The Lessons That Health Crises Teach
August 2017 would become an unexpected milestone in my life . . . a marker on the roadside prepared by a merciful God who was getting ready to open my eyes.
My father had been hospitalized with heart issues that really shook me up. And I had just received a really bad report on my cholesterol that I was secretly wrestling with. As I watched my daddy in the hospital, I sensed the Holy Spirit pressing me that I should no longer ignore my health. Within days I booked an appointment with one of the cardiologists who had seen my father.
The cardiologist immediately put me on an aggressive dose of medication to bring the cholesterol down as fast as possible. A test seemed to indicate that I’d had a previous heart attack. The weeks following were a flurry of events. Worry set in. Tests were scheduled. I started picturing what life for my family would be like without me. As a woman (even a believer), it’s not pretty to ponder such things, and it tends to shake your world.
Just a few days ago I had two more tests, which to my total surprise showed my heart had no damage or indication of a heart attack. Deep down I believed God would take care of me no matter the outcome. But I was elated to hear this news. Talk about relief!
While I am still struggling with health problems, at least I know my heart is not the culprit.
Four Divine Lessons
But nothing goes to waste in this lifetime. God has divine purpose for everything. Here are several spiritual things the Lord showed me in the past few weeks.
1. Life is short.
I’m talking incredibly short! James 4:14 says that life is a mist that suddenly vanishes. In the weariness of life and the ongoing struggles, we tend to forget how brief this life really is. We should take nothing for granted. Every day is precious and half of what we fret over are temporal problems that pass. If it takes a wake-up call every now and then from the Lord to realize this, so be it.
When I look at the fading dew on the grass, I will remember the brevity of life.
And I will praise God for each hour I’m here to love and serve Him.
2. Love and grace are needed.
As I wrestled in the waiting of my crisis, I reached out more than ever before and asked for prayer. Boy, did I receive it! Each day I received cards and texts filled with prayer reminders, actual prayers, and countless Scripture verses to encourage me with truth.
Hugs and tears flowed freely at church, out in public, and especially from my own family. My husband’s prayers over me will never be forgotten. To hear the man you love audibly crying out to the Lord on your behalf is priceless.
I want to be a woman who gives away the love and grace of the Lord! Father, keep the memory of fervent prayers fresh on my mind every day. Jesus, keep my heart as tender as it is right now.
3. Hidden unforgiveness must be dealt with.
Something else the Lord did in my heart was to show me “inklings of unforgiveness”—grudges that I had hidden on the back shelf of my heart. It was painful to be in physical distress and have the Lord chiseling on my inner person. But I willfully cried out to the Lord as He showed me each and every person I still had problems with.
Yes, me, a woman of God who befriends and mentors other women with truth, had heart stuff that hadn’t yet been surrendered.
We can say we’ve forgiven people. But our actions will sometimes tell on us. There are a few telltale signs I’ve learned to watch out for.
- Is there anyone I’m purposely avoiding on a regular basis? Do I avoid eye contact on the occasions when our paths cross?
- Is there someone whose name makes me cringe if I hear it mentioned in conversation?
- When I see sister-so-and-so, do I immediately let my mind rehash my last hurtful encounter with her?
If any of these have convicted you, let the Lord deal with you! Cry out for the grace to forgive. After you’ve forgiven people, do whatever you feel God leading you to do to make things right, even if it’s just a fresh expression of love.
I’m asking the Lord to help me keep “short accounts” with people. I’ll digest people’s offenses and try to learn from them, but I’ll let the Lord be my comforter. I’ll forgive and wipe clean the offense to leave no record of wrong in my heart. And I’ll refresh my heart with the knowledge of my own salvation and all the sin the Lord has forgiven in me.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Cor. 13:4–7 NIV, emphasis added).
4. Idols must be torn down.
My health scare involved high cholesterol. But what I didn’t say earlier is that I’ve had high bad cholesterol for over four years. The cardiologist was the first person to get through to me. My local doctor had pleaded with me to take medication on several occasions, saying my bad cholesterol was so high that I was putting myself at risk. My reply was always a quick, “No thank you! I’ll keep taking my natural stuff.”
The only lingering thought I gave the medication was to research online stories of bad side effects. This only cemented my refusal to take the medication.
The worst part? I didn’t pray and seek God for what He wanted me to do in this situation. I pray about so many things, but I really faltered on this one. It could have cost me my life.
God has lovingly helped me see that I had made natural treatments an idol.
That may sound strange, because God makes all the plants that we find in natural treatments. They’ve really helped people. Some of them have really helped me! Yet God allows the wisdom and intervention of modern medicine, too.
I will always be fascinated with natural treatments and use them whenever possible. But I will no longer idolize them and think there’s only one way God can help me.
How Are You Living?
The Lord sent me into a crisis that made me live like my life could be over soon.
But living like you’re dying is how believers are supposed to live all the time . . . ever aware that we’re really sojourners here.
Have you ever had a scare like this? What wisdom did you gain that you could share with another believer in Christ? If not, what changes do you need to make to live like you’re dying?
By Sheila Gosney