The Rumors of My Death: Lessons Learned
Blog Post 2 of 2
I have been a bit delayed in posting the second part of this blog because I’ve been waiting to be fully healed. I hoped to have something good to tell you before I wrote. I am now almost fully healed. I have learned three valuable lessons from my recent near-miss with the Grim Reaper. It is my prayer that they will be of benefit to you.
I imagine some of you are wanting to know what happened so I will give you the Reader’s Digest version. About a month ago, I went to my doctor and she informed me that because I am “fat and fifty,” I meet a protocol that suggests that I should be on a statin medication. Statins treat high cholesterol. I do not have high cholesterol. Without giving it much thought, discussing it with my wife, or praying about it, I agreed to go on the statin and started it that day.
The night of the third day that I was on the statin, I awoke with pain in my lower legs like I have never felt my life. It was unique in both its intensity and the type of pain. A friend recently asked if I experienced any other pain during the episode. I responded, “I was in so much pain that my head could’ve been on fire and I would not have noticed.”
In addition to the pain I was experiencing, I had this sense of impending doom as if death were imminent. I began to pray, “God, if this is it, could we hurry it along? I am not afraid of dying, but I am not a fan of all of this pain.” I really prayed that. I felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit to get my phone and Google my symptoms. That is not something that I’ve ever done before. My quick research led me to the conclusion that I was having a rare side effect call rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis is a breakdown of the muscle tissue that leads to kidney failure and then death.
Long story short, I stopped the medication. The symptoms associated with kidney issues have finally subsided and most of the pain is gone. For 3 ½ weeks, I only slept in two-hour increments because of the pain. Last night I slept all the way through the night. I feel like a million bucks.
Now, what have I learned? I have three distinct lessons that I have learned from this experience. I pray that they will be a blessing to you.
Lesson 1: Sometimes bad things happen, and we never get to know why. That’s okay.
We all want justice. Often, we express that desire for justice in our propensity for pursuing fairness. I believe that our desire for justice is one of the marks of our Creator, a mark that He has left on our souls. The challenge with that desire is that we are marred by sin. Our impetus towards pursuing justice is tainted in such a way that the idea of pursuing what is just/fair gets twisted into pursuing what is just/fair for me.
When we suffer, it seems just to us that God would give our suffering meaning by showing us its purpose. Our thought process can often be like the following: God, if you will tell me the meaning behind my suffering, I will trust you with it. We are essentially offering God a quid pro quo. You do what I want, and I’ll do what you want. Here’s the rub. God wants us to trust him whether we have the answers or not.
Until yesterday, I saw no purpose in my suffering. However, I knew that whether I was aware of the purpose or not, there was one. I also knew that God is sovereign, and his Omni-beneficence means that He only intends good towards me. That had to be enough and it was. (Here is a link to The Stewards Journey and a great article on this topic.)
Lesson 2: In Christ, I can do everything that I’m supposed to do. Apart from him, I can do nothing.
Some people might read this and think that I’m admitting to some kind of a mental deficit or psychological weakness. I am doing neither. I am intelligent, resilient, and mentally tough. I can do just about anything I set my mind to. However, the Lord has not called me to walk in my strength. He has called me to walk in his. He has called me to live the ordinary Christian life which is no ordinary life at all.
In the wake of the rhabdomyolysis, I found myself mentally dull, physically limited and distracted by constant pain. Robbed of my full intellectual acumen and focusing on enduring significant pain, there was little left of me to do the work that God has called me to do in my life. It was difficult to be kind to the people around me and it was nearly impossible, in my own strength, to serve my students at Atlas and EPIC with the measure of excellence that they deserve.
Coming to the end of myself was a gift because I had to fully depend upon the Lord to be able to do even the most mundane activities in my daily life. I think the lesson is that I should be leaning fully on the Lord even in the times and seasons when I have not come to the end of myself. Sure, I can accomplish a lot of my own strength but the extraordinary things that the Lord has called me to do will be impossible if I am not in complete reliance upon him.
Lesson 3: Fear-based decisions rarely produce a good result.
As I reflected upon what it was that led me to thoughtlessly begin taking a new medication, I realized that I had listened to fear. Some of you may have difficulty relating to what I’m about to say, but I pray you will read it with an open mind.
As I mentioned previously, my doctor told me that I needed to take a statin because I met the guidelines of a protocol. She did not tell me that I needed to take a statin medication because I have high cholesterol. She instructed me to take the medication because it is a preventative treatment for something that might happen. I want to rephrase that. She instructed me to take a medication because those who make medicinal recommendations were afraid that a person who is “fat and fifty” might develop high cholesterol. Again, they were afraid that I “might.”
I’m not saying that it was wrong to go on a medication as a preventative measure. That is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. What I am saying is that when the decision to go on a medication is motivated by fear of what might happen, there is the possibility that we can be acting outside of the will of God. There is the possibility that we could be bringing calamity upon ourselves through our attempts to protect ourselves. I should have sought the Lord in that decision. It would’ve cost me nothing to wait for a few days, or even a few weeks in order to pray and ask the Lord to give me a green light to take the medication. Not waiting, cost me quite a bit. In fact, it cost me about a month of suffering.
It turns out, my one guiding question has a twin.
Years ago, I learned that there is one question that a Christian can ask of the Lord that will invariably guide them towards making the best decision in any given situation. That question is, “where is the faith?” In other words, when faced with multiple choices, it is good to simply ask which choice would cause me to have to exercise the most faith in God. For me, when I determine which possibility requires the most faith, that is the one I choose.
I have taught for many years that fear and faith are opposite sides of the same coin. However, it did not occur to me until yesterday that the question, “where is the faith” is mirrored by its twin, “where is the fear?” In addition to asking where the faith is in each choice, one should also ask where the fear is. The faith component will give a clear indication of the right direction to choose and the fear component will give a clear indication of the direction to avoid.
Warning: Asking “Where is the faith” will wreck your normal life.
Applying the question of “where is the faith” to my life has led me to do some things which many people consider to be insane. I created and run a free Bible college where we do not fundraise, and we simply trust God to provide. That’s where the faith is. I drive an old Chevy Tahoe that needs the four-wheel-drive repaired, leaks oil, and needs new wheels and tires, yet I consider the old girl to be quite a blessing. That’s where the faith is. I am called to do mission work and could do it in relative comfort and with ease, but I take Bibles to the restricted church instead. That’s where the faith is.
In Summary: Trust God
Trust God, even when you don’t get the answers that you desire. Trust God, to give you strength for the hard things, and more importantly, for the easy things. Trust God, to lead you to make choices that build your faith and attack your fears.