God is Real–Part Four

How do I know God is real? I’ve experienced Him in extraordinary ways; it’s as simple as that. To read what I’ve written in previous posts of this series, click here:

God is Real–Part One (a baby that nearly didn’t make it to birth)

God is Real–Part Two (a specific healing, and one that was not a healing)

God is Real–Part Three (a hurtful e-mail)

God is Real–Part Five (a zany miracle)

Here is another example of my experience with God, proving Himself real to me.  Years ago I had a skiing accident and tore my ACL.  It was repaired and I recovered well, with the help of physical therapy.  Then, several years later (perhaps 20 years ago now) I went to a couple’s home for a farewell party and their dog came running out to greet us.  Since it was heading towards my bad knee I twisted to avoid it.  Just like that, my knee gave out, for the first (and only) time since surgery.  I couldn’t walk on it and was soon in surgery for an arthroscopic procedure to see what was injured.  The ACL was broken loose and balled up in the center, so the doctor removed it through the tiny incision.  I was supposed to undergo physical therapy for a few weeks, recover from the surgery, and then have the ACL repaired.  For a while I was getting better, and no longer needed to use crutches.  But after about six weeks I realized I was getting worse again and eventually had to use crutches again, due to the pain.  Surgery was not possible until we could discover what was going on with the knee.  After bone scans, a spinal tap and more physical therapy, it was decided that my knee had developed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD).  As I understand it, it’s a nerve related disease with no apparent reason for the pain (it is now known as “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome).  It has to do with messages being relayed by the nerves back and forth from the brain.  We decided against knee surgery to repair the ACL and, in fact, my knee was very stable, surgery didn’t seem necessary, and it was not recommended with this new problem of pain.

Now fast forward a few years.  They had said that “RSD” could develop anywhere in my body, and when I needed surgery in both shoulders for bone spurs, they were reluctant to do the procedure, and put it off as long as possible, for fear that RSD would develop.  But the pain was getting worse and we eventually decided to do one shoulder; the result was great.  We waited six months; I healed up from the surgery and had no RSD causing further problems, so we decided to do the other shoulder.  However, as soon as I began to recover from the second surgery, I became aware of the fact that “RSD” was now in several areas–both knees, my neck, and both shoulders.  I couldn’t reach for items in the kitchen cabinets without deep pain; it hurt to open a door or even carry a purse.  I could hardly function in normal ways.  One night, I prayed to God, “I can’t handle this.  You’re the only One that can heal me, and I ask you to heal me.  I can’t function.”

Lo and behold, when I awoke in the morning the pain was gone, 100%, even in my knee.  I knew I didn’t need to take the Tylenol that I has been taking each morning.  There was NO pain.  I didn’t take anything for over a month.  And then the pain returned, but only in the knee.  Why?  I believe He allowed the pain to return in one area in order to remind me that everyone has some kind of pain.  Think about it:  you do somewhere–relational, financial, spiritual, or in some other area.  Somebody you love has died, or will die soon.  Some relationship is not quite what you’d hoped it would be.  Parenting is hard.  Jobs are difficult.  You’re frustrated with politics or the church or your community.  Everyone has pain.

I’ll never forget the fact that God healed me overnight, and that it lasted a full month.  I’ll never forget that others around me are hurting, too.  I’ll never go running to another doctor to see if he or she can heal my knee; I already know that God is the One who can heal it, and He will if He chooses.  Previous to this I had gone to many different doctors and was receiving suggestions coming from lots of people about how to find healing.  I no longer need to run around to every doctor and clinic.  I’m OK with the pain; I can live with it and be thankful every day that it isn’t my back, or a more serious condition.  I use a great knee brace when standing for any length of time.

Do I ever go to doctors any more?  Of course, but I’m no longer looking for answers to this knee problem.  Why doesn’t God heal every disease and pain for good?  I don’t know.  He will when we arrive in Heaven, assuming we have trusted Him with our lives and salvation.  But I do know, for certain, that He’s real.  I’ve experienced His instantaneous healing more than once.  A month without pain was heavenly, literally; how much better will the real place be!

Three Essential Truths

I’m sharing quotes from my journal again this week.  Here is another true quote.  I know it’s true because I’ve experienced it personally in deep, personal ways you can’t even imagine.  God is real and Present; He changes hearts and minds.  He performs miracles–physical, relational, emotional, spiritual–that only He can perform.

Just as the faith of salvation comes through hearing the message of the gospel (Roman. 10:27) so the faith to trust God in adversity comes through the word of God alone.  Only in the Scriptures will we find an adequate view of God’s relationship to and involvement in our painful circumstances.  Only from the Scriptures, applied to our heats by the Holy Spirit, will we receive the grace to trust God in adversity.

In the arena of adversity, the Scriptures teach us three essential truths about God:  (1) God is completely sovereign; (2) God is infinite in wisdom; (3) God is perfect in love.

As we become so convinced of these scriptural truths that we appropriate them in our daily circumstances, we learn to trust God in the midst of our pain, whatever form it may take.  It doesn’t matter whether our pain is trivial or traumatic, temporary or interminable.  Regardless of the nature of the circumstances, we must learn to trust God if we would glorify God in them.

In order to trust in God’s sovereignty, love, and wisdom, we must know Him in an intimate, personal way.  David said in Psalm 9:10, “Those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you” (ESV).  To know God’s name means coming into a deeper personal relationship with Him as a result of seeking Him in the midst of our personal pain and discovering Him to be trustworthy.  It’s only as we know God in this personal way that we  come to trust Him.  — Jerry Bridges, in Trusting God, as quoted in How Great is Our God, 3/28/16


Emotional Leaks

These are the final quotes from my “Word of the Year” notebook last year, regarding the word “Pain.”

…’emotional leaks’ cause fatigue and drain a person’s energy…an emotional leak is any area in which we are not fully trusting God…was my problem the waves themselves, or was it my reaction to the waves?  Were the pain and discomfort and tiredness I was experiencing caused by my circumstances I couldn’t control or by the leaks — the lack of trust — in those situations?  — Carole Mayhall, Lord of My Rocking Boat, pg. 97

God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are they even like ours.  We aren’t even in the same neighborhood.  We’re thinking, “Preserve the body.”  He’s thinking, “Save the soul.”  We dream of a pay raise.  He dreams of raising the dead.  We avoid pain and seek peace.  God uses pain to bring peace.  “I’m going to live before I die,” we resolve.  “Die, so you can live,” He instructs.  We love what rusts.  He loves what endures.  We rejoice at our successes.  He rejoices at our confessions.  –Max Lucado, Grace for the Moment, 12/4

Everybody Prays

Here are more quotes from my Word of the Year last year — “Pain.”

Everybody prays whether he thinks of it as praying or not.  The odd silence you fall into when something very beautiful is happening or something very good or very bad.  The ah-h-h-h! that sometimes floats up out of you as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the sky-rocket bursts over the water.  The stammer of pain at somebody else’s pain.  The stammer of joy at somebody else’s joy.  Whatever words or sounds you use for sighing with over your own life.  These are all prayers in their way.  — Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life, pg. 211-212

I might also add — whose name do people call out when something really horrible or wonderful happens?  People call out the only name that really can answer to these extreme situations.

All around us we observe a pregnant creation.  The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  But it’s not only around us; it’s within us.  The Spirit of God is arousing us within.  We’re also feeling the birth pangs.  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance…If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter.  He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.  So what do you think?  With God on our side like this, how can we lose?  –Romans 8:22-23, 26, 31 (MSG)

Growing Pains

I’ve been sharing quotes using the word “pain,” my Word of the Year for 2015. Here are a couple more from my notebook:

Superstition and idolatry form a tough crust over the topsoil of our hearts, making us unreceptive to the merciful words of salvation that God speaks to us.  Plowing is a metaphor for the repentance that prepares our hearts to receive those words.  Without the pain of the plow, the seeds God wants to sow in our lives might never take root.  In that sense, the process of plowing is every bit as necessary as the process of planting.  And every bit as merciful, although it never seems so at the time.  — Eugene H. Peterson, Conversations, pg. 1151

Growth calls into action new parts of our minds, our emotions, our bodies.  What we experience at these times often feels like pain.  We aren’t used to stretching ourselves in these ways.  But the pain shouldn’t surprise us–our muscles ache whenever we take up new activities, and they’re stretched in ways they aren’t used to.  Athletes get some muscles when they begin their training.  Similarly, as we’re in training in the Christian life, it stretches us beyond ourselves, and that hurts.  But this kind of pain is very different from the kind that’s inflicted by torture.  Growing pains are the kinds we don’t regret, because they lead to a fuller life, not a diminished one.  –Eugene H. Peterson, Conversations, pg. 1808


Here are more quotes with the use of my Word of the Year for 2015 — “Pain.”  Jesus knew pain well.

Weeping for Jesus, then was not from depression or personal pain or feeling sorry for himself; it was entirely associated with the needs of others.  Weeping was a form of intercession, a sympathetic entering in to the pain of others.  But weeping will be followed by joy.  — Eugene H. Peterson, Conversations, pg. 1592

God’s way of being among us is to get down on our level, to enter the humiliation and the death, to share the persecution and the pain, to get into our skin and go through these things with us.  — Eugene H. Peterson, Conversations, pg. 1773

Wherever There is Pain

It’s time to review my Word of the Year again for 2015 — the word is “Pain.”  It has been an interesting word for me to follow.  Here are more of the quotes I wrote down this year:

Thou Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, be born again into our world.  Wherever there is war in this world, wherever there is pain, wherever there is loneliness, wherever there is no hope, come, thou long-expected one, with healing in thy wings.  –Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life, pg. 341

It’s clear in Psalm 126 that the one who wrote the psalm and those who sang it were no strangers to the dark side of things.  They carried the painful memory of exile in their bones and the scars of oppression in their backs…A common strategy for achieving joy is a change of scenery.  Eliminate the things that hurt.  Get rid of the pain by numbing the nerve endings…Get rid of disappointment by depersonalizing your relationships.  Then try to lighten the boredom of such a life by buying joy in the form of vacations and entertainment.  There isn’t a hint of that in Psalm 126.  Those who went off with heavy hearts came home laughing, with armloads of blessing.  There’s plenty of suffering in life for everyone.  The joy comes because God knows how to wipe away the tears and create the smile of new life.  This joy isn’t dependent on our good luck in escaping hardship.  It isn’t dependent on our good health and our avoidance of pain.  Christian joy is actually in the midst of pain, suffering, loneliness, and misfortune.  –Eugene H. Peterson, Conversations, pg. 910-911