“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
Several years ago, I succumbed to the reality that I could not control my weight without some help. I had ballooned to 320 pounds and felt as if I had no hope. I entered a weight loss surgery program and had a lap band installed around my stomach. Everything was fine for about three months. By that time, I had lost almost 60 pounds and was on my way to my goal of 100 pounds. Unfortunately, trouble began to appear, although I had no idea just how serious it was.
I began to lose my energy and did not have the stamina to work the long hours I used to work. To add insult to the injury, weight loss normally brings comments about how great you look. But I didn’t look great. My color was terrible, and co-workers in my office grew very concerned. Something was dreadfully wrong.
The doctor felt the gall bladder might be the source of my problem. He performed surgery to remove it. While in surgery, they learned my lap band had literally eaten a hole in my stomach, and I was riddled with infection. Emergency surgery removed the band and surgeons were able to patch the hole. However, my body needed time to deal with the infection. I was in the hospital for 12 days. Ten of those days, I could not have food or water as doctors wanted to be sure the newly patched hole in my stomach sealed. The good news was that in 10 days, I shed another 20 pounds. The bad news was that the major surgery took all the energy from my body. It was six weeks before I even felt like sitting in front of a computer to write a devotion.
One of my doctors told me if two more weeks had passed, he doubted I would be around to tell this story. I don’t know how close I came to dying, but I do know I don’t want to come any closer than that experience brought me. I am grateful that God was not through with me, and I look forward to the greater plan I believe he has for my life.
A friend once told me that nothing ever grows on the tops of mountains. Growth always comes in the valleys. And although that valley was deep and the journey through it seemed interminable at times, going through it has changed me in ways that simply would not have happened without it.
For example, I will never look at a patient in a hospital the same way. Now that I have seen life through their eyes, I understand how much a visit from a caring friend means. Even more important, I will never take bedside prayers for granted. I am convinced that I live today because of prayer, not medicine. Don’t get me wrong. I received excellent care and had some of the best doctors medicine had to offer. But it was prayer that brought me the strength to fight. It was prayer that gave my wife the strength she needed to care for me when the doctors and nurses were not around.
I have also grown to understand the importance of get-well cards. I cannot tell you the number of times I looked at them — low moments in the middle of the night, or when I was afraid I would never regain my strength. They made a real difference!
The point of all of this is that when God brings dark clouds our way, it will rain. But rain always brings growth. I don’t want to experience what I went through ever again, but I wouldn’t trade anything for the journey. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me.” (Psalm 23:4)