I can remember three times when debilitating fear struck me when i was sick.
One was when I had been sick for a few months and Yolanda and I were sitting on the couch at our house waiting for the results of a CAT scan of my head/eye area. I remember laying on the couch and not saying anything to Yolanda and my mind wandering from cancer to anything that could be worse. The test came back negative and the doctor said that everything (minus my eye situation) looked normal.
I can also remember being sent to the hospital to get a test for Grand Wegeners disease as a possible solution to why my eye was flaring up. I remember laying in the hospital before being admitted to the ICU and singing, with tears in my eyes, an old Imperials song “He Didn’t Lift Us Up To Let Us Down”. I got my kidney biopsy with a three day stay in ICU to make sure I didn’t have internal bleeding and released with another “good” report that my immune system was not functioning correctly and the core issue of my eye flaring up. This didn’t help where I was mentally and struggling to get a foothold on my disease.
The third time was when I took a trip to Barnes Eye Institute in St. Louis Missouri to meet with one of the best retinal doctors in the country. Barnes is known as the “Mayo Clinic for eyes” and I had high hopes that they would be able to give clarity to why my eye was acting up and giving me issues. I remember sitting in the examination chair with my eye dilated (which I have and always will hate) and the doctor taking a look in my eye and saying, “It looks like your doctor in Colorado is doing all he can. I don’t have another solution to your issue.” It was like someone punched me in the stomach.
Each of these situations gave me greater insight into what despair looked like when someone faces an issue, especially when it comes to fear and health. The best way I could describe what I was feeling during my entire time of being sick was like I had claustrophobia but it was coming from inside me and not from outside forces. Meaning, there was nothing I felt like I could do or anywhere I could go to make it better. It was like I was drowning inside myself with water pouring down my throat and an anchor tied around my foot.
I learned that when i got sick I knew Jesus for everyone else besides myself. In essence, I had lost my first love with Christ and thought that I was in full control of my destiny as a youth pastor and able to just cruise through life because I was a good person and doing the work of the Lord. I believe that God had to interrupt my life so that I could recalibrate and learn how to trust him even in the darkest days or nights.
I share these things to illustrate what it was like to lose control, or what I THOUGHT I was in control of, in my life. You see, we live our lives with a false sense of controlling the things around us or even our own health. Of course, we can be wise and eat healthy, get sleep, etc. but the reality of life is that we cannot prevent all bad things from happening to us. I can almost remember to the day after being sick for so many years when i finally let go and said to God, “I recognize that I cannot control this situation and whatever you have for me is what I will receive.” After I prayed that prayer, things turned around for me. It was not that I was succumbing to defeat but deciding to live my life in SURRENDER.
It is funny to think about how I reacted when I got sick and how I grew up with important outdoor life skills. I do a lot of hiking and always have from when it was a kid. Growing up in Montana, we were always taught one simple and important fact about getting lost in the woods. It wasn’t to bring enough extra supplies or know how to make a shelter, how to sterilize water or even build a fire. It was to STAY CALM. If you lose your head in adverse situations then you already start at a disadvantage. I even had a time when I was hiking a 14er (a 14,000+ ft mountain, for those of you not from Colorado) and got off trail and started going the wrong way up the mountain. I was assessing our situation and making plans to stay overnight in the wilderness but was able to think logically through the situation and not get nervous. Also because of keeping my head, we were able to find the trail again and get back to the car with limited problems. So even with all my learning and understanding of keeping calm in adverse situations I still “lost my head” when i got sick because I felt out of control with limited information about my sickness and why I was dealing with a rotten eyeball.
It is similar in seeing people’s response to not having a lot of information about COVID19 so they spin out of control and (for example) buy up rolls and rolls of toilet paper! There was nothing any of us could have done to prevent where we are and the only thing we can do is STAY CALM, trust in God and take patient steps to get through this season of life. In fact, those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus will be watching how Christians react to this situation and if we are going to walk in the same worry and fear that others do or are we going to show where our hope is; in CHRIST alone. I know that the peace I feel now in this situation is from spending so many years in fear when I was sick with my eye condition and see the results; loss of sleep, tearing down of my trust in God and pulling everyone around me into my black hole of defeat. Christians need to now PROVE all the worship songs we have sung for years in church and take a stand against the enemy and his lies and schemes.
Praying for you all and that the PEACE and love of God surrounds you like a flood and that you will NOT listen to the lies of the devil who wants to try and flex his power when the ONLY power he has is what we allow him to have in our lives. That you will take this time now to develop your relationship to Jesus or maybe start on the journey of making Him the Lord of your life. Once you experience HIS peace there is no virus, no disease no earth-shattering event that can keep you from mental and emotional well being that people have searched for and never found without Christ.