If you're new around here, it would do you good to go read the post My Weakness, His Strength first in order to properly understand what this blog is fully about.
This is for the skeptics, the true Believers in Jesus Christ, those who only know God from a distance, the one whose faith can move mountains, those who know full well that God is real and the ones who would honestly say, “Lord, help my unbelief!”. Lend me your ear for a few minutes for I have some good news for you!
As likely most of you who are reading this know, I suffered a stroke about eleven weeks ago. It was caused by an abnormally narrow artery located where my neck meets the base of my brain. The artery had, somewhat mysteriously, been found torn (called a vertebral artery dissection for the medically interested). Since I passed out at the mall that day and took the first ambulance ride of my life to the local ER, I’ve had several MRI’s and CT scans. I also had tubes thrust down my throat and tests run on my heart and surrounding arteries, among other things. Fast forward to Thursday, February 25 when I had a follow-up CT scan done on my brain and neck. All I left the hospital with that day was the disc that contained the four hundred-plus images from my scan and another opportunity to exercise my faith in the unseen and unknown. Yesterday, I visited my new neurologist. The appointment was to run me through a barrage of tests for stroke residuals (which returned no major residual issues whatsoever) and to, most importantly, have my new CT scan images read and compared with the ones from December.
To explain a few things more clearly and adequately give you a chance to see the hand of God from my personal experiences, I’ll add some important details. For example, my last night in the hospital, my parents and wife came to my bedside. I had asked that they would “do something” for me before another long day in the hospital came to an end. I didn’t ask them to pray. I didn’t ask them to read Scripture. I didn’t ask them to do anything specific. But, what I had already done personally, I invited them to do along with me. I was asking God to do something supernaturally. I wanted a touch from Him. I wanted something more than prayers and encouraging words. I wanted power that only resides in Him to flood over me and heal me. And I expected it. I anticipated it. I longed for it! I won’t go into all of the details but let’s just say much more than I envisioned took place within that hospital room that night. As my father declared healing and wholeness over my body, I could feel the LORD Himself overwhelm my physical body. Power and healing came rushing into that room like a mighty rushing wind! All four of us felt it. We all knew it. After a while, my mother then began to rejoice audibly over what the LORD had already done to heal me. She spoke, in faith, that what we could not see on earth, would line up with how it was in heaven. After several minutes of this, I felt joy flood over me and I began to smile. Smiles turned to laughter. Laughter of joy unspeakable! Joy that I had not really felt for a while as my body had lain weak and frail in the hospital that week. The laughter was contagious as we all laughed as we cried. The literal joy of the LORD was in that place and no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise! I’m fully convinced that healing came to my body in those moments and I will never forget it.
Over the last several weeks I’ve often reflected back on that night, believing that my torn artery was “repaired” that night specifically. I knew however that my neurologist had told me that the real lasting issue was the “abnormal narrowing” of the artery. He said it would always be the underlying issue in days ahead. Knowing this, I turned my faith up a notch. I stood firm on the fact that the tear was done. It was behind me. I wanted the seemingly impossible work to come to pass. I asked the LORD to widen the narrow artery and restore it. I asked Him specifically to give me the artery that pre-fall Adam was created with. The artery that His hands formed out of the dirt and called blood to flow swiftly through. Perfect, flawless, untouched by sin. After I had asked Him, I didn’t start a regimen of daily begging and pleading. I asked and I embarked on believing and expecting. Of course I had days when doubt would come. I had to choose to run it off and stand firm. When people would ask me “What if it happens again?” “What if you have another stroke?”, I’d politely respond, “I choose not live my life in dread and fear. I was healed, I am being healed and I will be healed.” When people would somberly say things like “Oh how scary. Well, if it’s God’s will for you to be healed, may it be so.” (sigh) “If it’s God’s will” is simply a church-y way of saying one really doesn’t expect God to heal, so let’s just hope for the best. I wanted no part of the doubt, despair or wishy-washy “faith”. This was my stance. No one else’s lack of faith was going to steal mine!
I’d anoint my neck where the artery is and envision it widening and being made whole. I’d talk to it. (No, I’m not kidding. The Christ in me is now LORD over this fleshly body and therefore I intend to rule it, not the other way around.) I had an image printed out of the artery and placed Scripture around it, standing on the promises of God’s healing in His Word. I know many will see these things as ludicrous and downright silly, but why? Are we so confident in ourselves that we think we’re just winging this thing called life on our own? Are we so arrogant that we think we handle anything that comes our way and all is just happenstance anyway? Why is it OK for the masses to seek things such as horoscopes, Buddhist healers, inner-self healing and spiritual guidance from any imaginable source, but the reality of the One True God is somehow deemed a big fairy tale? And to those who are Believers, do we just throw our hands up and say “Well, if it’s God’s will for me to be healed, I will be”? How infantile! There are things that God requires of us to do! Resist, draw near, watch, pray, stand firm, be alert, build up our faith, persevere, take a stand and be a mature and capable soldier of the Living God! (I guess I’m just so sick of spiritual pansies!) As I’ve stated, nothing happens without God allowing it, but that does not necessarily mean that it’s how He desires it to remain. This came to pass in my life for a greater purpose. Some things I have already seen, much more I believe is yet to come. I stand up and praise God for His allowing this to come to pass in my life! I look upon it with great fondness as it drew me, and others around me, closer to Him. In it, I learned, I grew, I matured. What the enemy fashioned to thwart intimacy with my Father backfired and propelled me so much closer to Him! How could I ever detest such a beautiful conclusion to this chapter of my life? Trials cleanse. Trials produce endurance. Trials provide God the opportunity to show Himself strong! Peter said it well in 1 Peter 1, “[We] who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Too many Christians see trials and run away in fear like little children. Instead of facing it head-on in with the mighty hand of the LORD as their strength, they cower and flee, completely missing the intended result of the trial! Every test is deemed “from the devil” and is cast aside. This is not Scriptural! How else will God show Himself strong unless we learn to lean on Him in our times of need? In their desire to look like strong Christians in the eyes of men, never having any trials or issues, they actually look like fools when viewed through Scripture as it states that when I am weak, He is strong! The Body of Christ needs to stop acting so puffed-up and capable of going it alone! She needs to yield to Her vulnerability. She is in need of a strong King to be Her enabler!
Speaking of how God has shown Himself as strong to me, allow me to get back to my miraculous report. (Forgive me, I’m prone to get sidetracked.) As the neurologist came into the room and sat down, I was anxious to hear his findings after reviewing my new CT scan images. After twenty minutes or so of mobility and balance tests, he said, “Well, let’s talk about your artery. First of all, your arterial dissection (the tear) has completely healed. I don’t even see any scar tissue.” OK, one down, I thought. Confirmation number one! (The “no scar tissue” report was kind of like God showing off and I smiled.) But what about the narrowing, I wondered. Knowing that my first neurologist had been very concerned about the severe narrowing of the artery and had informed me that it was likely congenital, I was obviously wondering what the new scan images revealed. Without any hesitation, he said, “I see no significant narrowing whatsoever now. Compared to the images from December, I have no concerns of what I see today.” I said, “Seriously? It’s not narrow at all now?” to which he responded, “Let me put it this way, if I only reviewed your CT scan images today, I would find nothing that would concern me about your vertebral artery.” I was in awe. Even now, mere hours after this appointment, I’m not sure it’s sunk in completely. He said, “You can come off of your Coumadin and, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t need to see you again.” Desiring to hear him say what I already knew, I asked him how this happened and how it could now be completely fine. He said, “Well, your case is pretty mysterious, from a medical standpoint. There’s really no medical reason you experienced what you did as far as the root cause of the narrowing. Regarding it being fine now, it’s quite mysterious as well. All I know is that now, your artery is no longer narrow and there’s no sign of the dissection.”
Praise God! All that I asked for and stood anticipating, for my physical body came to pass. All of it. Everything! Do you hear me? So to the skeptics, stop being so stubborn and thinking everything is just happenstance and meaningless. To the true Believers in Jesus Christ who stood beside me and expected the miraculous, rejoice in His handiwork! To those who only know God from a distance, take this to heart and know that God is a God of intimacy. He is reality, not some distant fairy tale creature who is out to get you. He longs to be invited to be the primary focus of every detail of your life. To the one whose faith can move mountains, may this be another reminder that God is still the God of the miraculous! His will is not for His children to be afflicted. He desires for you to be in good health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 1:2). Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever! (Hebrews 13:8) To those who know full well that God is real, declare that He is moving amongst His people. Stand unwavering and cling to His promises! And to the ones who cry out daily, “Lord, help my unbelief!”, begin to exercise what faith you have. Train your mind to think with the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and begin to aggressively take captive every thought. Seek to become enamored with Him. Expect God to make Himself known in your life. Expect Him to personally show you that He was, He is and He will forever be the Maker of the miraculous!