I’m going to get a bit deep here. This blog is about my journey through faith and sharing my struggles and triumphs and this is certainly about some of my struggles recently. I want to show that no matter where you are in your faith, you can still stumble and fall. It’s not your failures that matter, but your triumph of getting back up for the fight.
When I was 30, I was first diagnosed with heart failure and was in pretty bad shape by the time that I finally went to the doctor. There’s a history of heart disease in my family and several family members have succumbed to it. So naturally, those fears consumed me for some time while I was trying different medications and lifestyle changes to get things to improve. Eventually, things seemed to be going pretty well and my fears subsided.
At 36, I was making dinner on a Sunday evening and I began to feel very weird. After a few minutes the weirdness turned to pain and exhaustion and I began to figure out that I was having a full on heart attack. The several days sitting in the hospital after that, all of my fears of dying young from heart disease began to overwhelm me once again. They lasted for a while after my bypass surgery, but as I gained my strength back they began to subside.
And then this year, shortly before turning 39, some random chest pains began. Usually they only happened when I was doing something laborious, but soon would pop up when I was just walking or doing something normal and not terribly physical. And of course, the fears began again. After waiting a couple of months to see my doctor due to his scheduling and waiting for what seemed like forever for a heart cath, the results were kind of shocking.
I had hoped that those fears (among many others brought on by PTSD from my bypass surgery) would subside when I found out that I would need something minor like some stents. But the results were not what I expected. Instead of there being some sort of procedure or medication change to make me better, it turns out that there’s not really much that can be done. And the couple of weeks since hearing that, I have been grieving hard.
Now those fears of having that fatal heart attack are closer to reality on a daily basis than they have ever been and I’ve really struggled with that. To think that I may get to see Jesus so soon, something that should be a reason to celebrate, instead brings panic, anxiety, and fear. How will I be able to provide for them and take care of their needs if I don’t have enough time to prepare? Am I leaving them with memories that they can cherish, or am I working myself to death and not spending nearly enough quality time with them? How will I be remembered?
So many things rush through my mind each day, but probably the one that I have struggled with the most is will I really get to meet Jesus?
My wife and I have talked about this recently during a particularly difficult day for me and she reminded me that the grace that He extends isn’t earned by our works, but given because of His love. I can’t volunteer enough at church or write enough of these blog posts to save myself. Through Jesus, I already am saved. Because I have accepted Jesus into my heart and I call Him Lord, I already am saved. No matter the mistakes that I make, I already am saved.
Yesterday, our worship pastor, Mike, was talking a bit about a song that we had just sung. The song was Living Hope by Phil Wickham. Overall, it’s a pretty powerful song with a strong message, but Mike focused on one particular line. “The cross has spoken, I am forgiven.” He had the congregation repeat that line several times, and as my eyes began to well up with tears, I was reminded of the conversation that my wife and I had a week or so prior about the same thing. It reminded me of the comfort that I have in Jesus’ sacrifice and love.
As I mentioned, I’ve been grieving the past couple of weeks. Grief is painful. Grief is gut wrenching. Grief is angry and wants to cause us to lash out. Grief is all kinds of things that we don’t want to face. I reached a point where I was wrestling with God, asking Him to please take this from me, please heal me. What have I done wrong? Why me? I was doubting Him, I was angry at Him, I didn’t want to face Him. And the whole time, I knew that was wrong. During those times, we should be running to Him for comfort and guidance, reassurance and compassion, but I was hurt.
A point made in the sermon yesterday was about who Jesus went to see after His crucifixion and before ascending to heaven. He first saw Mary Magdalene. She was hurting from losing someone that she loved so much. She was heartbroken and devastated and went to His tomb to prepare Jesus’ body for burial when she found His body was gone and 2 angels were there. During her shock, Jesus appeared to her. He appeared to someone who was in so much pain, who was grieving and not sure what the future held. That shows that Jesus is with us in our painful moments, when we fear He is gone all we have to do is turn around to see Him.
The next person was Thomas, better known as Doubting Thomas because of this story. After hearing about Jesus showing Himself to Mary, Thomas said that unless He sees the wounds and can touch them himself, he won’t believe. And then Jesus makes it happen. Thomas, being the first skeptic of Jesus’ resurrection, is approached by Jesus. He holds out His hands and tells Thomas to touch His wounds. Jesus isn’t afraid of our doubt, but He is there with us during it.
And finally, Jesus came to Peter. At this point, Peter had denied Jesus more than once leading up to His trial and execution. The person that he said he would die for, he acted like he didn’t know him in order to save himself the same fate. He loved Jesus and just pretended that he didn’t know the man at all. He had failed Jesus, or so he thought. When Jesus came to him, Jesus asked if Peter loved him. Jesus used the term agape, meaning unconditional love, and Peter responded with the term philio, which is a lesser love. The same exchanged repeated again. And then Jesus used the term philio to ask Peter and he responded in kind. This shows Jesus coming to us where we are. Whether that is in our brokenness, our doubt, our moments of incredibly strong faith and our moments of extreme weakness.
Jesus is there for us through anything and everything and He has shown it through those 3 examples of His love for us, among countless others throughout the Gospel. We don’t have to do anything other than accept Him for Him to be with us. We don’t have to be perfect or have it all figured out.
As the Casting Crowns song “Just Be Held” goes,
So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held