappointed. One surgery I could see, but two? That’s too much.”
One negative thought would sneak in and send her spiraling. Along with missing the entire season and struggling with the realities of having surgery on both hips, Brecht went through a mental beatdown, attacked with lies of purposelessness and questioning her worth.
“I felt that I wasn’t doing anything for my team, so I was useless,” she shared. “I couldn’t help the team in the way I wanted.”
But despite her downward spiral, God used it to bring her closer to Him.
Through the struggle, slowly, in silence and stillness, eventually, the media studies major and FCA Campus Huddle leadership team member began to recognize God’s presence.
“In the beginning, I was looking for people and distractions because I didn’t want to sit with the discomfort,” she said. “But then I’d start to sit in silence with Him.” Abiding in His presence was a bit new for the girl who constantly dug into His Word, but leaned towards doing rather than being.
“My whole life, I thought doing produces God’s love, but He met me in the dwelling and letting Him move and speak.”
Through quiet times together, God uprooted false ideas of the Christian life in Brecht’s heart and replaced them with truths about her identity, firmly planted in Him. “It was like God was stripping away everything I thought I had purpose in or where found my worth,” she said, adding that in the long season of waiting and recovery, God met her through deeper dependency and intimacy with Him.
“It’s neat to see humility and her coming before the Lord with hands open to Him,” said Lindsey Eastman, FCA Augustana University and University of Sioux Falls Area Director, who has discipled Brecht since she transferred to Sioux Falls from UW-Green Bay in 2020.
Added Brecht, “You think you overcome something and then God sends something else to show you where you’ve been placing your worth. I learned my worth doesn’t come from my physical attributes or performance. I found purpose in God and not in what I do.”
Brecht deliberately sought the good and chose to be thankful for what was before her, despite her disappointments. She also saw God moving. The team did a Bible study the first part of the year, and as she wasn’t drained physically from practice, Brecht felt she could be more present and better disciple and give her attention to her teammates.
She’s held to Scripture to see her through and suggests that anyone going through their own suffering remember what God has said in His Word:
“Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.
Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.
These events will bring great honor to the Lord’s name;
they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.” --Isaiah 55:13
This verse has been very meaningful to her and gotten her through hard times.
“Trust that His plans are better and acknowledge all the times He’s been faithful in your life, walk with Him in perseverance, endure with Him and walk through the fire with Him,” she said.
There has been nothing easy about this journey, nor has it been one she would ever have imagined or chosen for herself, but Brecht’s breadth and depth of faith has forged into something miraculous.
“It’s been the most difficult time of my life, but God has been so close. It’s been hard but holy,” she testified.
Please pray for Brecht’s continued growth with the Lord and how He wants to use her in her life.
Want to learn more about FCA at the University of South Dakota Sioux Falls? Visit FCA South Dakota and consider supporting Eastman here.
Photos courtesy of Anna Brecht and the University of Sioux Falls Athletics