"PLEASE LET ME DIE!"
By: Dan Revoir
THE BUFFING OF PATIENCE
For every spiritual truth there is a physical parallel. For instance, the Word of God is compared to milk and meat that must be assimilated in order to grow and be strong spiritually. On the physical plane we must eat meals consisting of the four basic food groups to grow physically and to have a vital life force. Common, ordinary, object lessons can teach us spiritual truth. The Bible likens our faith to gold that must be refined, and this brings to mind another lesson I've learned.
As my brother John was working in his jewelry shop, it was fascinating to watch him form "investment" which is similar to plaster of paris mold with a wax ring in the middle of it. Then he would melt gold in the furnace until it was at the correct temperature. Very carefully, he would pour the liquid gold into the spew hole of the mold. The hot gold melts the wax instantaneously and forms a perfect likeness of the wax ring. Much the way I feel God "melts" us and pours us into the form which He desires. After the gold solidifies and has cooled to the proper temperature, the mold is broken and there is a gold ring. But it does not look like a ring you would buy from a jewelry store. It is rough and has little points and bumps on it and is all discolored. The jeweler starts a long, tedious procedure: he takes this unattractive hunk of metal to a polishing machine and applies jeweler's rouge to a soft cloth wheel and starts polishing. As he patiently works the metal, buffing and polishing and using more rouge, the gold starts to glisten. It takes on a beautiful color and all the little bumps and pits are removed, transforming it into a exquisite piece of expensive jewelry.
The gold of my life and faith had been melted and poured into God's mold. Hopefully the impurities had been removed and the gold was precious in His sight. But now it was time to start another long tedious process and to do some grinding, polishing, and buffing in another area of my life.
The classification of my personality type would definitely be "Type A." I've always had boundless energy, trying to do 100 things at once, a workaholic, ready to storm the gates of hell with a water pistol. Patience...that is another story. Most of my adult life has been spent working in grocery retailing and meat cutting. It has always been much easier to do a job myself rather than wait for an employee to do it. Even in the pastorate, the days were never long enough.
Have you seen the cartoon with four little guys jumping up and down, laughing, covering their mouths with their hands, when the one on the phone asks, "You want it when?" "Yesterday", is the answer of the Type A person. We are in such a hurry to do everything. But our Father is not limited by time, one day is as a thousand years to Him. (See: 2 Peter 3:8). Consequently He can take as much time to accomplish His will as is necessary.
So we started the long, laborious polishing of patience on God's buffing machine.
After three months in the Intensive Care Unit there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Only this time it was not a train! A brand new antibiotic (not even in the doctor's book) was administered through one of my permanent IV's which had been inserted into the main arteries of the heart.
I graduated to an intermediate ICU where I stayed about one week. They had taken my "trache" out (the tube that had been inserted in my throat). To my amazement speech, though weak, was possible by putting my fingers over the hole in my throat. How terribly frustrating it is to lose any of our faculties that we take so much for granted.
The ability to speak permitted me to communicate the nightmare that started to occur while on life support. The effects of massive doses of morphine, demerol, and valium had taken control of my mind and body. Cold sweats, body tremors, and uncontrollable jerking made it extremely difficult to sleep. Hallucinations continued to plague me. Fantasy became reality. I wondered if I was going insane.
I kept experiencing the same nightmare except in different episodes: always lost, trying to find home or my hospital room, fleeing from someone who was trying to catch me, to hurt me, or kill me. My desperate flight was invariably in an endless maze. I was lost and terrified. These vivid nightmares occurred both asleep and awake, and their realism left me afraid and trembling. One time, I was dreaming a nurse was trying to kill me. I told her I had to go back to my hospital room and she laughed as she jabbed a needle in my arm, saying I needed to sleep for awhile before I went back. As I was struggling to regain consciousness I tried very carefully not to attract her attention, but when I stood up she came again. Only this time she plunged the needle into my heart telling me I had to sleep some more. I awoke and Martha was there beside me. Trembling with fear, I told her about the nurse who was trying to kill me. At first she told me that I was just dreaming, but then with great wisdom she realized I was hallucinating and this was reality to me. She assured me that she would take care of it. She walked out into the hallway and after waiting several minutes, she returned telling me that it was all taken care of and not to worry anymore.
Later I comprehended what was happening to me and I refused to take the injections when the nurses brought them. In spite of their insistence, I would take only one or two shots in 24 hours so that I could sleep for two or three hours. That is the world of the drug addict.
Pain, and I mean severe pain, whether physical or emotional is one of the main factors in someone being hooked on drugs. There are cases of seemingly harmless experimentation that may eventually lead to addiction. In cases of extreme physical pain, the pain killers do more than just relieve the pain. After the drug begins to take affect, there is a very comfortable sense of well being as the pain ebbs away. This is followed by euphoria, as though everything in the world is right, and one can do anything one wants to do. But as the drug wears off, the world comes crashing down. I just couldn't wait for the nurse to come with my "fix." It is indeed very easy to see why drug addicts will rob, steal, kill, or even sell their bodies for the mistress of death.
There was another aspect of the buffing of patience. I did not eat or drink the entire time that I had been hospitalized but received all my nourishment from IV's. After two months in ICU the hunger pains never stopped. I was ravenous for food and thought they were starving me to death. Three recurring images haunted my fitful sleep: a huge slice of cold watermelon, corn on the cob slathered with butter and salt, and a beautiful charcoal broiled, very rare sirloin steak. I would wake up salivating, almost tasting those delights, only to look up with great disappointment at the IV's hanging over my head.
Dr. Benner came in one day and made the most welcome proclamation I had heard in months, that on the next day I would receive my first solid food since the day I had arrived. They wanted to see if I could tolerate food along with the IV's. I imagined all the tasty morsels I would eat: steak, eggs, au gratin potatoes, a poppy seed dinner roll, or maybe lobster dipped in drawn butter. Then I would finish the grand repast with watermelon and maybe a small slice of cantaloupe, and a huge glass of iced tea. I hadn't had a drink of anything for months! I could not wait for the next day to come. Now a new twist was added to the game. In addition to the pain, and living on a five-foot tether of IV tubing, my gag reflex became super-sensitive. Inadvertently touching the roof of my mouth or trying to swallow a pill would gag me and, of course, this caused retching and vomiting. After not eating for long periods of time the stomach only contains bile, sickly green, horrible tasting bile.
Then it arrived...my first tray. Excitedly I lifted the cover. What a let-down! There was a bowl of lukewarm beef bouillon, a glass of tomato juice, and a dish of plain green Jello. Do you know what color bile is? Green! The green Jello was about the same color. I did not eat it. It made me nauseated just to look at it.
My second meal was a little (very little) more appetizing. It consisted of beef ragout and a piece of dried out bread, with a side dish of cold cooked carrots. I have eaten food in several hospitals and there is one common denominator: no matter what you order on the menu it all tastes the same. About three small bites of the ragout was all I could handle and if I'd had paste, the carrots would have been stuck to the next menu as a message to the food service! However, between the few bites of food I could force myself to eat and the 4,500 calories a day I received from the IV supplement, I continued losing weight and at this point was well below a 150 pounds.
Shortly after breakfast the next morning, my body reacted violently, quickly plunging me into fits of vomiting. Fever and despair overcame me again as I reentered the nightmare.
"We are going to feed you intravenously," said Dr. Benner, "You will neither eat nor drink anything for the next four weeks, we want the pancreas to lie dormant so that it can heal." That is how I was fed in ICU for two months! Now another month.
Eventually, I was transferred to "2 East", and a regular room. The nurses on "2 East" went far above the requirements or their responsibilities. They became my friends. They were like my family. They catered to my every need. They talked to me, encouraged me, some shared their problems with me, some even asked my advice. Others shared their newborn babies with me, allowing me to hold their children that I had watched develop throughout most of their pregnancies.
After the four weeks, late April, the doctor put me on a solid food diet again. First meal? Green Jello, naturally. I restrained myself from throwing it on the wall and instead gave a nurse the message that I would eat orange Jello, red Jello, grape Jello but I would not eat green Jello! Picky, Picky! After consulting with Dr. Benner, the nurse ordered another tray for me. And again I forced myself to eat as much as my shrunken stomach would hold (about three or four bites). About two hours later a horrendous event happened. Surrealistic is the only word that portrays bizarre, uncontrollable things that happen to us. Things that are so completely foreign to our rational thinking that they seem unreal and could only be fantasy. My stomach started churning and suddenly I was vomiting violently. The pain, within minutes, had completely surpassed my threshold of tolerance and nothing could stop it. This was as bad or worse than the night of the blizzard when it all had started! Within another hour my body temperature started to soar. Fever. Vomiting. Horrible pain. It was beyond belief; this couldn't be happening again.
God, where are you? Please don't hide from me. Let my cry come to you for my days are consumed like smoke. And my bones are burned like a hearth; my heart is smitten and withered like grass. I am afflicted and close to death. I am suffering your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me and your terrors have destroyed me. (King David said it more eloquently than I ever could. Psalms 102)
Then a strange phenomenon started: In spite of the terrible pain that never stopped and my dependence on IV's, I had an overwhelming obsession to go home. It is very difficult to explain, but it seemed as though I had to get out of the hospital if I was going to survive this ordeal. I began to work on Dr. Benner to let me go home; I kept rationalizing that I would get better at home. It was sheer madness, as I look back. He was very reluctant, but for some reason, possibly my morale, he relented and gave me permission to leave for a few days.
Martha had been taught how to give me morphine injections, so in late April, I went home, pain and all. It was like heaven to be able to talk to Martha and have her near me at night. What a joy it was to be able to touch her and just be together again after such a long time. But this pleasure was not to be long lived. Despite all her efforts to cook my favorite dishes, I could only eat a bite or two. Knowing how imperative it was to maintain body weight, I still could not force any more food down. All my children were home for my birthday on May 4th. Martha fixed a sponge cake and fresh strawberries (the only thing sweet I could eat as a diabetic). Again, as good as it tasted, all I could eat was a little piece. Pictures taken at the party reveal how emaciated I was, like a prisoner of a concentration camp, almost a skeleton, still losing about three pounds a day.
Martha & Dan
on his 48th birthday
May 4, 1986
serving Dan pound sponge cake with strawberries because of
on his 48th birthday.
May 4, 1986,
Dan is struggling
A few days after my birthday, it took all the strength I could muster just to stand up. Martha took me to Kalkaska Medical Center to see Dr. Benner. As soon as he saw me he told me I would have to go back to the hospital immediately. The doctor assumed that food was started too soon and that we should wait six more weeks, then try food again. I wept. It was a crushing blow to leave my sweetheart again. I just gave up--the mountain was insurmountable and I had no desire to try and climb it again. Oh, God, why didn't you let me die and be done with it; to have a glimmer of hope, then have it snatched away is more than I can bear. I fell into the whirlpool of depression, like a drowning man who could not even reach for a lifeline. The depression enveloped me, like a thick heavy cloud, life had lost all direction and meaning. Sick and weary and tired of fighting, all my strength gone, I just gave up, not caring if I lived or died. The words of the Psalmist in chapter 88: verses 3 and 4 are most fitting since the word "sheol" in this portion refers to the grave.
"For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draweth near unto sheol. I am counted with them that go down into the pit; I am as a man that hath no strength."
A nurse checked my vital signs and as she walked out of my room, I distinctly heard her say to another nurse, "Well, he is stable right now, but the word is he is not going to leave here." Somewhere out of the morass of pain and depression and self pity came anger once again. I was not going to lie there and die. I would walk out of that hospital if it was the last thing I ever did. I was screaming, not verbally, but with all of my being.
Towards the end of June, after six more weeks of not eating or drinking, the food tolerance test was tried again. My first meal consisted of? Yes, green Jello again! Oh, how soon they forget. Or they must have gotten a terrific bargain on a truck load of green Jello. I failed that test also. Again, I begged to go home, only to be readmitted with terrible pain and vomiting after a few days at home. The doctor assured me that we would try it again after letting the pancreas lie dormant, this time for 16 weeks. That's four months!
Sailors in the days of tall ships, would sometimes come into what they called the "doldrums." During these times the wind would stop blowing and the ship would drift, moved only by the current. The sailors were held captives by the sea and subjected to the intense burning sun and suffocating heat for days or even weeks at a time. They lost the sense of time.
The same is true of an extended stay in the hospital. Time has no relevancy; everything seems to stop as if time is frozen. One day melts into another, then days homogenize into weeks and weeks intermingle with months until there is no time reference at all. Just the "doldrums", a monotonous tedium of existing, without any purpose or direction. If it hadn't been for a window in my room, I never would have known whether it was day or night.
It was during this interval I suffered not only timelessness but also a loss of my sense of identity; I was no longer pastor or counselor, nor husband or father. There seemed to be a complete loss of identity, of knowing who you are or your purpose for being alive. This was why, to everyone's bewilderment, I started growing a beard. Strange as this may seem, it gave me a sense of identity. The doctor started calling me Don Johnson.
As I was waiting for my 16 weeks to elapse, I pleaded with the doctor to let me go home. To my surprise, we were taught how to administer the IV's and I was allowed to go home. Two weeks later I returned to the hospital sick and vomiting.
I abhor vomiting! It is one of the most degrading body functions that a human experiences. During an occasional bout of flu, I would take anything to prevent this malady. But even in this despicable act, God was teaching me patience and tolerance of things I could not control.
On September 6, Martha and I celebrated our wedding anniversary at Munson Medical Center. What a date that was. I could not even buy an anniversary card for the 28 years we had been together, let alone take her to a nice restaurant to celebrate.
As I looked out of my hospital window, the thought occurred to me that I had started this course in patience when it was bitterest winter. I had seen the death grip of winter broken by the warm spring sun, followed by the balmy days of summer with fleecy white clouds driven like sailboats by the brisk winds of Lake Michigan. Now a touch of fall was in the air and still the end was nowhere in sight. The possibility of never getting better became a predator stalking a helpless victim. What an utterly depressing situation, to lie there day after day, month after month knowing one is absolutely dependent on others for every need. One has no power at all to change one's circumstances. There is nothing in the world to do.
Yes, Father, I know that. And now I have learned that lesson. I am powerless without you, depending upon you for everything in my life. But God, you know how impatient I am, you created me. Father, you know how frustrating this is to me! His Word came again to me, "Be still and know I am God." God had plenty of time and the grinding process finally brought me into the place of complete submission.
A roommate was bemoaning the fact that he had been in the hospital for seven days. As he spoke, I could not keep from smiling. "I do not see anything humorous about that," he snorted.
"I am sorry, my friend, but I have been here for seven months and have no idea when I will be released."
A sheepish look came over his face, "I guess I don't have
anything to complain about" he replied
If the days seemed like an eternity, the nights were even worse. There was nothing to divert my attention from the boredom and pain and the aching desire to be with my sweetheart. But there was one bright spot. Every day Martha faithfully came to visit me. Every day! She traveled over fifty miles even in blizzard conditions during the winter.
Martha brought me a large hand-made heart, and helium filled red balloons which read, "I love you, I love you, I love you." But most of all she brought joy by constantly assuring me of her love. The disease had affected my vision so it was impossible for me to read anything, another great disappointment, being a voracious reader. She read to me and brought me tapes of sacred music and sermons to enjoy. We also played backgammon, which was very annoying because Martha always beat me.
All these things kept me in touch with reality. The doctors counseled Martha to encourage me to watch television but at $3.50 a day, I refused, telling her the money could be spent on something more important. I was not crazy yet. Later, friends gave her money explicitly for my television viewing. I still think it was a waste of money. Hours were spent in conversational prayer with my heavenly Father, just talking to Him as if He was there. He was indeed just as He had promised, "I will never leave you or forsake you," and His grace was sufficient. The words of this beautiful song echoed over and over in my mind:
"He giveth more
grace when the burden grows greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
When we have
exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving is only begun.
His love has no
limit, His Grace has no measure,
His pow'r has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth and giveth and giveth again!"
Annie Johnson Flint,
Dr. Benner's face was always harsh or stern, it was as if he was continually gritting his teeth. His eyes were set hard and cold, seemingly looking through you and not at you. There was no softness in his gaze or in his speech. He was a top surgeon and would not allow emotion to betray the tenderness inside him. It was a defense mechanism; he would not get involved personally with his patients. Only this day it was different as he strode into my room.
"How's it going, Dan?" he said with a big smile, grabbing the clipboard and sitting on the edge of my bed. He had let his guard down and we began discussing relevant conclusions about no fever, enzyme levels were very satisfactory, my lungs were clear; it was as if we were talking about someone else.
"You were the sickest man I've ever seen. You know we never even encouraged Martha, because we all knew you were going to die. Man, we were giving you antibiotics that were strong enough to kill a tree. But I want to tell you something, we had nothing to do with you getting better. It was out of our hands."
The realization of how much I was depending on God's grace came on September 16, 1986. I had been on IV feedings now for the seemingly endless time of 16 weeks. My diet consisted only of very few ice chips; that is all! Suspecting that something still was wrong with the pancreas after attempting the food tolerance again, Dr. Benner had contacted the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to confer with Dr. Eckhauser about my condition. He suspected that the pancreatic duct was blocked and every time I ate food, the pancreas tried to secrete the enzymes and became more inflamed and swollen. The hospital in Traverse City did not have the sophisticated equipment to do this test.
Dr. Benner advised me that I was going to eat solid food again that night. Later the nurse brought my tray which contained...yes, you guessed it: juice, beef bouillon, and green Jello! The doctor dropped in and asked why I wasn't eating. I told him that I wouldn't eat that garbage!
The doctor rushed out of my room assuring me that he would get me some real food. As if by magic, the nurse reappeared with another tray. Beef ragout, green beans, a small salad, a slice of bread and a glass of iced tea. After not eating for 16 weeks I thought I would devour it. But I did not. In fact, I was afraid to eat. Time after time I had eaten, only to get terribly sick again. Paranoia set in; the food looked terrible and tasted worse. I ate two or three mouthfuls, then pushed the tray aside and lay in dread, wondering how long it would be before the vomiting started.
The next morning, September 17th, another tray was brought to me with a poached egg, a slice of toast, a bowl of oatmeal, and a half pint of milk. This time I ate with gusto, relishing every morsel. Everything seemed to be all right until three hours after I had eaten. Nausea overwhelmed my body and it felt like someone was sticking a knife into my stomach to perform surgery without the benefits of anesthesia. Vomiting, fever, pain, intense terrible excruciating pain started all over. Oh, God, I need you now. Father, I can't stand the pain anymore. Please, Father, please help me. The nurses started mainlining morphine again, 100 c.c.'s every two hours. At this point some of the nurses would cry after they came into my room because they knew the hopelessness of my illness. This seemingly unending cycle of food tolerance followed by vomiting and fever had continued for nine months.
Dr. Benner called the University of Michigan Hospital and I would get the first available room. Dr. Benner's voice betrayed his concern and frustration at not being able to pinpoint the problem. I had complete confidence in Dr. Benner and Dr. David Martin, the specialist in infectious diseases, and whatever decisions they concluded were best for my welfare.
On September 24 the nurses came into my room en mass. They hugged and kissed me, and wept. All expressed their love and wishes for me to get better. They administered another pain shot. To the nurses on "2 East", I will never forget your goodness and love to me, you will always have a special place in my heart. I love you.
I dressed as quickly as possible and friends rushed me to the airport. Mrs. Church, one of the dearest, most loving persons I have ever met, had chartered a plane for me at her own expense. She was a member of the Boardman Bible Church where I had been a pastor for six years, if the last year counted. She also was a very dear friend to our family. We only had to wait a few moments before the plane arrived. The plane ride took about one and a half hours as compared to the four or five by car, a trip I could not have tolerated. As we were flying, Martha was driving to Pontiac, where she picked me up at the airport. We spent the evening at her brother's house and the next morning we drove to University of Michigan Hospital.
The pancreas, aggravated by the trip from Traverse City, was causing horrendous pain. I was doubled over in agony. Then they started the two hours of seemingly unending questions, and signing of forms for admittance. (I didn't sign that many papers when we bought our house. Of course, our house didn't cost that much money either). Finally, they took me to my room. At the University of Michigan Hospital the surgeon has an entourage of resident student doctors and among these residents is the chief resident. One of the resident doctors came into my room and started asking the whole series of questions just previously answered. In spite of the pain level that was constantly increasing, I patiently, note that word, answered all of them to the best of my ability. It was very frustrating to go through the question/answer session because I had brought a complete work up of medical records and a folder full of x-rays heavy enough to rupture Aunt Tillie. After about a half hour of gritting my teeth in pain, another resident student came into my room. No, he didn't have a pain shot. His mission was to ask more questions. By this time my legs were drawn up into the fetal position to tolerate the pain: Father, is it possible that maybe ... just maybe, I am learning the very rudiments of patience?
Finally, the chief resident came into my room. Like the bugle call of a charging calvary storming down out of the hills to fight off the attacking Indians, I knew help was only minutes away. Wrong! Dr. Fung, a Chinese medical resident began my physical examination; ears, nose, throat, etc. The moment I had been waiting for finally came. "You have pain?"
"No, doc, I always pull my knees up to my chest because I am emotionally insecure." I did not say it but I thought it. The pain was bad and I really needed a pain shot. I already knew what his next move would be and I grabbed his hand as he reached for my stomach. Doctors love to probe every inch of one's abdomen to find out where it hurts the most. I have had this done many times and wasn't willing to play that game again. The next step was to draw a large amount of blood for a barrage of tests. Finally the nurse came with the pain shot.
Later Dr. Fung came with the results of the blood tests. The enzyme levels of amylase and lipase, which are excreted from the pancreas, were very high. Dr. Fung remarked that it would be necessary to wait for the pancreas to cool down before the tests could be done. So I was forced to live on IV's for another three weeks.
On October 7, the nurse wheeled my wheelchair down to the E.R.C.P. room. Let me explain the procedure. They spray the back of the throat with a foul-tasting substance that renders the gag reflex inoperative. It is supposed to work, but in my case it didn't. Then they push a flexible steel tube down the throat into the stomach, as you try desperately to swallow it. They can see through that tube to examine the stomach and especially the pancreas duct. Then they inject dye into the pancreas duct. Photographs are taken by a fluoroscope during the procedure. The test is extremely unpleasant since it is difficult to vomit with a tube down your throat, but I did a good job of it. They just used a suction tube to remove the emesis.
Two days later we had another appointment. The doctor requested an angiogram. It was explained simply as the injecting of dye into an artery and taking high speed pictures by an x-ray machine as the dye ran through the blood system. This did not cause any undue concern, since I had the same procedure for my heart.
Early in the morning they came for me with a gurney. Being of average intelligence the thought occurred to me: "Why do I have to go lying down? Before, they used a wheelchair." After the test was over I had the answer to my question. The angio-lab looked like the laboratory from a Frankenstein movie and quickly I was strapped to the table. The concern had become panic. A young doctor told me he was going to force the contrast dye through the main artery in my leg and that there may be a warm sensation. Then he proceeded to relate all the possible side effects of this test concluding with possibility of death, remote but nonetheless a possibility. With my batting average over the last six years, you can imagine confidence was one emotion that I was lacking at that moment.
The doctor instructed me to take three deep breaths and then let it all out, but not to breathe. The fire started at my groin and progressed up through my abdomen. When it reached my stomach and pancreas, I convulsed and jerked and tried to scream but my teeth were clenched. The biblical phrase, "the gnashing of teeth" had just become a reality in my life. If someone had filled my abdominal cavity with gasoline and set it on fire, it could not have hurt worse.
"How do you feel?"
"Doc, I can't stand the pain, it is unbearable!!"
"The next test is worse." I listened in unbelief. "You must take three breaths and exhale, let it all out, then hold it for 26 seconds. It is imperative that you do not breathe or move."
You probably have a second hand on your wristwatch, go ahead and try it. It was...much worse! This was the second time I thought unconsciousness would stop the pain, but again it would not come.
Dr. Eckhauser and his retinue of residents came into my room. He is a no-nonsense professional, whose features and demeanor are as sharp as his scalpel. His words were quick and concise, as he iterated to me that a pseudo-cyst had developed and the duct to the stomach was blocked. Surgery was required. The plan was to split the pancreas and sew a loop of bowel around it to drain the cyst into the small intestines, then try to unblock the duct. He assured me that I would be able to eat but he couldn't promise anything about the pain, and the possibility of having to live with it for the rest of my life. That was not exactly what I wanted to hear.
The day before surgery, while making his rounds, Dr. Eckhauser stated that they were going to run into a mess because of the first abscess and the two previous surgeries, so they would allow several hours more than the usual time required for this surgery. The surgery on October 14th lasted for about eight hours and as true as a prophet, the doctor's words were correct. In a few days, praise God, I was able to start eating again even though it was with fear and trepidation. The pain however, has not stopped yet. I was discharged from the University of Michigan Hospital on October 28, 1986, nine months from my initial attack of pancreatitis.
I have already mentioned the relativity of time when it stands still. During this period of timelessness, going through a multitude of medical tests, x-rays, procedures, C.A.T. scans, vomiting barium faster than you can swallow, untold agony when vomiting because of all the surgery, there was a terrible sense of the loss of time. But month after month the same questions crossed my mind and sometimes my lips: why God? Is there any purpose for all of this? Is there someone that I am to share Christ with, to give them the good news? Have I sinned before you? Are you punishing me? Where are you? Why do I feel all alone?
It was also during this interval I focused my attention once again upon God's Word, especially dealing with His chastening. I did much soul searching to see if this was possibly the reason for my affliction, while in my heart I believed I hadn't been harboring any sin. My soul was at peace with God.
CHASTENING, GOD'S WOODSHED ...
Psalms 119:67, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy word."
Plain and simple, God used affliction in the psalmist's life to bring him back into a right relationship. God can and will use chastening if we stray from Him. The psalmist further reiterates in verse 71, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes" or laws. How do we know the affliction came from God? Because the psalmist states that in verse 68 "Thou art good and doest good, teach me thy statutes." He realized the affliction from God was for a good purpose. We see that God used chastisement on the nation Israel because she continued in constant sin against Him.
God also promises to chasten His own children for the "yielding of the peaceable fruit of righteousness." We see this in Hebrews 12. The author of Hebrews was writing to comfort Christians who were suffering affliction at the hands of the Roman government and the hatred of their fellow countrymen, who were Jewish. They despised these turncoat Christians as evidenced in the life of the Apostle Paul (Saul) before his conversion.
In the book of Acts, chapter eight, we see that Stephen, the disciple, after his scalding rebuke to the Sanhedrin (religious leaders of Israel), was taken out to be stoned to death for his witness of Christ. As he was being martyred, there was a young man named Saul present, who was consenting to his death. These Christians were even being martyred for their faith.
The Christians were suffering ridicule and mockery, being made a "gazingstock" (being mocked publicly) before their tormentors. They also were distressed with the loss of their own possessions.
Hebrews 10:34, "For ye had compassion on me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance."
But it would seem some of these Christians were crying about all their suffering, and in chapter 12, the writer of Hebrews admonishes these Christians. In verse three we read, "For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be weary and faint in your minds."
"So are you going to throw up your hands and quit, mumbling, 'It is too hard, I cannot take it?' Are you going to run like a coward looking for a place to hide?"
"You have not lost any blood or your lives striving against sin, why are you complaining?" And if that was not enough to take the wind out of their sails, he adds more words of consolation.
"For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth." Hebrews 12:6
The author then tells them that possibly God is disciplining them, as parents discipline their children when they are disobedient. But he also assures them that God corrects them because He loves them. As a parent I have said the same thing, "I am going to punish you because I love you, and this will hurt me more than it will you." The purpose of the chastening is that we may be partakers of his holiness.
There are many experiences in life that are unpleasant, surgery and painful medical tests among them. But we realize that although these are not joyous, they are for our own good and will result in our better health and happiness. So we submit ourselves to these things, knowing it will cause pain.
I believe the same is true in the spiritual realm. If I submit with patience to God's time of chastening through affliction, I will become a partaker of His holiness, growing spiritually and seeing the fruit of righteousness manifested in my life. This inspired me to write my poem:
"Affliction, God's Love"
Like a stubborn
sheep I wandered far and wide
Just a senseless creature who left the shepherd's side.
In my wilful way I was wandering again,
Leaving his protection, I fell into sin.
Broken and bruised, lost and alone,
Out in life's desert so far from home.
The darkest of
night I would not last.
The thunder roared and the lightening flashed!
It was the valley of death and I was trembling with fear.
Life had become hopeless and the end was so near.
What was that sound?
Through the wind and the rain,
I was listening so hard and I heard it again.
Yes, It's the call of the shepherd but...
How could that be, on this terrible night,
is he looking for me?
I looked up above me although caught in a snare
He had sought me and found me, now I knew that He cared!
With arms strong and gentle, using his rod to set me free
This loving, gentle shepherd started carrying me.
The greatest love story that's ever been told:
The shepherd suffered death to bring me back to the fold.
The story is told about a woman vacationing in the Far East, and in her travels one day she saw a shepherd leading his flock. It seemed unusual that he was carrying a lamb.
"Is there something wrong with the lamb?"
"Yes, his legs were broken," the shepherd replied.
The woman, being inquisitive, pressed further, "Did he fall in the mountains?"
"No, I broke his legs," the shepherd answered.
"Why on earth would you do such a cruel thing?" the indignant foreigner demanded!
"You see, this lamb continually ran away from me, leading other lambs with him, so I broke his legs. From that day on I have carried him, fed him by hand, and have given him water to drink. He is with me every hour of the day. Consequently, when his legs heal and he is able to walk, he will never leave my side."
HOME AT LAST, ALMOST...
Countless times through the duration of my hospitalization, I had searched my heart and soul to see if I had been harboring sin in my life. The word iniquity means to live a lawless life, or overt wickedness. The Holy Spirit did not point out any willful sin or disobedience. The fact was that I was closer to the Lord prior to and during my sickness than at any time in my life. So after taking my spiritual inventory, I came to the conclusion that I was indeed a child of God. I was trying to live in obedience to His will and Word. Therefore, this was not God's chastening. God was not scourging me and this was not His rebuke to correct any disobedience in my life.
Then came one of the happiest days of my life. It was now late October of 1986, and after almost a year, I was free from my imprisonment. My emotions overwhelmed me and I fought to keep the tears from flowing. I'm free! I'm alive! I'm finally with my sweetheart! For seemingly endless months I had longed just to feel her closeness in the darkness of night, to be able to talk with her when sleep would not come. I had missed her terribly and now we were together, trying to rebuild the remnants of our lives again.
What a pathetic sight I was; weighing about 150 pounds, my eyes black and sunken into my gaunt face. I walked like a tottering, feeble old man; every effort to move or walk fatigued me. We decided not to attempt the drive to Grand Rapids since that would be too exhausting. So we opted for going back to Martha's brother's house in Pontiac. It was also necessary for me to go back to Ann Arbor for a check-up in two weeks.
The sun was shining, the brilliant colors of autumn had disappeared leaving only the deep bronze and dull brown leaves that had survived the winds and rains of fall. The colors and the cold wind were a reminder of the bleak winter which would soon arrive. The realization struck me that it had been almost a year ago when this chapter of my life had started. After loading all my clothes, plastic water pitchers and paraphernalia, we started down the road. As we were driving along, to my surprise, Martha pulled into a restaurant. It just happened to be a steak house. She had passed this restaurant every day coming to see me and promised herself that she would buy me a steak on the day I was released.
We were both laughing at our little secret as we entered the restaurant, so happy to be reunited again. I had a steak. It was probably one of the worst I have ever eaten, but not one ever had tasted better.
We stayed at her brother's house for about two weeks then started the long trek to Grand Rapids. It was only two and a half hours, but it seemed like forever.
As we arrived home there was an unexpected gift, very unexpected, waiting for us. Our children and their mates, and Patti had decided to fix our house. They tore up all the carpet. Then they started stripping all the paint off the woodwork of our almost 100-year-old house. Being an old house, there were several coats of paint. The wood underneath was stained very dark, almost mahogany. So they sanded it all, including an open staircase. A job of monumental proportions to say the least. This was their homecoming gift for me.
I looked in disbelief. The house was in total disarray. A hand grenade probably would have done less damage! It would be months before we could move into it again. I was filled with mixed emotions, the first one was love and gratitude for the hard work that was being undertaken and the desire to demonstrate that love. The second emotion was my intense desire just to be home after so many months in the hospital. So we moved in with our son and daughter-in-law for about five weeks.
Martha and I made what we thought was a very wise decision. We bought airline tickets to Arizona using plastic money. We were going to become "snowbirds" and find a place in the sun to wait for the remodeling project to be finished. After arriving in Tucson, the temperatures plummeted below the freezing mark and there were seven inches of snow! Two weeks later we flew to Mississippi to visit my mom for a few weeks. It is always warm by the Gulf Coast. The camellias and azaleas would be starting to bloom. Wrong! It was 30 degrees and it rained for over a month. But this also became a blessing because it gave us more quality time with my mother. And it was during this interlude that the idea for this book was conceived in my mind.
While waiting in Mississippi for spring to return to Michigan, it was my privilege to talk to a young lady who had lost her father. In addition to this, Pris developed cancer which necessitated radiation treatments and chemotherapy; the cure is probably worse than the disease. But she was searching to know why as a young Christian, God had allowed this to happen in her life. Her words betrayed the hurt and the edge of bitterness in her heart. She also made the claim that everyone tries to exonerate God from the suffering in this world.
I was suffering from a deadly condition, being stricken with an almost always fatal abscessed pancreas.
The disease had ravaged my body. My strength was completely gone. My hair had all fallen out. My eyes blurred so badly, I couldn't read. And the doctor said it would be three years before I would be on my feet again. But my mind was as clear as a bell, and I began to think about the reasons for affliction.
The question "why" never left me. In fact it became an obsession. It was an obsession that drove me to God's Word. Some events had provoked the question even more, as to why a sovereign God allows suffering in our world.
I was not being critical or judging God, but I was calling on Him in desperation, looking for an answer for my condition. Was it something self-imposed? Or was it a testing from God? Was it an attack of Satan? Or was this some colossal stroke of bad luck that had accidently struck me?
It was at this point that God's Word became experiential in my life and I was able to share with Pris the examples of others who had suffered great affliction. The scriptures indicate to me at least three areas of suffering and the cause and effect of it.
The first area is that God does indeed allow affliction by His permissive will, and even ordains it. The scriptures clearly delineate this point.
Almost everyone is familiar with the account of Moses. Israel had been in slavery in Egypt for over 400 years and their moaning and cries were heard by God, and He raised up a deliverer for them. God commissioned Moses to that task by speaking to him out of a burning bush, which was not consumed. God promised Moses that His power and presence would be with him, as he delivered Israel out of the land of Egypt. But Moses was just a little reluctant, so he started making excuses about why he could not fulfill this commission.
"How can I prove you really sent me as deliverer? I know the people will not believe me! And not only that, they will not listen to my voice. They will not obey me! Not only that Lord, but see, you do not know this, but I have a speech impediment."
The next two verses are very interesting to say the least.
"And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth and teach thee what thou shalt say."
Who hath made man's mouth? God obviously. Who makes the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing or the blind...wait a minute, God...are you actually saying that some people cannot speak or hear because You made them that way? And that the blind person may have been created to be blind? But God, in our society we sometimes kill babies who have birth defects, is it possible that people were created by you to glorify Yourself? Tragic error to think God cannot use the handicapped to administer His Word when, in fact, that is exactly why He created them.
In John 9 we see the account of the blind man. The Lord had been ministering and teaching in the temple at Jerusalem and verse one tells us, "And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was blind from birth." The disciples were getting their exercise that day "by jumping to conclusions." Perhaps they were being a little judgmental because they were so spiritual. Holier than thou! It is so nice we do not see this attitude today!
"Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" If the man was born blind, how in the world could he have sinned? The disciples instead of being filled with concern and compassion for the poor fellow, were more interested in what caused his affliction; it obviously was sin! Attitudes do not change very much. Hence the belief among some Christians today that if you are not healthy, wealthy, and wise then you are not spiritual and God is not blessing you. Same attitude the Jewish community had when the Lord lived on earth. The Lord's response to the blind man in John chapter 9 was: "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."
There was no sin involved; neither by the blind man nor by his parents, but his affliction was for the glory of God! God created him that way that God might reveal His power through the blind man in causing him once again to see, which the Lord Jesus Christ did. Not only did he receive physical sight but later in that chapter we see he also received spiritual sight. But not all stories of pain and affliction end with dramatic healing.
The second area of suffering I feel we have to consider takes us out of the realm of God's ordaining, to one most of us would rather not consider.
Men all over this world shake their puny fists at God shouting, "If you are God, why are all these terrible things happening? You are supposed to be the God of love but the world is filled with misery, pain, and death! Why do you allow it? "
It was at this point that I started contemplating the reason or philosophy of suffering and the conclusion I came to was that much of our suffering is the consequence of our own personal sin. We may choose the words "poor choice" or human failings but God's Word calls it sin.
James 1:14-15, "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."
For example, a person may consume a large amount of alcohol for several years and develop cirrhosis of the liver and die prematurely. Could any blame God for this man's death? Or was his attitude the same as many people who practice habits which are proven harmful, thinking nothing will happen to him.
When Martha had her leg surgeries at the University of Michigan Hospital, in her 21-bed ward were several patients who had portions of their faces removed; many had huge sections of their throats removed. Others who had their larynx cut out, with only a hole to breathe through, still continued to smoke, putting the cigarette in the hole! They could not plead ignorance; every pack of cigarettes has a warning on it. This warning was ignored and the consequences were pain, mutilation, and in thousands upon thousands, death, a horrible death at best! Can any one of them blame God?
Our nation and world are at panic's edge because of the latest epidemic, AIDS. Every television station in the nation carries ads about the dangers of AIDS and the precautionary measures that everyone should take in everything from unprotected sex, to seeing your dentist. And in spite of these graphic, continual warnings, the incidence of this fatal disease spirals upwards, involving millions upon millions of victims, who will in all probability be fatalities since there is no known cure. God, in His Word, gives repeated warnings about homosexuality and the consequences of such practices, but in our nation homosexuality and lesbianism are purported to be the alternate lifestyle. Is God to blame for the senseless deaths of a multitude of people because they disregard the warnings of both man and God?
In the United States the last five years, there were 186,895 documented cases of AIDS, and out of those cases 118,411 died. It is little wonder that the name spreads terror all over the world. The appalling fact is that these deaths were caused by ignorance or indifference to information they've received. Sixty-four percent of all those deaths were caused by male to male sexual relations, in spite of repeated warnings given over multi-media. That speaks of the obsessive desire for unprotected sex, even at the risk of a hideous death.
Twenty-two percent of these cases were caused by using "dirty" needles, by those seeking the pleasure of a "quick fix," or a "higher high." The alarming fact is, if these are documented cases, then what would be the more realistic figure of those infected but never tested, especially since the disease can lie dormant for several years. The real tragedy is that hemophiliacs and transfusion patients unknowingly contact the deadly virus; and about two percent of all AIDS victims fall into this category. We must also include cases of AIDS infected children under five years old. These children were born to infected parents. Precious little lives are destined to die a horrible death because of the sin of someone else. They didn't cause it. They had no choice but still must suffer the consequences of our hedonistic society.
How many children are born with venereal disease which ruins their brains and bodies with terrible birth defects? How many children become child abusers physically or sexually because they were abused by their own parents or a grandpa or grandma they trusted? Or they were violated by some uncle or brother and that abuse continues generation after generation?
Again the obvious question must cross our minds; can we accuse God of being unfair or unloving? No, I think not!
The great majority of readers would conclude that there is a price to pay for sin and that those who willfully abuse their bodies will suffer the consequences and cause others to suffer.
The third factor for consideration is suffering that is not caused by personal sin. Probably most people are not even aware that it does happen. In fact, it can affect the most moral, righteous people on the earth. A colossal struggle between Satan and God, the Father of light and truth against the Devil and demons of darkness.
This struggle takes place in the spiritual realm where it cannot be observed with the human eye. But nonetheless, it still takes place.
The protagonist, of course, is God and the antagonist is Satan. A capsulization of Ezekiel 28:11-15 is that before the fall, Satan, then called Lucifer, was the highest of all creation. He had it all, the total sum of beauty, wisdom and power over all the angels of God. This power and privilege extended to the honor of entering the presence of God any time he willed. And that word "will" was the essence of his fall. In Isaiah 14;12-14 we see a succession of "I wills" that actually blasphemes the very persons of the Godhead. Satan boldly proclaimed "I will be as the most high." The creature wanted to be creator. We see in the Bible several illustrations of the conflict between God and Satan, probably the best known is Job.
"So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. And he took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and he sat down among the ashes."
While lying in the hospital bed at Munson Medical Center, I was musing about the account of Job, readily identifying with him, wondering if possibly Satan was responsible for my physical condition and suffering. Talking to the Lord, I recounted the facts that I had not lost my children and I thank God for that! Also, I had not suffered the scourge of sore boils covering my body from the crown of my head to the bottoms of my feet. Now there have been several times in my life God has taught me humorous lessons. It is my belief that God has a tremendous sense of humor. Anyhow, about two or three days later, a very sharp pain started in the lower quadrant of my left hip, (I believe you have the picture!) which I brought to the attention of my doctor.
"Yes, I will take care of that," he said. Returning from the supply room he produced a scalpel which he promptly jabbed into my derriere cutting somewhat the way you would core an apple!
"It is a boil!" was his professional opinion.
No, he didn't use any anesthetic!
"Father, we need to talk again, now! I do not want to suffer any more boils!" was my short prayer.
Is it possible that like Job, my affliction was being caused by a dreadful struggle between God and Satan? And that Satan had dared the God of this universe to be allowed to test me. To see if I would be faithful to God.
The story opens...
Job 1:6-8: "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, From where comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant, Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one who feareth God, and shunneth evil."
God was very pleased with His servant Job, "There is none like him in the earth." Job surely must have pleased God. "A perfect and upright man." Did God say Job was sinless? NO! God was saying that Job was spiritually mature, fully developed in character. Then notice Satan's accusation.
Satan argued that since God had put a hedge around Job and all that he owned, there was no reason for Job not to love and obey Him. However, if that hedge was removed, Job would curse God to His face. So Job became a pawn in a terrible chess game between God and Satan. Job lost all of his earthly possessions, including his children. And verses 20-21 of chapter one shows us the integrity and unshakable faith of an upright man, who feared God and had nothing to do with evil.
Verses 20-21 of Job 1, "Then Job arose, and tore his mantel, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, AND WORSHIPPED. And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God with folly."
I wonder how many people like myself, have tried to live in love, submission, and obedience to God and have experienced pain and affliction that we did not understand? What is our attitude?
You know the rest of the story, as commentator, Paul Harvey, tells his listeners. Job withstood the onslaught of Satan, remaining true to God. The story had a happy ending as we see in chapter 42:12-13,
"So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she-asses. He had also seven sons and three daughters."
Yes, another story with a triumphant ending.
But not all stories have happy endings and some people never comprehend the dynamics of their pain, and to all intents and purposes, there seems to be no rhyme or reason for their suffering.
THE "C" OF CLOSENESS ...
The analogy of gold being likened to faith continues by comparing qualities of both. Gold, after it is purified, has a quality unlike any other metal. It is the most malleable and ductile of all metals. This means it can be beaten with a hammer to a thickness of 0.000005 inches, which is roughly 1,000 times thinner than a soap bubble blown by a child. At this thickness one can actually see through the gold. One ounce of gold could be drawn into a wire 62 miles long without breaking. As impossible as that seems, gold is not affected by air, heat, moisture, or rust. In other words, it is virtually indestructible. Faith, likewise seems to strengthen with adversity, and when hammered by pain and oppression, even death, it will not break. Like gold, it is indestructible. This brings us to our last "C" of affliction, which I've entitled closeness.
Philippians 3:10-1,1: "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."
God, according to His permissive will, allows, even ordains affliction and suffering to take place in the lives of believers. And yet God is a God of love, "Making His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sending rain upon the just and the unjust." He pours out His benefits and blessings on all men.
There is one more reason God allows His children to suffer, and that is to bring us into a closer relationship with him. Throughout the history of the Church there has been and continues to be a handful of Christians who have been allowed to enter into the suffering of the Lord. We refer to them as martyrs. It has been rightly said that "the blood of martyrs was the seed of the church." Not everyone who suffers is to be considered a martyr, Christians in America have little or no persecution at all, especially when compared to our brothers and sisters in Communist countries. Conversely, some Christians do have the privilege of suffering.
The apostles themselves were the first examples of martyrdom. Matthew was slain with a sword at Ethiopia, Mark was dragged to death through the streets of Alexandria, Luke was hanged on an olive tree, and Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downward, not wanting to die the way his Lord did. On and on this awful litany continues through all the followers of Jesus, each one suffering martyrdom for the Lord.
Even in this day and age we have people who have suffered terrible tragedies and yet God has used them greatly for His glory. The previously mentioned Joni Eareckson Tada, although a quadriplegic, is a living witness of the power of God. Another possible martyr is Merrill Womach, who in November 23, 1961 was involved in a near fatal plane crash. The plane, which stalled on take off, crashed and became a raging inferno when the gas tanks ruptured. I quote from the movie, "He Restoreth My Soul", "Both engines quit on take-off...108 gallons of high octane fuel exploded on impact. The doctor said his head was as big as a basketball...it looked as if someone had taken a marshmallow and left it in the fire too long."
And after at least 50 surgeries Merrill is now traveling world wide preaching and singing. I have seen this man in concert and in spite of his disfigurement, after hearing him speak and sing, I was amazed that he is handsome and beautiful in his spirit. In fact, you soon lose the awareness of his physical handicap.
Another man was horribly deformed by a sulphur hand grenade that exploded prematurely as he prepared to throw it. Davey Roever was in Viet Nam aboard a P.T. boat used to patrol the various rivers. One day they were attacked by Viet Cong and as they returned fire, Davey prepared to throw a sulphur hand grenade to burn away some of the undergrowth. The grenade exploded right next to his head, blowing half of his face into the water as he watched. I've also had the privilege of hearing him share his testimony, and again, there is an overwhelming sense of good humor and an inner peace and beauty that one comes from God. It is my prayer that I can follow in their train as a living martyr for God.
Paul longed only to know the Lord, the fellowship of his suffering being made conformable unto his death. Historians, according to tradition, tell us that Paul was finally beheaded by the Roman Emperor Nero. Millions upon millions of Christians were put to death under the tyranny of ten despotic Roman Emperors, dying the most hideous, horrible deaths that their sick minds could imagine. The books, "FOXES BOOK OF MARTYRS" and "BY THEIR BLOOD" by Hefley, describe in very graphic detail deaths of martyrs throughout the ages and also those who are our contemporaries.
The songwriter, Reginald Heber has written aptly,
"The Son of God goes forth to war, A kingly crown to gain;
His blood-red banner streams afar: Who follows in His train?
Who best can drink his cup of woe, Triumphant over pain,
Who patient bears his cross below, He follows in His train."
In all probability, we will never be required to seal our testimony with our own blood, but it is still possible for us, like Paul, to know the fellowship of his suffering.
Peter, the Apostle, also tells us this should not seem like something strange has happened to us because we should expect it. It will happen. Then he gives us an unusual response, "But rejoice." That is a easy thing to say, but for us to rejoice in the time of suffering and pain is a little difficult for most people. However, Peter gives us the reason, "Inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's suffering," when the Lord comes back to earth again we will be glad with exceeding joy. Paul sums it up for us in II Timothy 2:12:
"If we suffer, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us."
My mind for several months had feverishly searched for the reason for the testing in my life. And I had come to grips with each one you have seen in this book. God sometimes uses pain and suffering in our lives to comfort others. He also allows us to be conformed to the image of His Son. We have also seen that God sometimes uses pain to chasten Christians, bringing them into right fellowship with Him. And we have just seen the fourth possibility, closeness, of actually entering into the suffering of Jesus Christ, to suffer with Him and some day to reign with Him. What if God in His tremendous grace was permitting me to enter into the suffering of Jesus Christ? What if God was allowing me in some way to follow in His train? Of course, I do not feel I am worthy but it would be an incredible privilege to be a partaker of Christ's sufferings. Could this be the reason for your suffering: that God may be allowing you to enter into the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ? Some day soon, when He comes you will be rejoicing with exceeding joy as you reign with Him. Hang in there. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
Martha and Helen Major used to sing a beautiful duet that always touched my heart only as music can. And since it is relevant to this point I am adding it below.
REJOICE IN THE LORD
God never moves without purpose or plan
When trying His servant and molding a man.
Give thanks to the Lord though your testing seems long;
In darkness He giveth a song.
Now I can see testing comes from above;
God strengthens His children and purges in love.
My Father knows best, and I trust in His care;
Through purging more fruit I will bear.
O rejoice in the Lord,
He makes no mistake.
He knoweth the end of each path that I take.
For when I am tried and purified,
I shall come forth as gold.
How can finite man understand an infinite God? Or can the created, question the creator of the universe? It might seem that God is distant, too far away to be involved with our feelings and pain. Some would accuse God of being unloving and not caring about our crushing problems. Others would say God does not reveal Himself today as in the past. Yet God clearly and distinctly tells us, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways."
During my first year of Bible school, desperately needing an electric typewriter and being frugal, I went to a pawn shop to try to find a good bargain.
There it was; my hunt was successful. Of course, it was a little banged up, having been used and probably abused. Nonetheless it was in my price range and I was elated. I was very quickly assured by God that this was a good deal and that He would be so proud of me for being a good steward of His money. So prayers were raised for the $70 needed so desperately for the typewriter. And true to His promises, God honored my quarter grain mustard seed of faith. In about a week I received a check in the mail for $70 exactly.
So it was off again to the pawn broker with my money in my hot little hand. Seeing the proprietor, I had a big smile on my face telling him that I wanted to pick up the typewriter.
"It's gone; I sold it last week."
My outboard engine started up, but, but, but, but, then it stalled with, "That was my typewriter." The store owner asked the obvious question about how much money I had put down on it. That surely must have been rhetorical because he already knew the answer.
I felt dejected, rejected, and ejected leaving the shop, asking God why He gave me the $70 and then did not keep the typewriter for me. Three hundred reasons were running through my head justifying the need for a typewriter. He knew just how important it was for required theses, term papers, and a myriad of other papers that needed typing.
A couple of days later Martha made the declaration which causes every husband to cringe, "Sweetheart, the washing machine is broken!" Everyone has had some extra money that was being saved for something special when there was an unexpected doctor bill or one of the children needed money for school pictures; the cache is revealed. Well, so much for the $70.
About a month later it was Easter, and Martha's brother invited us to Pontiac for the weekend. After dinner, Chuck (Martha's brother) asked Martha to close her eyes. There was a rustle of gift wrap and Chuck appeared with a very large box explaining that he and his Mom had bought it over a month ago and were waiting for a chance to give it to us.
Like a child on Christmas morning, Martha tore away the gift wrapping and there to our bewilderment was a NEW SMITH CORONA ELECTRIC TYPEWRITER! Happiness, joy, exhilarating excitement?! No, those were not my feelings at all.
There was a gentle rebuke in my heart as the Holy Spirit instructed me. It was as though He were saying, you asked me for a typewriter and I already had a new one for you. My children are never given junk because they are children of the King. They always get the best. My problem was not having enough faith to trust and wait for God to answer. My efforts to help God were weak and ineffectual, and the lesson I learned was that God's will and ways are always best.
There came a time and a place where I had to submit to the fact that God is God; and in His sovereignty He controls everything in this universe. That means not questioning "what" He does or "how" He does it. It's holding His hand when it's too dark to see! It's clinging to His promises when pain is unbearable! It's resting in His arms when there is no strength to carry on! It is saying with Job, "though he slay me, still I will trust him."
I had a tremendous concern about the witness of my life to those who had cared for and visited me in the hospital. It was very important for me to be a good testimony for the Lord. Several times the doctors and nurses would make comments saying that they knew I was a Christian and that my faith was in God. And even now if we are traveling in Traverse City, there is always a visit to "2 East", my home for eight months. We are always greeted with shouts, "The Miracle Man is here," the halls and corridors resound as nurses and volunteers rush to greet us with hugs, kisses, and tears.
After recovering from the pancreatitis, it was several months before I had enough strength to travel, let alone speak. Churches began calling me, asking me to come and share my testimony. I started working on a testimony that would be a synopsis of my nine months of hell. So the title, "MIRACLE MAN" has stuck! Even now when traveling, people will come up and say, "Aren't you the miracle man? We have prayed for you ever since you were first sick." Others will tell me that they have heard all about me and just wanted to see me. To which I jokingly comment, "That's got to be a real disappointment!"
The main thrust of my ministry is revival, which seems to be God's message to the church today. At first, it was in churches who had previously heard my testimony; then it started spreading. Special meetings were held in Montana, Maryland, Ohio, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Illinois, North Dakota, and all over Michigan. God has given me a ministry even in Africa, having the privilege of speaking to several different tribes with an "interrupter."
Everywhere I go, I find a ministry to those who are hurting physically, emotionally, and mentally. The Holy Spirit has prepared me to have empathy and concern.
While speaking in a small church in Illinois on a Wednesday evening, I related the time when I had a angry confrontation with God, begging Him to let me die! Suddenly a young lady started crying uncontrollably...and I asked if I could help her. The flood gates of her emotions broke open. With tears streaming down her face and her voice choked with sobs, she cried out, "My mother was 43 years old when she died of pancreatitis and you still are alive!" There was a deafening silence as the congregation was stunned by her outburst.
A prayer of desperation flew from my heart to the throne of my Father to please give me wisdom. In desperation I sought for just the right words to say. Suddenly, I realized exactly what needed to be said. "Medically speaking, I am dead; several surgeons have told me, 'No one lives through pancreatitis as severe as yours.' But it was not God's will for me to die...He still requires something from my life."
Ignoring the rest of the congregation, I probed deeper into the open wound, asking her if she was still angry with God for taking her mother when she so desperately needed her. Visibly shaking, she affirmed this. I asked her to please do one thing for me: tonight when she got home, to go before God and tell Him how angry she was. Tell Him everything she felt in her heart. God can handle anger very well. Then to ask Him to take away all the anger and give her His peace and joy. And I promised He would do it.
After almost one year had passed a dear friend from that church called, telling us about the tremendous change in the life of that lady. She was a glowing Christian now, with a vibrant testimony for her Lord. Praise God that He is truly the God of all comfort.
A church in Deckerville, Michigan invited me to speak. When I shared about my surgery while in ICU at the Munson Medical Center and the surgeon's prognosis of acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis, it was as if the whole congregation stopped breathing. So dramatic was the response of the people, I thought maybe I had inadvertently said something to offend them. At the close of the service a lady approached me with what I was sure would be a rebuke. Actually it was information that explained the mood of the congregation. "I'm sure you are not aware of it, but just this week a young man 18 years old died of pancreatitis!"
Recovering from that shock, a dear woman named Shirley, weeping, embraced me saying, "You are the only one who knows how I feel." The soul-stirring story of the last two years of her life unfolded as a terrible tribute to pain and suffering. Nine months before, her husband had passed away. Then it was discovered that she had a cancerous brain tumor which required much surgery, radiation treatment, and chemotherapy. In addition, last year Shirley's son was terribly hurt in a farm machinery accident losing one leg and having the other one mangled unbelievably. It has taken months and months of rehabilitation for the leg to be functional. This family is pure gold, reinforced with human spirit of steel.
There have also been several times that were quite humorous such as in Missoula, Montana. After speaking in a small church, a middle aged man, obviously a cowboy, came up to me looking very sheepish. With sort of a half smile he stated, "For the last few months I have been belly aching about a little arthritis in my left hand but I promise you I'll never complain again!"
Sometimes God has to put things in perspective for me. An elderly man also in that church greeted me, his head still bandaged from surgery for a cancerous brain tumor. "You really have encouraged me tonight, and I believe God is going to completely heal me." Without faith it is impossible to please God, surely God is well pleased with this brother.
I have seen God pour out revival on cold, calloused churches, starting the flames of revival, to work miraculously in the lives of individuals, transforming them for His glory. I've seen the unsaved come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. God has raised me up to glorify His precious Holy name. Though unworthy, I am still most willing.
Yes, there is a better understanding of all that God has allowed in my life and the purpose for it. He has spared my life to minister His precious Word. The ministry? Comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comforted.
LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER?
You may be thinking, here's a guy who went through a rough time, now everything is great for him and all his problems are over. It is easy for him to "rejoice in the Lord" and to be praising God. Such is not the case; I'm still having problems, my suffering has not ended.
In January of 1989 while walking my usual five miles in an hour, there was a slight tightening in my chest. It was quite chilly that day, but it definitely was a pain previously experienced. The first thought was denial. It's just the cold air, or possibly some kind of flu bug that everyone was passing around. But continuing to walk, the reality sent a shiver of unbelief causing a cold sweat. This is angina! There is something wrong with my heart! Like a bad dream which keeps recurring every time you fall asleep, the chest pain started to haunt me.
Dr. LaPenna, my cardiologist, started me on a heart medication, telling me that it would probably control the chest pain. Determinedly, I told him we needed to find out what exactly was wrong. Desperate words from a man who already knew what was causing the pain. The doctor knew that a thallium stress test would not placate me and that only a heart catheterization would be definitive.
I informed him of my first heart catheterization some eight years before and that I had a dangerous reaction to the I.V.P. dye. My heart would stop again. He, of course, assured me that there was nothing to worry about because he would give me medication to prevent any problems. I suggested that he write it on the medical folder now. Another doctor had told me not to worry.
The doctor clearly thought I was a very intense person, as he wrote "allergic reaction" across my medical chart. He wasn't the first person to tell me that. A date was set for the catheterization and a barrage of pills were taken as a preventative measure. The procedure revealed I had two blockages and one graft occlusion.
I asked for the doctor's prognosis. He believed that it was not life threatening and with medication we could control the pain probably for several years. His words seemed empty because of the severity of my chest pain. The constant use of nitroglycerin tablets told me the real story--that surgery would be much sooner.
Again, the old question, "WHY?" crept back. Trying with all my strength to do God's will, preaching to God's people, and seeing God reveal His Power, I was still faced with debilitating pain, the prospect of surgery again, and months of recuperation. My speaking itinerary was scheduled for the rest of the year and bookings were being made for the next year. I was even praying that God would divinely heal the heart, allowing me to continue to serve Him. But it seemed as though He was saying, "My grace is sufficient."
Late September in 1990, while preaching in Michigan's upper peninsula on a Monday night, it was very evident that the Holy Spirit was moving among the congregation. It was also very evident that I was having world class chest pain. At the end of the service, while closing in prayer, I started taking Nitro one...two...three...four...with no relief. A strange thought occurred to me: what a privilege to go home while preaching the Word of God. Talk about going out in a blaze of glory! One thing for sure, these people won't forget this message. The pain subsided slightly and I slowly made my way to the pastor's house next door.
"It feels like I'm having a heart attack." Needless to say, that provoked a flurry of excitement and a rushed trip to the Ste. Saint Marie Hospital.
The doctor's opinion was that I hadn't had a heart attack, but that I should be kept for at least 24 hours for observation. Canceled meetings...Family panicked...Long trip home...More canceled meetings...and LOTS more pain.
Dr. LaPenna was very concerned about how quickly my heart had deteriorated and suggested a doctor in Royal Oak, Michigan who performs laser surgery on the heart. Calls were made. Films and records were sent. Confirmation was received from Royal Oak that my case had been accepted.
It seems like a broken record, but pain steadily increased until there was no respite. I was popping nitro like it was popcorn and still no relief. This scenario of ever increasing pain would, in all probability, end in a matter of days with a massive heart attack. I had been there before.
Another phone call was made to Dr. O'Neill at Royal Oak to express the urgency and seriousness of my heart's condition. The nurse instructed me to get there as soon as possible, since the doctor had already scheduled me for the procedure.
Arriving at Beaumont Hospital they did all the preliminary tests, assuring me that if it were necessary they would do an emergency procedure on me. Because of my allergy to I.V.P. dye, I took a battery of antihistamines and steroids to avoid a reaction.
The next morning after an IV was started, they prepared me for the surgery. First, laser surgery consists of going through the large femoral leg artery with a catheter to locate the damage or obstruction. A nurse brought me a form to sign, which stated that this trial was experimental, there was no research to indicate the long term effects of the charring (as in burning) of the arteries by laser, and explained all the adverse effects that were possible, ending, of course, with the possibility of death. Isn't that encouraging? The procedure is long and painful. It is necessary for the patient to remain awake. They do, however, give you pain medication when the pain becomes too intense, which it does!
"That is incredible--there is no blood coming to your heart through one major artery...that should have been fatal," Dr. O'Neill exclaimed. told him that I'd heard that before. He went on to explain that three arteries were very blocked. But one major artery was completely blocked off and that the graft from the bypass surgery, which feeds the major artery, was 100% occluded by a blood clot. The entire length of it was closed off. He stated again, in disbelief, that there was absolutely no blood going through that artery. The team decided to blast open the three blocked arteries with the laser.
Then they put in another catheter and left it in the artery that was blocked with the blood clot. Heparin would be infused to dissolve the clot. The next day they had to go in two more times to finish the job.
By the time I was finished, my leg was so bruised from the groin to the knee that it looked as though it had been painted with black paint. From that point on, when nurses came into my room they asked me if I was the "cat man" (like with nine lives). The word had spread rapidly.
It may have been the procedure or the massive doses of I.V.P. dye, but I became very ill. The bypass surgery was easier to tolerate than the laser treatment. Because of the physical illness, it was necessary for me to remain in the hospital for almost a week. In spite of the doctor's words of encouragement and the evaluation letter sent to Dr. LaPenna, the feeling that it was not right still prevailed.
Upon arriving home, very sick and somewhat depressed, limping because of the damage done to my leg, I still had that nagging feeling. The heart didn't seem right and there was one way to confirm my suspicions.
The only test that would allay the doubts and fears, was to walk. So Martha and I proceeded with the test. Walking very slowly, we started around the block, trying things carefully. After about half a block the searing pain shot across my chest and stopped me cold.
"You better take a 'nitro'," Martha's voice was quivering and that terrible sadness was in her eyes again. Suspicions were confirmed; time to call Dr. LaPenna.
Dr. LaPenna had just received a glowing report from Dr. O'Neill. He was positive I would be free from pain.
"Doctor, it didn't work; the pain is worse."
His voice was not asking but rather imploring me to be sure it was heart pain. That I was still having pain was incredible to him. The next question was not one that I expected. Was I willing to try to walk a stress test in spite of the constant pain? I agreed and his nurse made me an appointment.
A couple of days later at his office, a nurse attached all the electrodes to my chest and Dr. LaPenna came in with two other doctors asking if I minded if they observed. It was obviously a rhetorical question, since they would anyway.
"We will start slowly, then see how much you can tolerate on the stress test." As if I needed more stress in my life! The usual target rate is about 150 beats per minute, for a person my age. In case you are not familiar with a stress test, the machine looks like a treadmill that has several monitoring devices. The treadmill not only runs faster at different stages but also raises to several incline positions making it more difficult and strenuous to walk.
Looking at the electric paddles under the EKG monitor with fear and trepidation, I silently prayed that they might not be needed.
We started slowly as the doctor had promised. After about two minutes, he asked if they could escalate the speed. As I started speeding up, I looked over at the heart rate monitor and the rate had reached about 96 beats per minute (BPM).
Then it started. Pain streaked across my chest almost taking my breath away. Trying to push through the pain was useless because the drumming in my ears and stifling pain across the chest told me very loudly that my heart was through being stressed.
One hundred six BPM flashed on the screen. That was it. The test was finished! The pain was too severe and I told them that I had to stop. The EKG flattened out.
Dr. LaPenna ordered it shut down immediately and he instructed me to walk enough to allow the heart to slow down gradually. He could clearly see that my heart was not working correctly.
The EKG flattened out; the heart was not working!
"You didn't think it was my heart, did you doc? You thought it was psychosomatic."
If anyone should know heart pain, I should. He had just hoped I was mistaken. I suggested doing a workup and doing a second bypass surgery. Then he dropped a bomb that was definitely nuclear. He was very sorry because bypass surgery was no longer an option, especially since I was a pancreatitis patient. In all probability, I would have a reoccurrence of that disease: the surgery would almost certainly trigger another pancreatitis attack.
Had he reached out with all his strength and hit me in the face, he could not have shocked me more. I was staggered by the impact of his statement; there were very few options left.
He called Dr. O'Neill, from Royal Oak, to advise him of this new development. Like a man with a mission, Dr. LaPenna scheduled me for surgery again and told me to get to Royal Oak as soon as possible. Deja' vu!
We checked into the "Powell Motel" (Martha's brother) on Saturday in order to be there before Monday morning. But Sunday night after having severe chest pain and difficulty breathing, Martha called the emergency unit for advice. They told her to bring me in, my room was waiting.
The second procedure was much worse than the first one, if possible. Another blood clot had formed. They performed an arthrectomy, affectionately called the "Roto Rooter." A catheter was inserted in the left leg and this acts as a guide for the "cutting tool" which consists of two very sharp cutting blades that are rotated at approximately 2,000 revolutions per minute. The surgeon runs this back and forth throughout the entire length of the artery. The arthrectomy is a dangerous procedure that also comes with the standard disclaimer and warnings. It is possible for the cutting edges of the tool used to tear a hole in the artery requiring immediate bypass surgery.
As they were concluding the surgery, the horror of spending all those months in the hospital returned. Nausea overwhelmed my body and vomiting started as the nurses hurried to get me an emesis pan. I was vomiting bile--sickly, green bile! The dread and fear of pancreatitis came rushing back like some terrible, haunting apparition.
Three days later the doctor released me, sick and discouraged. My left leg was so torn up by the insertion of the tool that I could scarcely walk. My first night home became torturous both physically and emotionally. I was terrified as I prepared to go to bed. Pancreatitis pain racked my body, drawing my legs up in reflexive action to withstand the pain.
Is it possible?! Is there one in a thousand chances that the arthrectomy had triggered another attack of pancreatitis? Had Dr. LaPenna's warning about possible recurring pancreatitis become a reality? Prayers of desperation poured from the depths of my heart for relief from the pain. By the next morning the pain subsided. Praise His Holy Name!
All I do know is that I have given all to Him, my life, my possessions, my ambitions, my desires. Even during this time of affliction, my Father allowed me to share the Lord Jesus Christ with doctors, nurses, and room partners. I trust Him completely. There may be more furnaces, more surgeries, affliction, pain and sorrow in the future, but by God's grace I will face each new trial with peace and even rejoicing, knowing my faith is being tested as gold purified by fire.
Martha's leg, after nine years, had not yet healed. The doctor, in a fifth surgery, removed the nine-inch plate from her leg allowing the bone to completely heal. I didn't have any peace about this procedure. Three months later, as Martha was walking down the stairs in our home, the bone broke! So we were back to square one again.
We waited patiently for several months, hoping that the leg would possibly start healing, but in our hearts we knew that there was no probability that it would. Doctors had stated before that there must be another operation and a new bone graft to facilitate new growth.
We made an appointment with Doctor Waddell in Grand Rapids to consider the options at this point in our lives. It was like a pre-recorded message as we listened to his litany of processes and procedures that were available. Cast or no cast, brace or not, on and on ad nauseam. We had heard it a zillion times. Then he suggested a very discouraging option: surgery. Again my spirit plummeted into despair. Why go through surgery again, it had not accomplished anything in 10 years! Why put Martha through yet one more surgery? It was a 1,000 to 1 chance. We all realized that at some point, after so many surgeries interrupting the blood supply, they would have to amputate the leg. I recoiled at the thought of Martha, after so much pain and surgery, so many crutches and braces, having to lose her leg. Then she said something that revealed the depths of her courage: "Maybe we should just go ahead and take the leg off." There were no tears, no emotion, no heroics. Just the words of a woman who wanted to get on with her life. The doctor assured us that amputation was not even an option.
Dr. Waddell felt that one of the first procedures that should have been tried was to insert a steel rod from just below the knee to the ankle and then fixate the bone to the rod to keep the foot from rotating. That would allow the two broken ends of the bone to make contact when she walked. This is what he recommended we do now. Sounded like a very long shot to me. I had only one question: What were the odds? Technically, he gave it 40% but his face showed the chances to be closer to slim or none.
The surgery was performed in April of 1992, and it was encouraging when the doctor said the rod would never break. Surprisingly, he said that he would not cast it, but rather wanted her to walk on crutches using the leg as much as she could tolerate the pain.
After three months she returned for x-rays and an evaluation. A glimmer of hope appeared when a faint line on the x-rays indicated there could possibly be new bone. We tried not to get our hopes up. Another three months and another trip to the orthopaedic surgeon produced joy and laughing and crying. "It's a miracle; the leg is completely healed." The doctor was as happy as we were. Then he admitted the truth about expecting the leg not to heal at all. God, our loving heavenly Father, had touched Martha's leg and it was now time for it to be healed. What a blessing to see Martha walking without crutches. And wearing two shoes! Martha had attempted to buy just one shoe at many shoe stores which was always good for a laugh. Now she wanted to buy all new shoes because she no longer had any pairs that matched; one would be all scuffed up with no heels and the other would be brand new.
God displayed His grace and faithfulness in many ways to us. Another time was a few months after I returned home from the University of Michigan Hospital. I had been on Social Security several months, after it had already taken 5 months of hospitalization before they "gave" me any benefits. We received a letter stating that since my pancreas had healed, the Social Security benefits would cease. I suppose that the pancreas had stopped bleeding but I was hardly able to get out of bed. I had been warned by Dr. Benner that it would take three years to get back on my feet again. And the full impact of that warning was very evident.
We started the long appeal process. Again benefits were denied by our case worker, who we found had a history of denying benefits to those completely disabled.
We were advised to go and see if we were qualified to receive surplus food. We answered many questions about our financial status. As the man wrote on a form, he asked about all our living and medical expenses, house payment, car payment, and insurance payments, etc. Tallying up the debit column, we had over $1,500 a month in expenses. Then he needed to know all of our income. Martha produced a check stub from Social Security for her broken leg, in the amount of $230 a month.
He carefully wrote that figure in a column on the other side of the form and then asked me how much I made in the last four months. I explained that I had been on Social Security, but the benefit had been denied so I had no income. He got an incredulous look on his face as he verified the facts: "You have over $1,500 a month in expenses and you only have $230 a month in benefits? It can't be done! That is impossible." Not with God, were the only words I could say. We lived a year and one-half on $230 a month and surplus food, never missing paying any bills (of which there were many) or missing a meal. Every time there was a bill, we never failed to receive a letter or card with a check or money in it. There was always enough to meet our needs. Philippians 4:19 says "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Time and time again we have seen the faithfulness of God.
God even used the surplus food agent, who counseled us to hire an attorney to re-appeal the decision made by our Social Security case worker. We won a judgment based on letters sent from two of my doctors showing complete disability. The benefits were even retroactive.
Our God is able to do exceedingly more than we think or ask. And the truth of His Word about His faithfulness is summated in Lamentations 3:22-23. It is because of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The question that I reiterated over and over when this ordeal began was, why is this happening to me? There were, of course, no answers or lightening bolts from heaven. I realized soon after my hospitalization for pancreatitis that death was imminent and my world was crumbling in a heap. And there was absolutely nothing in my power I could do to change that. Later, after progressing out of I.C.U. ward, I began to see there was a big picture and that somehow all this pain and surgery were like the black and gray tones in my life. The lives of those who suffer may seem to be filled with somber tones of blacks or midnight blues or darkest purple and it may be hard for them to comprehend the value or worth of their existence. Then as the master jeweler completes his skillful handiwork and places it in the center of that dark velvet, the background fades into oblivion as all attention is focused on the beautiful treasure set in the purest of gold. And at that point we see that God was just displaying his faithfulness and eternal purpose for our lives.
One area of God's handiwork is my perception. I can see when people are suffering; I feel their pain. And I have great empathy for their emotional and physical pain. Another beautiful facet of God's brilliance, is knowing what to say to them. This is not of myself but rather of the Holy Spirit who reveals the reason for their hurt and trauma. Many times I've sensed when someone has been physically or sexually abused as a child. I have no idea why I'm able to do this. The only explanation I have is that the Holy Spirit has given me the gift of discernment.
Now Martha is able to walk without crutches. I'm able to minister in churches in several states and I continue to see the reason for God's plan of suffering in my life. I feel very privileged to have been chosen for this ministry. I look forward eagerly to what God has in store for my future.
HE KNOWETH THE WAY THAT I TAKE; WHEN HE HATH TRIED ME, I SHALL COME FORTH AS
MALACHI 3:3, "AND HE SHALL SIT LIKE A REFINER AND PURIFIER
OF SILVER; AND HE SHALL PURIFY THE SONS OF LEVI, AND PURGE THEM LIKE GOLD
AND SILVER, THAT THEY MAY OFFER UNTO THE LORD AN OFFERING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS."
I PETER 1:6-7, "IN THIS YE GREATLY REJOICE, THOUGH NOW FOR A SEASON, IF NEED BE, YE ARE IN HEAVINESS THROUGH MANIFOLD TRIALS, THAT THE TRIAL OF YOUR FAITH, BEING MUCH MORE PRECIOUS THAN OF GOLD THAT PERISHETH, THOUGH IT BE TRIED WITH FIRE, MIGHT BE FOUND UNTO PRAISE AND HONOR AND GLORY AT THE APPEARING OF JESUS CHRIST." (KJV)
Editor's Note: Let
this music video minister healing to you:
Editor's Note: Let this music video minister healing to you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcMC7-tJ0g4&feature=related
can hear Dan share various testimonies on video by going to any popular
Internet Search Engine and typing in:
Dan Revoir Video Testimonies
You can hear Dan share various testimonies on video by going to any popular Internet Search Engine and typing in: Dan Revoir Video Testimonies
If you would like to order a personal copy of this book, you can email or write the address below. The book sells for $9.95 (postage and handling is included in this cost).
Dan Revoir emphatically states he does not have the gift of healing! But he feels that he has the gift of counseling (helping people) and the gift of discernment. As he talks to people he senses depression and abuse issues; also demonic attacks, enabling him to pray with wisdom.
When praying he seeks God's will and the leading of the Holy Spirit, usually with tears! When asked how he prays, his response is 'I pray God's Word back to Him.' Examples are: Numbers 23:19 'God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent. Hath he said and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken and shall he not make it good?'
You see God is bound to His own Word. Psalms 138:2 tells us that God magnifies His Word above all His name. His Word is the most important thing in the universe.
Psalms 107:19 -20 'Then they shall cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses, He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.' Dan uses these verses and others when praying for the sick and afflicted, when it glorifies God He shows His mighty arm. Jeremiah 33:3 God states 'Call on me and I will answer thee and show you great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.'
Before you consider contacting him you must answer these three questions.
1. Are you truly born again? Have you asked the Lord Jesus Christ into your heart and life?
2. Are you attending a Bible-believing, preaching church?
3. Have you called for the elders of your church to come and anoint you with oil and pray for you? James 5:14 ' 16
Dan's email address is: email@example.com
917 Dorothy N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
More About brother Dan: http://www.precious-testimonies.com/RevoirBook1/aboutdanrevoir.htm
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