When You Need Strength and Hard to Understand Peace
I can relive that morning in my head like it happened yesterday…
I shuffled out of the bedroom hoping to retrieve a cup of coffee to sip while I got ready for church. As I entered our family room, I found Rev propped up on the couch with ashen skin and blue lips. (I’d only seen that one other time when visiting a young friend just hours before she went home to be with the Lord.)
I wanted to call 911. Rev refused. He’d been sick for so long that he was as sick of the poking and prodding as he was his illness.
So, I agreed to call our friends at church first, I needed to tell them he wouldn’t be there to teach Bible Study that morning and I wanted to talk with a couple of nurse friends and ask for their advice.
They were a God-give blessing … telling me what to look for and assuring me that we could monitor him at home and if things didn’t get any worse, we wouldn’t need to call the EMTs. The hard news … they told me that it was time to admit that Rev had to have the surgery his doctors were recommending. And although, I didn’t want to admit it – I knew they were right. Rev’s body was beginning to shut down.
At this point, you need to know about this surgery called a Pericardial Stripping. Most cardiac surgeons don’t want to do it. It’s long, messy, and depending upon the health of the patient going in, the percentages of a successful outcome are very low.
We were told there was a good possibility Rev would die on the operating table or have a stroke or heart attack within the first 24 hours … but that surgery was the only way to save his life.
God blessed us with a miracle through the gentle hands of Dr. Jennifer Lawton, who has since moved from St. Louis to Baltimore where she is now the Chief of Cardiac Surgery at John’s Hopkins Medical Center.
So, why am I sharing this story with you?
Because to this day, Rev and I still can’t explain the strength and hard to understand peace God gave us through those months leading up to, through, and beyond Rev’s surgery.
It is believed that Paul wrote the following in a Roman prison cell:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6–7
Just a few years earlier, I’d been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and although I’d like to tell you medication fixed the problem … it didn’t keep me from being anxious, it just kept me from feeling like I was going to throw up all the time. I was still a world-class worrier!
When You Need Strength and Hard to Understand Peace
This time, was different. Throughout the fifteen months of Rev’s illness, with God’s help, we lived Philippians 4.
- We prayed and then we prayed more. We also had a small group of dear friends who were praying for us.
- We thanked God for every single day. No matter what happened or what news we received … we thanked God for the gift of another day together.
- We refused to focus on negative what-ifs. Rev said early on, “If I wait until I’m healthy to be happy, I may never be happy again.” So with God’s help, we found joy in the little things and made laughter a priority.
Sure there were moments when we cried together as we prayed or simply held each other because we weren’t sure where to turn or what to do during the long eleven months we spent waiting for a diagnosis. But we also looked for reasons to laugh and took time to celebrate whenever possible.
So, my friend, if you’re going through the impossible today, I want you to know God can give you the strength and peace you need to do this thing … whatever it is.
I read these words this morning in the Life Application Bible Notes for Philippians 4:6–7:
Do you want to worry less?
Then pray more!
Whenever you start to worry … STOP and PRAY!
God’s peace is different from the world’s peace. True peace [God’s peace] is not found in positive thinking, in absence of conflict, or in good feelings. It comes from knowing that God is in control. Our citizenship in Christ’s Kingdom is sure, our destiny is set, and we can have victory over sin. Let God’s peace guard your heart against anxiety.
I still get tears in my eyes thinking about our pastor inviting the congregation to the front of the church that Sunday before surgery and watching the chairs empty as everyone joined hearts and hands as our pastor prayed, “Father, spare his life!”
I can still see myself kissing him in pre-op wondering if that would be the last time this side of heaven.
I can visualize every inch of the waiting room as I sat with our children and a few friends through the six-plus hour surgery ending with our 7ft tall son asking to hug petite Dr. Lawton when she came to tell us that surgery had gone well.
I remember walking into the ICU for the first time and hearing the nurses laugh at one of his one-liners.
And later that day when he told the kids and me, “I knew I’d be okay going into surgery because I’d either wake up here with all of you or I’d wake up with Jesus and my mom and…”
That’s hard to understand peace!
That’s knowing “our citizenship in Christ’s Kingdom is secure and our destiny is set.”
David wrote, “The Lord gives His people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.” Psalm 29:11
I do believe that’s why Paul called it “the peace which exceeds anything we can understand.”
You and I can’t will ourselves into a state of strength and peace. Believe me, I tried for years!
What we can do … is ask God, He will graciously give us both.
The thing is, I think we want it to be a one and done. We want to be able to pray, “Father give me your peace and strength” as we go right on worrying about the things of life.
Which is why we need to remember Philippians 4:6 comes before verse 7…
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.
Don’t worry … STOP and PRAY! You and I can tell God what we need. But I believe it’s in the remembering what He has already done that peace takes root and starts to grow.
Because, if He doesn’t do one other thing for you and me, He’s given us Jesus! Our citizenship in heaven is secure! Our future is prepared.
And in the meantime, whatever is going on, whatever we’re going through, God will give us everything we need … even strength for the battle at hand and hard to understand peace.
May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:2
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Thank you for this. My husband fought for 2 years to save his leg after a fall from a ladder. After doing everything WE could do, we finally surrendered it all to God, asking for strength, wisdom and peace. After his amputation, God gave us all of that. Today my husband is a peer visitor at Duke Hospital to other amputees, encouraging them and witnessing to them. Lesson learned: give God your worries and concerns and then trust Him to handle them. He’s always in control. God bless.
Ann, Thank you so much for sharing your story. You’ve walked through those days of waiting only to get the answer you don’t want. Yet, God can take those things we don’t want and turn them into something good. His loving grace continues to overwhelm me. I love that your husband turned this into a ministry opportunity. God bless you both!
Exactly right for today (and every day), Deb. Thank you.
Thank you, Cheryl! I so appreciate your kindness! God bless!
Thank you. That was the same verse our pastor preached yesterday. Clearly I need to hear it often and from different voices!
Nellie, I love when the Lord brings the same truth to me from various sources. I always feel that it’s something I really need to hear. Blessings to you!
Deb, this is such a miraculous and inspirational story! I knew Rev had had heart issues, but never realized how serious the situation truly was. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that you remember all the details concerning that time in your lives.
And yes, your advice to stop worrying and simply pray couldn’t be better. I thank God every day that I’ve learned to do that!
Blessings to you, my friend!
Oh, Martha, you and Danny have walked a similar path and it’s in that looking back at what’s He brought us through that helps us surrender our worry to Him yet again. And wow, it’s better to live this way than in that place of fear and worry. A place I lived for waaay toooo many years! Blessings and hugs!
Good morning, Deb.
Thank you. Yes, strength and peace the peace which exceeds anything we can understand. Because it is so many things that are happening that is hard for me to understand but what I do understand is that God is in control and He has people like you my sister Deb right in place and in the right position. I am grateful. Be blessed my sister-n-Christ.
Thank you for your kind encouragement, Alprescia. I have been blessed by several wise mentors who loved me with God’s truth. And then, when I look back at God’s faithfulness through pain … it becomes so much easier to trust Him today. God bless you!
Thank you. I needed this today.
Deb, this was such a wonderful post and a necessary reminder for someone like me who also deals with an anxiety disorder. Thank you for these words and for your ministry.
Susan, thank you so much for your encouragement. Living with anxiety is so challenging. I’m praying and asking God to fill you with His amazing strength and peace.
I always seem to come across your posts when I most need them and this was no exception. We are on the hunt for a house right now and the reminder to stop worrying, stop and pray and most importantly thank God is so timely as we are about to go out tonight and look at what we think might be THE house. The nerves are rattled so this spoke to me. Thank you and God bless you!!
Oh, Diane, we just went through the house thing last year! I remember getting so discouraged. We moved from St. Louis to Kansas City and I remember one trip home where we looked AGAIN without success. And then, the perfect house happened and it was so worth the wait and the process. I’m praying and asking God to give you His peace and to show you the perfect house at just the right time. Tonight would be great, wouldn’t it? 🙂 Sending hugs!
Praise God for His peace! He never ceases to amaze me by the beautful and loving ways He touches our lives. Thank you so much for sharing this story and the truths demonstrated by it! Blessings to you! Your neighbor at Fuel on Fire Link up.
Deb, I needed this today. Thank you.
Beautiful Deb! God is definitely in control. He is already handling it. I have to learn to sit back and relax and let Him so His thing. (He doesn’t need my assistance – only my obedience).
I love how you point out how we can’t merely will ourselves to be strong and full of peace. When the world tells us to just move on, it’s impossible! But with Jesus, he does all of the work as soon as we ask for his help. Love this post! Thankful for your husband’s miraculous surgery outcome and appreciate you sharing so openly.
Once again, Deb, these are just the words I needed to hear today. Although in the large scheme of things, this seems small, I am having cataract surgery on September 12, and I’m finding myself just a tad nervous and anxious about it when I focus on that instead of trusting in God. Thanks for redirecting my thoughts, knowing He has everything in His hands.
Hi Beth, I’m so sorry I missed this at the time, it was sent to my spam folder. I’m praying your surgery went well and that you are completely recovered and doing well. God bless you! I look forward to hearing from you again!