Monday, September 13, 2010
In his mid-60s, Larry was the picture of health. Then, last Tuesday, he failed his stress test in the cardiologist's office.
"Come back in the morning so that we can do a heart cath and maybe put in a couple of stents," the doctor told him.
The next day, less than half an hour after they took Larry back to do the heart cath, the doctor came out to talk to my sister. "We can't put in stents," he told her. "One of Larry's blood vessels is 98% blocked and has a kink in it. Tomorrow, we'll do by-pass surgery."
Larry entered the operating room at noon. After six hours, the surgeon came out to tell our family that he replaced four blood vessels. "The plaque," he said, "blocked all of them at least 90%. They were no longer pliable, but as hard as concrete."
Less than a week after this whole thing started, Larry's recovery exceeds the doctors' expectations. They prepare to discharge him from the hospital, today.
This sequence of events stunned our family. Before we could get our minds to accept that Larry needed medical intervention, the surgery was over. At the same time, the 48 hours between stress test failure and the end of the operation stretched out so that each hour seemed to be a day.
My sister set the standard for us as she responded to these events with faith. She had no assurance that God would allow Larry to stay with her. Within, she had a terror of being left behind, bereft of her partner, lover, and best friend. Tension knotted her stomach and roiled her thoughts as she waited to see whether God would take Larry to heaven or leave him here. She knows the truth in Lamentations 3:37-38: "Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?" God held Larry's life in His hands.
Yet the uncertainty of the results did not rob her of her trust in God. Before the surgery, she told one of my nephews, "We will not allow the events of this week to steal from us the peace that God has given us." By an act of her will, she remained focused on God and His goodness.
In The Disciple of Grace, Jerry Bridges reminds us that Hebrews 12:20 states: "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness."
He further states, "This is the design of God in all of the adversity and heartache we experience in this life. There is no such thing as random or chance events in our lives. All pain we experience is intended to move us closer to the goal of being holy as He is holy."
Sometimes our response to adversities causes us to move away from holiness rather than toward it. The next time heartache comes in my life – and I know it will – my thoughts will turn to my sister. Like her, I will acknowledge the pain I feel. Like her, I will take my pain to God and trust in Him.