The doctor’s words were frank and sobering, and left a rogue wave of fear in their wake.
Earlier this summer, I started feeling the effects of what I assumed was a fairly common flu. As one day after the next passed, and my condition continued to worsen, I started to wonder if it was something a bit more serious.
An initial trip to the ER confirmed that I didn’t have appendicitis, so I returned to my couch with the orders to rest and drink plenty of fluids. The illness tightened its grip over the next three days, and when it progressed to the point where I had a difficult time breathing, I decided to make a return trip to the hospital.
It was the middle of the night when I stumbled out of my vehicle and walked towards the ER doors. I met a sleepy security guard at the entrance, and responding to his mumbled question about how he can help, I started to offer a full report of the of the severe gastrointestinal issues I had experienced over the last seven days.
His dozing eyes snapped to attention, and he responded with a hint of laughter, “Dude, I’m just a security guard.”
The next moment had me being whisked away in a wheel chair, and I was quickly surrounded by a team of medical professionals who didn’t seem to be taking things lightly.
Observing their frenzy of activity, and trying to translate the medical talk, I picked up on a few key details. Apparently, my lips were quite blue and my oxygen levels were in the low 40’s. A healthy dose of oxygen helped as my color returned and my levels ascended back into a normal range. I was diagnosed with pneumonia and admitted early Wednesday morning.
Dawning the infamous breezy gown, I tossed and turned in the bed and wondered aloud how long the recovery process would take. I was slightly unnerved as my condition continued to worsen throughout the day.
It was mid-morning on Thursday when a different doctor, a pulmonologist, walked into the room, introduced himself, and cut right to the chase. “Your lungs are full and are significantly worse today than yesterday.”
He continued, “It’s not normal for this to happen after the treatment you have received, so this could be quite serious.”
His words seemed to feed a growing fear within me. What is happening? How serious is this? Is this going to end in death?
Ashley interrupted my train of thought, and gently asked the doctor what he thought was happening with my lungs.
He paused, as if to contemplate how honest he should be, and then explained that there can only be four possibilities regarding what they’re seeing on the x-rays. “The first one is that your heart is filling your lungs with blood. The second possible scenario is that you are experiencing pulmonary edema and your lungs are beginning to drown in fluid.” After another pause, he made his only editorial comment, “God forbid, we don’t want that.”
“The third possibility is that we are looking at cancerous cells.” The weight of his words were only getting heavier, and I thought to myself:
I choose option 4.
“And the fourth possibility is that it’s a worsening case of pneumonia.”
After assuring us that he would order all the right tests and find out what was happening, he turned and walked out.
Ashley and I each sat there in stunned silence, internally grasping for something that would help us make sense of what we had just heard.
The fear in my soul was palpable, and it was primarily due to the un-welcomed possibility of not being able to watch my three young children grow old.
That afternoon brought many prayers, a few tears, silent moments, and a sweet visit from my kids.
They seemed to be quite unified in their plea, “Daddy, come home!”
This was a brutal feeling, wanting desperately to go home and wrestle Owen and play American Girl dolls with Sophie and Avery, but ultimately being in a place where I felt powerless.
All I could do is pray, and that I did with great fervor.
I had many questions for God and wanted assurance that all would be well. He didn’t answer my questions, but the still small voice of God’s Spirit was clear, as He said:
I am with you, son.
His words were sweet to my soul, but in just a matter of moments, the fear was back and so were my questions.
“God, am I going to be alright?”
“God, what is going to happen?”
I am with you, son.
Yes, BUT, what about…
I am with you, son.
His words were deeply kind, but they seemed to me to be lacking answers. To God, they were more than enough.
At some level, I was dismissing the assurance of His faithful presence because I was seeking assurance in the form of answers to my questions. In essence, I was saying, “Just tell me I’ll be ok, and then I’ll have peace.” He didn’t cooperate.
He wanted me to prioritize His presence over the mystery and uncertainty of the future.
And such is the life of faith.
My questions were regarding my health, but I’ve spent enough time with people to realize we all have questions.
“God, how are we going to pay for this?”
“God, what is going to happen with this relationship?”
“God, what is going to happen with my job?”
“God, how is this all going to work out?”
We seek answers as we pursue a sense of security, but God seeks deeper relationship as He pursues us.
Asking God questions about our future is not a bad thing, but there often comes a time when God asks for the interrogation to stop and instead for us to embrace His incredible nearness.
This is what I started to do on Thursday afternoon, and I started to experience a real peace in the still foggy circumstances. I began to think more deeply about those five words:
I am with you, son.
Yes, God is with me. What a profound and wondrous reality. The same God who hovered over the waters at creation, carved the depths of the ocean, formed the mountaintops, and ultimately formed me, is with me.
And He is with you.
And He cares more than we can fathom.
There was something else of significance that happened on that roller-coaster-of-a-day. My good friend, Matthew, placed his hands on me and prayed. I’m still at a bit of a loss to explain all that happened during this time of prayer, but I could tell God was at work in a tangible way. My fever began to break almost immediately, and I started feeling better by the hour. I was up and moving later in the day, and I received good news the next morning that it was indeed option four—double viral pneumonia.
The healing in my body continued to accelerate on Friday, and the doctor gave the orders to release me on Saturday morning. As the nurse ushered me to the same doors I had stumbled through a few days prior, she said: “I’ve never seen someone recover so rapidly from what you had and the condition you were in on Thursday.”
I thanked her for the care, took Ashley’s hand, and walked out into the fresh air and sunshine. An ever-increasing smile started to grow, as I prayed:
“Thank you, God. Thank you for your presence.”
“It is enough.”