When What You Fear the Most Happens
Sometimes what you fear the most actually happens, but oftentimes, something remarkable happens in those moments. It’s almost as if God is saying, you can trust me! The very worst has happened, but I am worthy of your trust.
Nearly thirty years ago, my Daddy had open heart surgery, the very thing he feared the most. This is his story…
“What I feared has come upon me,
What I dreaded has happened to me.”
I first recall hearing a reference to this verse when in was in Bible college in 1972. One of my teachers made the statement, “What I feared the most happened to me”. She had greatly feared the death of her husband and it happened. But she also testified that the Lord was gracious and stood with her and strengthened her in her time of trial. In 1972, she was happily married again to a fine Christian businessman.
The second time I heard reference to this verse was at a Bible seminar in 1980, where the speaker said, “What you fear the most could very well happen”. Both these incidents were ingrained into my mind. I never forgot these words- “What I dreaded has happened to me”.
In the Fall season of 1981 (at the age of 40), I was on the roof of our home cleaning the fallen leaves out of the rain gutters, when I experienced my first chest pain. I was surprised and wondered why it happened. As I kept working another slight pain occurred a few minutes later. Every few minutes there was a slight sharp pain like someone was pinching me on the inside. I was now getting a little frightened.
For the next three months, I kept this to myself. I was experiencing these chest pains every 5 to 10 minutes. Finally, I told my wife, Carol what was happening. She encouraged me to see a doctor, someone I have always tried to avoid.
After much persuasion and encouragement from my good wife who had been a nurse, I reluctantly went. After all kinds of tests, from wearing a heart monitor for 24 hours to a stress test, they found nothing wrong but slightly high blood pressure for which I was placed on medication.
However, for the next nine years (from 1981 to August 1990), I experienced some kind of chest pain or discomfort almost every day. During those nine years, I ministered to quite a few men who had heart problems and eventually open heart surgery. So I was close to the problem, hearing and learning much about open heart surgery. And these words of Job kept coming to my remembrance, “What I dreaded has happened to me”.
I feared open heart surgery.
I could never go through that, I thought.
This couldn’t happen to me.
During those nine years of chest pains, I had a twofold experience. On the one hand, I believe I was drawn closer to my Lord and my Savior, Jesus Christ. There were times of sweet fellowship with the Lord who was faithful and stood with me and I know it was the loving hand of God.
However, on the other hand, this good experience was not always easy. There were times of fear, frustration, discouragement, and times when I longed to be free from this affliction. There were times when I prayed earnestly and fervently with tears to be healed instantly. The answer didn’t come in my way or my time, but it would come in God’s way and God’s time.
During those nine years, I kept most of what was happening to myself. I shared some things with my wife and children but not much. In 1987, I realize now that I began to experience angina pains. I continued to fulfill my ministry, but I knew that my problem was getting worse, although I didn’t know exactly what was wrong. I thought I might have blockage in my arteries, but I wasn’t sure. The angina pains began to happen more frequently with physical exertion. I could no longer cut the grass or walk a long distance. I continued to pray for strength and healing. I changed my eating habits and lost weight. I wanted to be well, but I didn’t want surgery.
And then this past summer, I was walking in the parking lot, talking to God and I made the most foolish statement I’ve ever made-
“Lord- I can’t go through open heart surgery,
I won’t go through open heart surgery,
I’ll die first, before I’ll go to a hospital.”
But God is so gracious. Our Lord is so patient and long suffering.
On August 19th, God lead me to preach on Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”- “My grace is sufficient for thee”.
On August 24th, we took Janey to Hershey for her ride to school. That night, we talked with Janey’s friend’s mother. Her husband had heart problems. He went to Hershey hospital and had the angioplasty done and was doing well. But she said something that God used to pierce my heart- “We needed him”. I began to think of my family.
On August 26th, God led me to preach on Romans 12. There was a verse in particular that God would drive into my mind- Romans 12:12. “Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer.” That word from God became a source of comfort to my soul.
On August 27th, the pain was getting worse and more frequent. Pain came just sitting. It was time to go. I committed everything to the Lord. I went to see my doctor and asked him to get me into Hershey hospital. The earliest appointment was on August 29th. On August 28th, I experienced a severe pain and I told Carol, “It’s time to go”. She insisted she would drive.
The rest is history. They found severe blockage and I had open heart surgery.
“What I dreaded has happened to me”
But by the grace of God, what I dreaded did not have to be dreaded- because in my weakness, God’s peace and power rested upon me. He deserves the honor and glory for bringing me through this.
You’ve all heard or read the poem “Footprints in the Sand”. As I look back over my experience at Hershey hospital, I see one set of footprints and they’re not mine. Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, carried me all the way through!
What lessons have I learned? Too many to share all with you, but I’ll share two in closing.
- There is nothing too hard for the Lord- He is able to keep us in all situations.
“God does not keep us from trials, but He keeps us in trials.”
- God is never without hope- our God is a God of Hope!
Therefore, we can overcome and endure and never give up.
After what God has done for me, I should never become anxious about anything. God goes before us. The Lord went before me into Hershey hospital. Everything was prepared by God for my coming. The Lord was in control. He turned that “dreadful place” into a haven of rest, peace and healing! I can honestly say “I enjoyed the experience” and God deserves all the glory.
Job said, “What I dreaded has happened to me”. But the Bible says in Job 42:12 that “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.” God has a way of making it up to us. He turns trials into triumph.
If we continue to trust Christ and cleave unto Him, there is hope, there is victory, there is prosperity in our inner most being.
“Therefore, my brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials and temptations” (James 1:2), knowing this, that God is working for our good and for His glory!