Asking The Right Question

Difficult situations often take us through a roller coaster of emotions. When times are good, we usually feel comfortable in our knowledge and understanding of God’s Sovereignty (that God is in complete control). However, sometimes when life is running less than ideal, we can let several different types of wrong-thinking creep in. What types of wrong-thinking? I believe sometimes we can find we are developing an almost sense of entitlement (I’m a Christian, therefore God should make sure my life is good), or a condescending type of doubt (If God is supposedly in control, why doesn’t he “fix this”), or maybe worst of all, arrogance (I have my own plans, I know what’s best in my life, and this situation isn’t in alignment with that). 

And so, when we are in the midst of storms in our lives, we my find ourselves asking “Where is God?” However, I think we can begin to get in a better mindset if we understand there is a difference in questioning where God is in a situation, as opposed to asking if God will reveal himself. I feel the former question, if we aren’t careful, can come from (or even build up) some of that wrong-thinking I mentioned above. The latter question, however, firmly plants our feet on a solid biblical foundation. By asking if God will reveal himself, baked-in to that question is the presupposition that God is already right there with us—we just don’t see him. It sets up our acknowledgement that what is happening is well within God’s control, and that it’s part of a much larger plan. I’m not claiming its always a breeze, as often that larger plan may not be visible to us. However, sometimes, God puts the pieces together in such an obvious way, it slaps us in the face and we can’t help but praise him in our storm (somebody cue Casting Crown). 

As some of you may know, a couple of weeks ago my position was eliminated where I work, and I found myself unemployed. It came at a particularly challenging time in our lives, as numerous other mini & moderate storms had been hitting over the past couple of months. While there were obviously some of those roller coaster emotions I talked about earlier, I did (for some unbeknownst reason to me) have this way down deep underlying peace about it.

When I found out the news, my favorite verse came to my mind, and became my focus that day:

“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

When you study this verse, one thing you will find is the “be still” phrase is often not fully comprehended. A better translation for it is “Stop Striving”, or “Cease.” This verse tells us to stop what we are doing, and realize who God is. Too often we try to run our own lives in our own way, and that is not what we are called to do. We are told in Prov 3:5 to “Trust the Lord in all we do.” 

What I didn’t realize though was how (literally) life-saving this event would be. After about a week, I figured I’d go ahead and get some things done I had been putting off because of how busy I was. I scheduled numerous appointments like the dentist, my eye doctor, and as it ended up being, most importantly I decided to try to get in to see my cardiologist. 

For the past few months, I have been battling a couple health issues. One of the problems is dealing with severe pain in my fingers and hands, and the other is ongoing significant chest pain. During this time I have been to the immediate care, once to the emergency room, and twice to my primary-care doctor trying to get to the bottom of it. The immediate care told me it was asthma flaring up, the emergency room did an EKG and said my ‘heart looked like a million bucks,’ and 3 weeks ago my primary doctor said he didn’t know what the chest pain was, but he “wasn’t worried about it.” 

So as I mentioned–I’m getting my teeth & eyes checked out, and since I had the time, I might as well go check with my cardiologist to see if he has any idea what is going on. I couldn’t get into his schedule, but they did set up an appointment for me to meet with his physician’s assistant. She thought I should get a stress test as a next step, and it was scheduled in two days, which was Thursday, Dec 13th, 2018. 

That morning I failed the stress test, as I couldn’t even get my heart above 130 because of how bad I was short of breath. Previously I thought shortness of breath was something like the heavy breathing you get after intense exertion. Well, I now realize it’s not, it’s more like you are drowning. It’s a terrifying feeling, and brings with it a very hard to describe type of pain. 

Since I couldn’t complete the test on the treadmill, they used something called Lexiscan, which is an injection that increases blood flow in the arteries to simulate the workload on your heart. And while I felt like that was going to kill me, it did (along with a couple of rounds of imaging) allow them to get the data they needed.

After reviewing the results, their doctor met with me about 10 minutes later and brought me the first of what would end up being several upcoming “tough conversations.” He told me 50% of my heart was not getting blood. (Note that’s not 50% blockage, it means a critical blockage that is affecting half my heart) He set up an appointment with a Cardiologist two hours later, and they scheduled me to have a heart catheterization ASAP. We waited there for over four hours, but they ended up not being able to squeeze me in, so they admitted me (into ER because of no beds in Cardiac), and the next morning they got me in for the test. 

After the heart catheterization, since I was still in la la land from the sedation, Mindy (my wife) got to hear the second of these tough conversations. They discovered and diagramed for her how I had 4 serious blockages—70%, 90%, 95%, & 100%. They filled me in on it later, but the last, and definitely the toughest news–I am scheduled for a triple bypass surgery on the morning of Tuesday, December 18th! (Two were on the same artery, so that’s why its not a quadruple) While based on my numerous health struggles, I figured this would (at some point) be in my future. What I just didn’t expect, however, is it would be at the age of 45! They told me not only was I a “ticking time bomb” to have a heart attack, with the 50% of my heart not getting blood, I wouldn’t have survived. 

Because of the seriousness of my condition, I’m here until the surgery, which honestly is fine with me. But what IMMEDIATELY hit me in the face when I heard the prognosis—how blessed I was to have been given this “free time.” I feel with a very high degree of certainty, given how much everyone previous said my chest pain wasn’t a serious problem, I only got this checked out because I had the time, and I thought “why not.” 🤷🏻‍♂️

To bring this back to the original point of this post, when we face trials, it’s so easy to slip into wrong thinking and only be looking at what is happening “in the moment.” It’s so easy to allow emotions of anger, frustration, or self-pity to creep in. It’s so easy to overlook what we know about God’s Sovereignty and question “where is God???”

Instead, my encouragement to you is to pray ahead of the stormy times, and ask God to help you grow in the depths of your understanding of His Providence and His Sovereignty. Build you faith on this foundation of knowledge of what him being Sovereign means. When you do, your prayers will change from a focus on you “Where are you God in MY time of need?” to instead a focus on Him “God, Please reveal yourself to me here.”