The day started off like any other normal Sunday. The plan was to go to Sunday School and then the morning service at our church, spend the afternoon taking a nap and for our evening service as part of our monthly ministry, take the 4 younger kids downtown to the Salvation Army to play their instruments in the service for the homeless men. But this Sunday evening was going to be a little different in that we were to play a number of Christmas songs, have the men join in the songs and pass out Christmas sugar cookies that the kids baked and decorated. This was going to be a great day serving the Lord and others. As you’ve guessed, it didn’t end up as we planned.
We came home from the morning service and had lunch. Seven out of ten Sundays we usually have spaghetti. It is quick and easy. Then it was nap time! I lay down but couldn’t get comfortable. No matter how I laid, I couldn’t get this pain in my chest to go away. I took some Tums assuming that it was indigestion from the spaghetti sauce but it didn’t seem to help. For about 2 .5 hours I tossed and turned with Sherry sleeping soundly beside me of course. Finally I thought tea would help so I got up and began making the tea but soon realized that I really needed to see the doctor. I felt stupid for going to the doctor’s office for something that was probably nothing. They’d examine me, tell me to take some Pepcid or something and to be careful with what I eat from now on, but I knew something wasn’t right.
At about 4 PM we arrived at the doctor’s office and they began to run some tests. My chest hurt with intermittent pain and my tongue was swollen and I was very anxious. After an exam and a perfectly normal looking EKG, the doctor felt that it was an allergic reaction to the spaghetti sauce and gave me a steroid shot, Benadryl and a nasty cocktail of meds to chug down. She continued to reassure us that she really felt it was not my heart but an allergic reaction and that the meds should help. During all this time my pain continued to come and go and while I understood what the doctor was saying, something just didn’t seem right.
The doctor could tell I was very anxious and while she felt this was an allergic reaction and not a heart issue she decide that “to help her sleep better” she wanted to send us to the hospital’s lab to test for an enzyme that is secreted during a heart episode. Was this her gut or training telling her to double check? Or was it her way of trying to ease my anxiety? Regardless, Sherry and I fully believe that it was the Lord prompting her to get further testing done on my heart.
We arrived at the hospital lab and within about 45 minutes we were being told that we need to go up to the ER. Once there, we stood around for about 5 minutes while my doctor, who had called in to the ER discussed my condition with the ER staff. Within 15-20 minutes of arriving in the ER and while being prepped for the Heart Cath Lab I had my heart attack. My EKG spiked showing the attack and then once the meds kicked in it went back to normal, this is what they expected to see with the meds clearing the blockages. Within 30 minutes from arriving in the ER I was being wheeled into the Cath Lab. Two 100% blockages were found and two 50% blockages, not what they expected to see with a good EKG. A long stint was place in the front artery fixing both 100% blockages and meds will be used to treat the partial blockages. As I said, the odd thing was that after the attack the EKG went back to showing a normal healthy pattern even with the blockages and remember I also mentioned that the EKG at the doctor’s office showed my heart function was normal as well. As the doctor who did the stint put it, “He couldn’t trust my EKG’s”. For some reason they were not picking up the blockages.
Lesson #2: Things are not always what they appear
You must be willing to consider more then what the initial tests are telling you and seek the root cause. If you suspect the answer is wrong even when you’re told it is right, pursue wisdom, knowledge, understanding.
The more I live, the more I am amazed at how God has created our bodies and how complex we are. Anyone that has any remote understand of our body’s complexity surely cannot believe in the process of evolution. The fact that God has made our bodies to tell us when something is wrong by way of aches, pains, swelling and at times even by a sensation, a taste or odd feeling in an area of our body is truly amazing. When the doctor told us she believed my condition was an allergic reaction and not a heart attack, I could not tell you why but that answer didn’t seem right, there had to be more to it. I could not express it verbally at the time but she obviously could see my continued uneasiness and anxiety. The first answer wasn’t cutting it and I was somewhat relieved when my doctor decided more testing was needed.
Our medical professionals are very educated and have spent years learning about our bodies, diseases and conditions and how to treat us as patients. They have a lot of wisdom and knowledge and I for one am very thankful for their dedication. Like all fields of science, a lot of their diagnosis and treatment plans are based on percentages and norms. (This is because God has created our universe with order but that is another topic for study. I’d recommend those interested in learning more about our universe and it’s order to visit Anwers in Genesis). Doctors prescribe treatments and medication based on outcomes that have been consistently tested, verified and proven to work in most instances. Yet given all of that precision and accuracy God did not create us to be robots but has created our minds to question things when the pieces don’t seem to quite fit. Fortunately, most doctors are also willing to consider their initial assessments. Their egos aren’t as big as many of us think. They are able and willing to factor in additional information (a patient’s anxiety for example) and consider additional options and evaluations as needed. Sometimes, even they must rely on their “gut” feelings as they too realize that the first answer is not always the right answer even when the test says it is the right answer. I am living proof of this and am extremely grateful to my God first as well as to my doctor.
Allow me to insert a short rabbit trail here on how the first answer is not always the right answer. A number of years ago, my wife was admitted to the hospital due to some medical concerns just shortly before the birth of one of our children. It was time to do another check on the baby’s condition and so they strapped up a nearby monitor to check our baby’s heart rate. As they watch the monitor panic set in, they couldn’t find the heartbeat! Our baby was in distress and immediate surgery was being considered. More medical personnel hurried in and things started to happen quickly. Fortunately before too much time had elapse, my father in law looked at the monitor and read the sign attached, “Broken, Do Not Use”. My father in law commented later that maybe they needed a new office at the hospital called the Office of Common Sense. While somewhat humorous now, my point again is that sometimes we must push past what we initially believed to be true and seek the root cause. The first answer is not always the right answer.
Let me ask you this question, how much is a husband worth to his wife or a father to his children? My doctor could have easily assumed the allergic reaction was the only issue based on symptoms and test results and then she could have given me an Epipen injection and sent me home with a prescription. She could have avoided the more costly, more invasive procedure and stayed with what seemed the most obvious. But she knew something was not right, and she pursued it, even when the first answer appeared to be an easy one. She knew a few extra dollars in cost was well worth what was at stake. For that we are grateful.
Now consider your spiritual life. Far too often we live our lives taking the quick and easy answers, answers that are many times comfortable and acceptable; ones that don’t create a backlash or stir up controversy. We don’t want to “make waves” so we go with the flow, what is expected, what everyone else is saying or doing. The term tolerance comes to mind. Tolerance can be a good thing but our society has perverted this term to mean acceptance of sin. Oftentimes these answers may come in the form of a preacher or pastor expounding eloquently on the virtues of self acceptance and self reliance instead of teaching that man is depraved. Unfortunately these “comfortable” and “non-invasive” teachings come from world’s philosophies that contradict the Scriptures.
I’m reminded of a book written back in 1976 entitled “I’m OK, You’re OK” by Thomas Harris. I’m afraid many self proclaimed Christians have accepted this worldview. The problem with this Navy psychiatrist’s premise is that we are NOT ok. We all have a sin nature and come short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and as Isaiah 64:6 says all our righteousness are as filthy rags. We need a radical change in our spiritual hearts and that is to willingly commit our lives to Jesus Christ and be willing to allow His control in all areas of our lives. In essence, we need to die to self and live for Christ.
Many Christians and unbelievers alike don’t mind the spiritual steroid shots (feel good sermons) and the spiritual placebo capsules (a quick superficial prayer, an all roads lead to heaven worldview or even an “I’m not that bad” attitude) for the “simple” answers to our spiritual needs, but unfortunately our spiritual needs should not be taken lightly. I can only imagine what my household would be like today if my doctor had taken the “first” or “simple” answer of only an allergic reaction. Instead of celebrating my birthday several days ago, my family most likely would be still mourning my death. Just like many people don’t want to be bothered with actually dealing with serious medical conditions, so too many don’t like to pursue the more invasive spiritual answers that pierce our soul and convict us. To consider that we might be spiritually going down the wrong path, injecting our lives with the feel good but wrong answers and downing the placebos of self and pride are ideas many don’t want to consider. We don’t want to think ill of ourselves and our need for spiritual heart surgery. Like my doctor who ignored “conventional” wisdom, we must be willing to count the cost of the pursuit and be willing to allow the action necessary to truly reap the benefits for our soul.
I believe the reason that many believers and unbelievers alike never go past what they deem as the easy or comfortable spiritual answers, is because of one of the following three reasons:
- We are afraid to know the truth and try to convince ourselves that ignorance is bliss and therefore we won’t be held accountable. But we know that this answer is only an attempt to deceive ourselves. Answer: I Corinthians 3:18, I John 1:8, I John 2:4, Romans 14:11-12
- We don’t know where else to go to get the truth. Answer: John 8:31, John14:17, II Timothy 3:16
- We really know the truth yet we somehow think that if we ignore it, it will somehow just go away. This is the area where I think so many of those who name the Name of Christ fall. Answer: Romans 1:18-32, II Timothy 4:3-4, I John 1: 5-10, James 4:17
We all come to a point in our lives where we have to make a choice. We can choose the answers that the world tells us is right and only address the superficial needs in our life or we can pursue what our sinful nature wants to reject and yearn for the more invasive answer to satisfy our soul.
Like the event that took me to the doctor on that Sunday, the answers we seek for our spiritual lives will have consequences – Heaven or Hell, in fellowship or out of fellowship with God.
Like my doctor who was willing to pursue her “gut feeling” even though the tests indicated nothing more needed to be done, we too must be willing to look past what the world says about God and His Word and seek the truth. It is literally a matter of life and death.
If you’re getting that still small voice within telling you there is more to life then what the world has to offer, if it is telling you that the world’s “right” is really wrong, pursue the Lord. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct your path, ask Him to guide you in your questions and search. Matthew 7:7-8. (John MacArthur has a great read on the Ministry of the Holy Spirit here).
We must be willing to look past what appears to be the obvious and pursue the right diagnosis both in our physical and spiritual life, it really is a matter of life and death.