Like most of you, my life has had its share of defining moments.
Whether it was accepting Jesus as my Savior, finishing school, getting married, buying a house, losing my dad when I was only 12, memorable vacations, landing a good job and having a successful career, all of these and more are defining moments in my life.
There is yet another defining moment, one that took place exactly nineteen years ago today, that I want to mention in this blog.
Very early on a Monday morning 19 years ago, my wife and I drove to the hospital where I was scheduled to have open heart surgery.
A few months prior to this, on my daughter’s second birthday, I had suffered a massive heart attack while mowing the lawn. Subsequent procedures, rehab, and medications failed to keep my arteries open, and we were faced with the dim reality that surgery was the only option left.
A lot of things go through your mind when you are facing something of this magnitude. For one thing, while open heart surgery has become a normal procedure these days, there is nothing normal about it when it’s you that is going to be operated on.
Emotions, if left unchecked, will get the best of you and leave you in a constant state of panic and fear. Of course, all of this is very normal, and if anyone tells you otherwise, they are not being honest with you.
As best as I can remember, there were about three weeks between the time I was told I had to have surgery and the day I actually went to the hospital for the procedure.
During those three weeks you have to undergo a battery of tests and procedures, none of which do anything to allay the fears that creep into the mind. Actually, by the time they finish all of these tests, you just want to have the surgery and get it over with.
People that know that I had open heart surgery generally will ask one of two questions.
1. How were you able to overcome the fear of such a serious surgery?
2. If you are a Christian that believes God still heals today, why didn’t God heal you so you didn’t have to have the surgery?
The answer to the first question is that God gave me a peace that passes all understanding about the situation. It’s hard to explain to non-believers, but driving to the hospital that morning I had no fear.
How is that possible? It was because I knew that no matter what happened, I was completely in God’s hands. If I did not come through the surgery, I was going to be in His presence for all of eternity.
If I did come through, I knew that God wasn’t done with me yet. So how could I lose? How could I not be at peace knowing that I was safe and secure in the Father’s arms?
Now, to be sure, my wife was very fearful of me not coming through the surgery. After all, we had only been married three years and we had a two year old baby. What wife and mother wouldn’t be scared?
That does not mean that she didn’t have any faith. Quite the contrary! My wife has more faith than any person I know, and literally trusts God for everything.
The way that I answer the second question is because God chose not to miraculously heal me. Could He have? Of course he could have! He is God after all. But He chose not to. And whether you believe this or not, I was OK with his decision.
Would I have rather He instantly healed me? You better believe I would have preferred that to the surgery. I may be crazy, but I’m not that crazy!
In case you haven’t noticed, Christians die every day from one type of disease or another. Can anyone quote the chapter and verse from the Bible that says Christians will live long, illness free lives, and die peacefully in their sleep at a ripe old age?
Didn’t think so!
The fact is that God is Sovereign. He is in control. He orders our footsteps, not us. It is God who exalts and also brings low. In short, our lives are not our own, but His to do with as he pleases.
That is a bitter pill for many to swallow, and I have learned that submission to God’s will is a lifelong process. You don’t wake up one morning and suddenly say “from this day forward I will submit every part of my life to the Lord”.
It just doesn’t work that way. Getting to the place where we trust God with our very lives comes from the daily experience of learning to trust the Lord that He alone knows what is best for our lives.
Coming through open heart surgery changes a person in several ways. There are the physical benefits of course, but there is also a change that takes place in the inner heart because now you know an attribute of God that may have been hidden from you before.
You now know God as Faithful in a way that goes far beyond words. And because you know Him as Faithful, you know that there is nothing that He cannot do for you.
These past nineteen years have been years of great joy, moments of severe testing, times of rejoicing, and yes even occasions of despair. Through them all however, God has been faithful to stand by us. I cannot think of a single time that I have felt as if God did not have my life in His hands.
Maybe you are facing the trial of a lifetime. Maybe fear has gripped your heart and panic rules the day. Maybe events from your past haunt you with the torment that you will never be free of them. Maybe the defining moments of your life have left you battered, broken, and helpless.
If this is you, I’ve got good news for you. It’s not over until He says it’s over! You are still standing. You may have been knocked down but you are not counted out.
There is still life to live, victories to cherish, mountains to conquer, and enemies to defeat all because God has you in the palm of His hands.
Nineteen years ago today there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding my life. Would I live or die? If I lived, what kind of life would I be able to have? Would I ever be the same again?
Praise God I am alive and well today to say that God is Faithful to sustain us and keep us. It is true, I cannot do some things as well as I used to. Part of that is heart related and part of it is the normal aging process all of us deal with.
I choose to focus however on what I can do, not what I cannot do. God has chosen to keep me around and as long as I am here, I will give Him praise and thanks for the wonderful life I have been blessed to live.
It’s not over until he says it’s over. My life, as well as your, is not and will not be defined by illness or weakness. God brought me through then and He will bring me through tomorrow!
Be blessed everyone,