Some Lessons are Hard...Very Hard...
By Ron Harris
Some lessons are hard—very hard! And, for a believer, these lessons underscore what we know to be true: God’s ways are not our ways.
It will soon be a full year that my sweet wife, Judy, has struggled physically. Four hip replacement surgeries in eight weeks. First, it was a very successful surgery. But even though Judy was being careful, the evening she got home from that surgery, she fell and shattered her femur, the bone attached to that titanium hip. When I heard Judy fall, and when I saw her on the kitchen floor, the only thing I could say was, “O God, O God!” It was a time the Holy Spirit had to interpret my cry into a meaningful prayer.
Judy’s orthopedic surgeon would later say, “She shattered the femur—and did a really good job of it!”
The surgeon, who is from India, was concerned about getting all the bone fragments back in place AND doing another successful hip replacement. Of course, I had told this doctor we were praying for him. We had prayed before the first surgery. Then, I asked where he was from in India. When he told me Chennai, I quickly told him there was a man in Chennai, one of our ministry partners, who was praying for him. He was surprised.
Two days later, this excellent doctor performed the second, more complicated surgery. When he came out to the waiting room, his first words—after assuring me that Judy was fine—were, “I think Someone was guiding me during that procedure.” I assured him that this was true and asked him if I could pray and thank our Lord for that guidance. I put my arm around this good man and thanked God for using such a skilled physician to accomplish the Lord’s work on Judy.
About two weeks later at a follow up appointment in the doctor’s office, I had one of my scariest moments. As Judy got up from a wheelchair to get on the exam table, she fainted. The doctor and I grabbed her and got her on the table. My wife was not responsive. She wasn’t breathing properly. I called her name again and again. Finally, she took a big breath and began to respond. And I sighed a prayer.
A trip to the ER followed where they tried unsuccessfully to put the hip back in place. It was the same later in the day in the operating room. And that led to the third hip replacement. Just a few weeks later, Judy seemed to be doing well. But getting back into bed one night—something she had done over and over—she heard her hip pop. It was dislocated again. Surgery again. The fourth major surgery in eight weeks.
Total it up: five hospital stays (including a rehab hospital), four ambulance trips (all in two months), then the long process of physical therapy to get Judy back to full mobility.
When we got Judy home, everything had to be relocated to one floor of our house since she couldn’t climb stairs. It was through those early days that we recognized Judy was experiencing times of confusion. The medical teams and our primary physician all attributed it to the multiple surgeries and the anesthesia, or the antibiotics, or pain medication, or...We all felt she would get past that as time went on.
What else could possibly happen? Well, in February, Texas was hit with some of its coldest winter days ever. Water pipes froze and burst, flooding many homes, including that one floor we were living on. Two to three inches of water flooded that floor, and we were forced to move into a hotel to stay while our house was pretty much totally rebuilt. None of us expected it to end up being a stay of over six months. Only recently have we been able to move back home.
As the days went on, it became obvious that the confusion and brain fog Judy was experiencing was something more than just the result of medications. In April, while I was in Ukraine holding a media training conference, it became clear that Judy’s confusion was becoming more severe. That entailed another trip to the emergency room. Tests and scans revealed that there was excess fluid on the brain, and it was pressing in and causing a form of dementia. The term is hydrocephalus. By God’s grace, we were led to a gifted brain surgeon who performed a procedure to take care of that problem. Like a miracle of God, Judy’s mental capacity returned to normal, and she is gaining more and more mobility. A day or two after the brain surgery, I was able to tell her, “I’ve got my wife back.”
Through it all, God has been teaching us. These have been hard lessons for Judy and me—but powerful lessons.
As I have shared this story of our life, I have not done this for sympathy or pity for Judy and me. At every turn, through every trial, we have seen God’s hand at work. I could tell you of miracle after miracle we observed even in the midst of very hard days. Again and again, we could declare, God is good!
One of the main lessons we have learned is that our Lord’s ways are so far above us.
“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!” (Romans 11:33, NLT).
I had multiple opportunities to pray with the medical team that was taking care of Judy. One physician assistant was from Laos—a Buddhist. As we got to know him, we asked him to our church Christmas program. He came and brought his wife and children. He told me he was excited, since his children had never been in a church, only in a temple. They heard the story of God’s love that night. A seed was planted.
We discovered that the Lord was giving us assignments all during these days. The assignment to interact with people we would not otherwise meet and to reflect God’s love to them.
1 Peter 3:15 says we should be ready to share with others the source of our hope. I was able to share with many of the medical personnel we met though this ordeal our thanks for them—but that our ultimate hope was found in Jesus.
Multiple times, we saw God bring people across our path and into our lives that we would never have met without the trials we were experiencing. A building contractor working on our home—we prayed for him. He accepted our invitation to come to our church Palm Sunday service. He brought his wife and two teenage boys. They heard the gospel. Seeds were planted.
Hotel people where we lived for six months became like family. We prayed with—and for—several of them. They brought us flowers and handmade cards, thanking us for the joy we brought. And we told them where our joy comes from. Therapists, home health people, and many others. It was amazing to see the Lord at work in this way.
We learned another lesson—one we had known theoretically but were now seeing “up close and personal.” Through the years, we have sung this hymn:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim. In the light of His glory and grace.”
Now, the more we understood that the Lord was bringing us new assignments, the less we thought about our “problems.” The more we used these unusual encounters to share our hope in a loving God, the more our afflictions diminished. We came to understand these trials were God’s opportunities to let His love and grace be reflected into the lives of people we would never have met were it not for our struggles.
The things we faced this past year have come nowhere near what the Apostle Paul dealt with throughout his life. But we understand much better his perspective about afflictions.
“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So, we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:17–18 NLT).
A hard lesson? Absolutely! Not one I would want Judy or me to have to go through again. But we have a real sense of joy that God can use our “light afflictions” to bring glory to our Lord and allow us to share our hope with those He brings into our lives.
“...the things of earth will grow
In the light of His glory and grace.”
To God be the glory!