Praise God! Sing Hallelujah! Sue has developed a serious infection in her spinal surgery incision.
Yes. Praise God, indeed!
But a serious infection like this one could cripple Sue, leave her wholly unable to function on her own, or even kill her. It sounds more like an affliction for which you should blame and curse God, not praise Him! Don’t you even care about her suffering?!
Of course I do. I am stricken to my very core seeing her suffer so. I fully understand the gravity of the situation. Yet I say again, Praise God in all things, even in this suffering.
Maybe so, but in this both Sue and I are certain we can trust. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Sue and I both truly do love God, and we know by the sealing of His Holy Spirit dwelling continually and eternally within our hearts that we have been called according to His purpose. Therefore we are assured we can also rest in this promise He gave to the ancient church in Rome by the apostle Paul. Even in this present dangerous affliction through which Sue is suffering, God continues to work all things for our good.
How can you be so sure?
By casting my mind back to the things God has done – throughout our lives certainly, but even just in the past couple of years.
When God gave me the opportunity to work at Blue Cross (although I hadn’t really been actively seeking a job) we had intended to use the extra income to allow us to make some improvements on our Aiken home. We had even made an offer on the empty lot next door hoping to double the size of the pasture for our animals. All the while we had been searching for a new church home in the Aiken area, but hadn’t been able to find one locally, and had been driving instead to Cayce an hour away. But we were unable to get truly plugged into that fellowship except on Sunday mornings due to the distance and the demands at my new job. Knowing our need to be connected with fellow believers, God brought us into a sweet small group fellowship that meets right here in our Aiken neighborhood. Through that fellowship, we have made wonderful new friends who live within a few hundred yards of our house, but whom we had never met in all the years we’ve been living here.
In the midst of all that, God then brought us the opportunity to buy a little mountain lake property the like of which had been a life-long dream about which Sue and I had fantasized together when we passed through the same area on our way for me to meet her family in Michigan right after we got married. Buying such a property at the time was quite beyond our reach, but years later, the income from my job at Blue Cross made it possible for us to buy a property just like the one we had imagined together all those years before. Not only did God make a way for that dream to be fulfilled, He also brought us into a church family that was within easy walking distance of our new property. Knowing that these things were blessings from God in accordance with His sovereign will, we agreed to put our Aiken property up for sale and move permanently up to the mountain property whenever the Aiken sale was complete. We knew that God was directing these things, so we assumed that He would also make the way for the move. We didn’t know then what God had known all along.
When the Aiken property failed to sell as we had hoped, we became confused. We truly believed that God had led us to the beautiful property and loving church family in the mountains. Why then had He not made the way for us to make the move north for nearly a year afterward? God knew through it all what we couldn’t imagine – that Sue would need a major operation on her back within the year. He kept us in Aiken where we already had a family doctor who could refer Sue to the neurosurgeon. If we had moved to the mountains, Sue would have had to start all over with a new primary care doctor seeking that referral. The ongoing degeneration and damage to Sue’s spine would have continued for months or even years more before she could have gotten the needed surgery. Not only that, now that Sue has had the surgery, it has become abundantly clear that the mountain property would not have been conducive to the kind of care she needs in her convalescence, while the Aiken property had been specifically designed with those needs in mind over ten years before when we assumed that Sue’s issues with spinal health would eventually drive her into a wheelchair. In preventing the sale of our Aiken house, God was not only working things out for Sue to get the surgery she needed. He was also ensuring she would have a suitable home in which to recover.
We had intended to use the proceeds from the sale of the Aiken house to pay off the mountain property, but since God had blocked that avenue, I had to keep working because we needed the extra income to make the mountain property payments. We decided instead to pay off the mountain property from savings, keeping both properties while awaiting further revelation of God’s will. For tax purposes, we decided to delay that payoff until the new year. In September I gave my notice at work of my plan to retire on January 15th. Then we got the news about Sue’s back surgery.
It was a major operation lasting twelve hours, involving removal of all the previously installed hardware, breaking of her three existing lumbar fusions, milling of some of her vertebrae to reintroduce the proper curvature to her lumbar spine, and installation of new hardware tying her entire lumbar spine to her thoracic spine and to her pelvis. The projected time for full recovery was up to eighteen months. During this time, Sue is going to need a lot of help doing just the mundane day-to-day tasks that most of us don’t even think about. But there was a problem. The surgery was scheduled for Dec 6th, but I had already promised to stay on the job until Jan 15th! But God already had that worked out as well. Much as it went against my grain, I had decided to leave work before Sue’s surgery even though it would mean breaking my promise to stay. Then, on the very day I was going to give my boss that news, a major reorganization was announced which involved my changing jobs entirely. My promise to my old manager would no longer apply. I was able to retire on time to care for my wife without breaking my word at work. God had worked all these things together all along.
Apart from a complication requiring a two-day re-hospitalization that arose about a week after the surgery, Sue’s recovery had been progressing pretty much as expected until a few days ago. The incision had really never stopped seeping. Despite our best efforts to keep it clean and protected, the seepage became progressively worse. When the home health technician visited a few days ago he didn’t like the way the wound was looking, and asked one of the nurses to come and take a look. That was New Year’s eve. On Jan 2nd the nurse took a look at the wound and called the neurosurgeon’s office immediately. Since she had called during lunch, she had to leave a message. Sue herself did the same. Right after lunch the doctor’s office called back and set up an appointment for later in the afternoon. Oddly, the neurosurgeon himself was in the office not the operating room that afternoon, and Sue was immediately examined by him and by his physician’s assistant. They recommended that Sue go to see a wound infection specialist. The neurosurgeon called him and asked him to examine her. By this time it was about 3:30PM. The wound infection doctor said he could see her that afternoon if we could make it to his office before 4PM.
It was across town, but we made it there before 4PM, so he was able to examine her right away. He prescribed a course of antibiotics starting with an intravenous infusion in his office immediately. Unfortunately, none of Sue’s veins were able to accept the infusion, so instead the doctor prescribed a course of oral antibiotics with the infusion to follow later, and sent us home. It was then about 6:30PM. The wound infection specialist and his staff had kept their office open late just to take care of Sue. We stopped by the pharmacy on the way home, but they didn’t have one of the prescribed drugs on hand. After filling the other two prescriptions, the pharmacist called around to some other pharmacies and found one that had the third antibiotic in stock. They said they could fill the prescription that night if we could get there before they closed at 8PM. In the course of about 8 hours since the nurse’s visit, we had been seen by two specialist doctors in another city, received the needed drugs from two separate pharmacies, and were on our way home to begin the prescribed treatment. Clearly God had orchestrated the whole day for Sue’s healing.
But even apart from all these specific evidences of God working all things for our good in this particular situation, He deserves our continual praise for His daily blessings. How easy it is to forget that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17) So praise God that we live in a world and country where we have readily available rapid transportation that allows us to move quickly between doctors’ offices and pharmacies at a moment’s notice. Praise God that there are such things as neurosurgeons, antibiotics, blood tests, microscopes, and intravenous infusions. Praise God for the blessing of instantaneous telecommunication by which we can provide status to Sue’s doctors, and receive their directions. Praise God that Sue has the nutrition, fresh air, and clean, safe water she needs to strengthen and heal her insulted body. Praise God that He has provided safe, dry shelter and a comfortable bed in which she can convalesce. Praise God that He has given us the wound treatment cleansers and sterile dressings we will use to keep this infection at bay until her immune system regains the upper hand against it. If we really took the time to truly consider all that God does this list of His praises would go on forever (as it should).
Okay. It seems that God has indeed been working all of these things together, and there can be little doubt that God has truly blessed you and Sue. But all of that begs a question. Why didn’t God simply keep you informed about all of these events ahead of time? Surely that would have been more efficient in the working out of His will. If you had been aware, you wouldn’t both have had to make all those seeming missteps that were so disconcerting.
How then could we have learned to trust in God and rely totally upon Him? How could we then have truly come to believe the promise given in Romans 8:28? The Bible teaches that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9) Even if God had revealed all these things to us beforehand we couldn’t possibly have conceived nor implemented any scheme of our own as wonderful as the plans that God has had in store for us since before the beginning of time. Furthermore, in order for us to truly be used of God for the spreading of His Gospel among our fellow creatures, we must first entrust our entire lives to His direction, knowing that His plans are more beneficial to humanity than any of our own could ever be. Trust must be learned, and earned. Through all these things God has proven His trustworthiness beyond any doubt in my mind and in Sue’s too. So I say again, Praise God in all things at all times.
But what if this current infection leaves Sue crippled or totally incapacitated and requiring continual care? Will you continue to sing God’s praises even then?
Of course. Are we to praise God for His blessings, but be unwilling to also accept the suffering by which He is shaping us into the very image of His Son – Jesus who also suffered unimaginably on our behalf? How can we truly say that we trust in God’s perfect will for us when He blesses us if we are not also willing to assume that God’s will for us is perfect and for our benefit even when we don’t understand His plans and suffer in the midst of them? Furthermore, in this situation my mind flashes back to a day in December many years ago. On that day, I stood beside a fountain with Sue and a small gathering of our friends. Before that gathering, and in the sight of God Almighty, I joyfully made a solemn promise…
“I, Brian, take you, Susan, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”
I would not pretend that I have fulfilled that promise perfectly, or even very well, but I can honestly assure you that when I entered into that covenant, I did not do so lightly or unthinkingly. When I made that promise I did so with every intention of fulfilling it to the best of my ability. My intention in that regard has not faltered, and never will. The promise is in force until death. What then? Am I to accept the benefits of marriage, and shun its burdens and duties. Quite the contrary – it is an honor and a blessing from God Almighty that He has entrusted His beloved daughter into my care, and humbling indeed when I consider my own weaknesses. Yet I know and trust that it is God who empowers me to fulfill this mission with which He has entrusted me. I praise God that He has blessed me with this mission.
Okay, but what if it kills her? How can you possibly praise God for THAT?
Like every human being since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, some malady or event will one day kill both Sue and me. Perhaps we will die together, perhaps separately, but like all sinful mankind our death is a certainty (see Romans 3:23 & 6:23). Yet even in this, God is to be praised!
By coming in the flesh and living the perfectly sinless life no mere human being could, Jesus God the Son was able to become the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all mankind that God the Father required to reconcile Himself with sinful man. Dying on the cross Jesus took upon Himself the punishment of death for the sins of all. As Paul wrote to the ancient church at Corinth – For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Furthermore, Jesus proved by His own resurrection, that we too may partake of eternal life in the presence of Almighty God. Jesus Himself explained His purpose in becoming a man to the Jewish leader Nicodemus – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17) Therefore the specter of Sue’s death from this infection or from any other cause holds no more fear for me, and neither does the prospect of my own death.
So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:1 Corinthians 15:54-55
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
What could God possibly do more praiseworthy than sacrificing Himself on the cross for me and for Sue and for you so that we might partake of eternal life in the very presence of His glory?