A few nights ago, I could not sleep so I sat up and decided to read something light until I got sleepy. Instead a still small voice inside me suggested I use the time alone to talk to God in conversational prayer. As I often do after thanking Him for a number of blessings in my life and asking for sleep, I began to pray about some medical issues I was going through. The still small inner voice seemed to say to me look back on your life. Since 1986, I had a number of serious medical and physical issues which I had not had prior. That still small voice (which I believe is God’s Holy Spirit) began to remind me to look back and see where I have been protected by God and His wisdom even through these various physical trials. The book of James 1:2-3 admonishes us to “consider it all joy when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” So that night, I recounted past trials in my mind.
Even though my career was in the health sciences, I had been a smoker since the age of 17. After considering quiting several times, in 1989, God told me specifically it was time to quit. He also gave me a plan to do so, namely replacing one bad habit with another less harmful one. While I am not advocating this for everyone, I used the nicotine chewing gum as my replacment habit from which I was weaned some weeks afterward. So with God’s suggestion, power and the gum, I quit smoking on my first try and have not smoked since. However, as a result, to this day, I have a mild case of COPD which is under control. I am sure it would have been a more severe or cancerous situation had I not followed God’s suggestion. My experience exemplifies a spiritual lesson as evidenced from the life of David in the Old Testament. God may deliver us from various conditions but we may have to live with the consequences.
Late one February evening in 1991, I had worked late and was on my way home driving through a rural farmland area where I lived. I inadvertantly dozed off and hit a tree head-on at 50 mph without a seat belt. I suffered severe life-threating head trauma in addition to multiple bone fractures. I spent the next month in the hospital. Once I regained a semblance of understanding, I received a hospital visit from a Maryland policeman who told me that “something told me to go to the quiet road where you were traveling and I witnessed the entire accident.” He was on site within 1-2 minutes of my accident. Had this not been the case, I would have bled to death from head wounds.
In 1995, I was diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer which has been documented on this website under My Story (link). It is now 2018 and my cancer is still present somewhere in my body though I am physically asymptomatic. God has given me excellent physicans to this day for which I am extremely grateful. This condition led to the inception of this website which I have had the blessing of writing and trusting it may have helped a few other men along the way with similar conditions.
In the winter of 2000, I was newly married. One Saturday afternoon, I developed chest pains which could not be distinguished initially from angina or acid reflux. After an overnight hospital stay, doctors concluded it was angina and a helicopter was summonned to fly me to a Washington D.C. heart center. However, it was a bitterly cold and snowy day and the chopper blades were frozen. My wife Marie to whom I was newly married. Being a person devoted to prayer, she immediately asked God for His help. Within minutes of her prayer, she was informed that the chopper blades were defrosted and I was on my way to Washington. A stent was placed in my right coronary artery and two days later I was back at work. I am asymptomatic to this day.
Most recently in March, 2018, I was working in my Florida yard when I noticed my speech was slurred. I recognized this immediately as a stroke symptom and was rushed to a local hospital emergency room which was surprisingly totally devoid of patients at the time. Fortunately, the stroke was minor and I suffer only mild speech impairment. Subsequently, I was prescibed a full strength aspirin as a prevention of future strokes. However, this full strength aspirin led to a bleeding condition which I have had. Instead, an 80 mg “baby” aspirin was substituted by my neurologist which seems to be working to this day as a compromise stroke inhibitor without the subsequent bleeding.
Looking back, I have seen God’s hand in delivering me through these events. The next morning, I happened to read a devotional in the May 17th edition of Our Daily Bread in which the anonymous writer of Psalm 136 encourages the reader to remember the events of God’s deliverances and praise His goodness. The psalmist describes God’s attributes as the One who does wonders, who created the heavens, earth, sun, moon and stars. The writer cites numerous examples of God’s mighty deeds for the Jewish people through the years. These include protecting them from the pursuing Egyptians by parting the Red Sea, protecting them from other enemies, and providing physical nourishment in the wilderness. At the end of each citation through the entire Psalm, the writer states the refrain “His love endures forever.” While He did not part a Red Sea for me, He protected me through all the experiences above. It prompted me to see God’s protection for me personally and verify that indeed “His love endures forever”. For other personal life lessons, see the following website section; Lessons Learned.
One day, my life will most likely end. But I pray that God’s mercy will be manifested therein as well knowing I will be transported to heaven and eventually a new earth with a new body forever. Then I will experience the ultimate example of “His love endures forever.” According to 1 Peter 1 3-6, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an imperishable inheritance reserved in heaven, …….even if for a little while we are distressed by various trials.” Putting faith daily in God’s promises and looking back on His past protection and mercy, takes a lot of anxiety out of the aging process. Truly “His love endures forever.”
For more information about experiencing God’s love personally, see the following link.
In early May, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) finalized its new prostate cancer screening recommendation, which upgrades its recommendation for men 55 – 69 years old to a C rating. While the updated rating is a step forward, many say it’s not enough. The decade-long message that discouraged men from getting tested has led to an unprecedented increase in prostate cancer deaths this year – an anticipated 10 percent jump, according to the National Cancer Institute. The previous recommendation deterred men from a simple blood test and was a barrier to early detection (which would have saved countless lives).
“The fact is 99 percent survive prostate cancer when it’s caught early,” according to Jamie Bearse, CEO of ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer. “Left unchecked, survival rates plummet to 30 percent if prostate cancer is found in an advanced stage. Unfortunately, the C rating is still insufficient and dangerous for high-risk men or men who – without testing – will develop unchecked aggressive or advanced disease.”
The new rating from the USPSTF stipulates that with regard to the prostate-specific antigen blood test (PSA), there is “at least a moderate certainty that the net benefit is small”. The previous D rating – which remains in place for men 70 and over – labeled the PSA test as doing “more harm than good,” and strongly discourages physicians from using the test for men at risk for the disease. At ZERO, we meet active and vibrant men 70 and older leading amazingly impactful lives. We believe these men deserve to know their PSA levels and make an informed, personal decision about options should they develop the disease.
“We need to make sure men know that PSA testing leads to a life-saving diagnosis,” Bearse said. “We’re hearing about advancements in screening and diagnostic tools every time a medical journal publishes a new issue. The technology exists to put men with aggressive disease on the right treatment pathway while not harming those with indolent tumors.”
We who struggle with various medical conditions are often either seeking guidance from God about specific decisions or awaiting results and answers to our prayers. In Psalm 130, the author writes about being in deep distress facing a situation that feels like the blackest of nights. He writes in verse one “out of the depths I cry to You Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.” But in the midst of his troubles, he chooses to trust God and stay alert like a guard on duty charged with announcing daybreak. “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits and in His word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning (v.5-6).” The anticipation of God’s faithfulness breaking through the darkness gives the Psalmist hope to endure even in the midst of suffering. Based on the promises of God found throughout Scripture, this hope allows him to keep waiting even though he has not yet seen the first rays of light.
In Psalm 130:5-6, the word “wait” appears five times. In God’s development of our personal faith, He often delays an answer to prayer to deepen our trust in Him. At times this can be perpexing. Asking for His intervention often carries a sense of urgency. We pray, “Lord, I need Your help now!” But “waiting on the Lord” takes discipline and develops a perseverance in our faith that only steadfastness can yield. Remember Abram waited years for Isaac, the child God had promised to him. This came about only through his wife Sarah’s unlikely conception when she was advanced in years and well beyond the age of childbearing. Abram waited on God in prayer and eventually God granted him generations of offspring too numerous to count. (Genesis 12, 16 and 17).
What prayers are you waiting for God to answer? In what ways might your heavenly Father be developing your faith as you wait? Be encouraged if you are in the midst of a dark night. The dawn is coming. In the meantime, don’t give up hope but keep watching for the deliverance of the Lord in one way or another. He will be faithful. A good prayer would be “please bring light to my darkness. Open my eyes to see You at work and to trust You. Father, I am grateful that You are faithful”. If you are unsure of your own personal relationship with God as your heavenly Father, see the following link.
The above was an excerpt from the May 1st, 2018 devotional written by Lisa Samra appearing in Our Daily Bread, published by RBC Ministries.