An Evangelical Free Church in Cary, NC

A Personal Update…

If someone had asked me a month ago, “Do you realize that you are simply a collection of cells: water, tissue, bones, skin, muscles & tendons, etc. totaling 180lbs?” I would have replied, “Yes, of course. I know that.” I knew it in a physical sense. But it wasn’t a reality that hit hard in my soul, or a reality that I thought of very often.

Three weeks later, I know I am frail, in a whole new way.

I had a lot of pain in my arm-a pinched nerve- pain through my arm like I had never had before. I knew it was something different than muscular pain, although I had been playing golf and working in the yard a lot several days before. An Xray and an MRI later revealed stenosis, disc problems, and bone problems which can only be helped through surgery. My shoulder and arm were helped by Acupuncture & Chiropractic- relieving tension in muscles and joints- but problems affecting the inside of my spinal canal are a different story. These were problems that developed over years, unknown and probably without symptoms, other than being sore. After reading the results of one test, I went from being a 51 year-old who does lots of heavy yard-work and landscaping, to someone who is concerned about turning his head left or right while sitting on the couch! Here is a picture of my neck- it is stark once you realize what is inside you- your actual “frame”.

All the thoughts of my own mortality came to mind- “How long do I have? Will I be injured in some way- either before surgery or during surgery? What will life be like after surgery? How long will I be able to be active?” My thoughts were more serious because it is my NECK and my SPINE. This is different than setting a broken arm or rehabbing a knee replacement. The spine holds the nervous system in place- if it is compromised, all sorts of other areas could be in danger. That makes me nervous, no pun intended.

What also makes me nervous are the scientific words in the MRI report: osteophyte complex, foraminal stenosis, cord abutment, CSF effacement, severe stenosis, disc degeneration, etc. I have to guard myself from looking up too much medical terminology- that is a rabbit hole you don’t want to go down!

After a few days of high anxiety and fear, not knowing anything, I had to adjust to the mental, emotional, and spiritual reality of what was happening. My biggest fear initially was, “What is going to happen next?” Then the question, “How can I make it through this?” My mind was bombarded with so many “what if’s” that I couldn’t even think straight.

When you talk to people about going through a medical crisis, usually they will say that the most worrisome part is ‘not knowing’. The waiting, the uncertainty, not having a plan of treatment, etc. That is certainly true. Now, after meeting with two different surgeons, I am more relieved, mentally. There are many people who have ACDF surgery every year, although the saying goes that “minor surgery is the one that the doctor is doing on someone else!” Selecting a surgeon and setting a date has certainly calmed my mind quite a bit.

“Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

C.S. Lewis

But spiritually, this trial has served as a wake up call. C.S. Lewis wrote that “pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” The question for me is one of complete trust. Do I trust God with my health, my body, my strength and my abilities? When you are young and healthy, it is easy to forget that God is our strength and our sustainer. As you get older, you realize how much God has to do to sustain your body each and every day! When Jesus declares to his disciples, “O you of little faith” he is not only imploring us to exercise a certain amount of faith commensurate with the situation we are in. He is really asking us on a deeper level, “Do you trust me? Do you believe that I am completely trustworthy? Do you believe that I have the power to heal, and I am the only one who can heal you now? Do you believe that permanent healing for body and soul will come through me?

It is common when we read Jesus words, “O you of little faith” to think that we simply need an extra ‘dose’ of faith or an incremental bump in our spiritual strength. But Jesus is asking more than what our own “self-assessment” is of our level of belief. He is asking, “Do you believe I am completely trustworthy?” Instead of asking myself, “Do I have enough faith to get through this trial?” I should also be asking, “Who do I believe God really is, in my hearts of hearts? Do I believe–and therefore trust–that He is a good heavenly Father who ultimately knows what is for my good, according to His glory and purposes?”

But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?

Matthew 16:8-10 ESV

Here are a few scriptures that have helped to move my belief–albeit uncomfortably–closer to complete trust:

Psalm 145:17 ESV “The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.”

God desires us to trust in Him ALONE. That may be daunting when we have depended too much on our own strength or ingenuity. But trusting in Him alone is the safest place to be. As the man who cried out to Jesus on behalf of his ailing child, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)


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