TODAY’S VERSE TO PONDER: Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. – Romans 12:12 (GNT)
Much of two weekends in June 2016 are a complete blur to me now.
I do remember a few striking details: how cold the operating table felt on my back, an unexpected Sunday afternoon visit from friends who brought ginger snaps to my bedside, the overwhelming sense of relief when I opened my eyes and saw daylight after hours under anesthesia. Otherwise, my memory is mostly fuzzy.
I still have not decided whether my selective recall of those weekends is a blessing or a curse, but I do know one thing for certain: that brief season of trouble and pain changed forever the way I view my life here on earth. I wouldn’t trade my brush with death for anything.
On Saturday, June 18, 2016, I underwent emergency surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston for an acute subdural hematoma, a massive blood clot between the surface of my brain and its tough outside lining (dura). When I saw the pre-surgery MRI of my brain later, it reminded me of satellite images I had seen of Hurricane Hugo raging ashore onto the Carolina coast. My condition was grave, and emergency surgery was my only hope of survival.
Statistically, the mortality rate of acute subdural hematoma surgery hovers around 60 to 80 percent; my chances of living through my procedure were not favorable at my age. Only 14 to 40 percent of patients emerge from such procedures with no loss of cognitive ability, no loss of communication skills or no loss of fine motor function. Even if my emergency surgery didn’t kill me, I stood a very good chance of surviving with severe disabilities.
Turns out, that wasn’t God’s plan for my life. In the five days following surgery, I had two strokes and found myself back in the hospital in Augusta, Georgia, undergoing further treatment. However, within 10 days after my initial brain surgery, I felt well enough to make the stupid decision to go back to work on my afternoon radio show; in retrospect, I should have given myself more time to recover, but I wanted to prove to everybody I was still alive.
Here I am 18 months later, and it is almost as if I had never had a life-threatening condition. I feel strong; my thought processes are clear and my imagination as vivid as ever; and except for a slight weakness in my left hand, I have no lasting side effects of a surgery that left me with only a 20 to 40 percent chance of living.
I always will believe that my second chance at life is nothing short of a personal miracle from God. I am firmly convinced that God kept me alive and on this earth for a higher purpose.
The Bible tells us that, even as faithful Christ followers, we will not be immune to struggles. Speaking to His disciples on the eve of His own death on the cross, Jesus Christ told them that “here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NLT) Indeed, true believers from the 1st century to the present day find themselves enduring the most horrific illnesses, abuses, persecution and other trials. Being a follower of Christ does not mean you won’t feel pain; it means that you know the truest source of healing.
It is little wonder that people look at me like I have lost my mind when I tell them that undergoing emergency brain surgery is one of the best experiences ever in my life. As horrific as the surgery was and as arduous as the recovery has been, I am actually thankful that God allowed me to go through that challenge and come out on the other side as healthy as I am.
I have heard it said that, “Pain is the crucible by which our faith is refined.” My brush with death was a lesson in humility, and it reinforced for me the truest truth I know: God ain’t finished with me yet. Keenly aware of own mortality, and knowing logically what the alternatives to complete healing might have been, I value my life on this earth more than ever before. I know without question that God saved my life because He has for me some calling perhaps yet unrevealed.
I know that now I have more empathy for those in pain and suffering. I know that now I value my ability to communicate more than I ever have, which is why I launched Hopeful Cottage Media – to use my gift of communication to glorify and honor God. I know that I am more aware and appreciative of the “little things” in everyday life that bring me joy; I am committed to begin each day with the singular goal of trying to make someone else’s life more joyful that day, and by extension, make the world a little better place.
Trust me, I know how hard it can be to feel joy and see hope when you are mired in the tough stuff of daily life. Still, our loving God wants us to seek hope and joy, to be patient in our troubles, and to pray at all times – even in the tough times, maybe especially so then.
Whatever you are going through, however painful and challenging it might be, please just try to rest in the loving, comforting arms of the Lord. He will use every season of pain to make something beautiful and meaningful out of the struggle. Just take your pain to the Lord in prayer and trust in Him.