Lately, there have been episodes in my life where it seems like God is giving me a cue on either the outlook or direction I should take in my life. No, I haven’t heard the voice of God speaking to me, nor have I seen any eye-popping events like angels appearing before me with arrows pointing me toward a particular path.
It’s just a series of events that leads me to a realization that shapes how I should organize my life, new goals I should implement, or how to deal with a problem. Some people would scoff and consider these to be coincidental events – kind of like move along folks, no influence of God to see here.
So, let’s examine what some terms mean. Then let’s apply the definitions and see what term best applies to some recent events that appeared to me to be influenced from above.
After I was afflicted with a really bad case of bronchitis – so bad that I coughed myself into lower back pain – I began to feel more anxious than I had in a long time. You see, right before the bronchitis hit, I seemed to have a little more energy. Because I have really pronounced allergies and sinus issues, I thought that I just had some congestion or maybe even a cold. But the next thing you know, the bronchitis and backache just ambushed me.
I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t get comfortable and I couldn’t shake this feeling that maybe I was developing yet another chronic issue. Maybe you think this is needless worry, but I know how that it is not just my heart now that is scrutinized by my doctor, but my lung, kidney and other organs’ functions. Who knew what this crazy cough was doing to my overall health that might take me from a well-compensated heart failure patient to one who was struggling. The coughing and the backache made it hard to sleep. I’ll give you a clue that when Melanie doesn’t sleep well, the anxiety gene becomes extremely restless.
My plate became too full with trying to recuperate and worrying about how could I handle any additional health constraints. I continued to panic even after I started to feel better, even after I could get up and walk around and even resume a more normal (for me) exercise routine. I came to the realization that never again could I think of something as “just a cold” because of the impact it might have on my health.
I was consumed by the fear of the unexpected, those things that can just crop up with no explanation and destroy your health, similar to heart failure’s modus operandi. Lest you think I’m joking, I came across the following excerpt from a doctor’s report that succinctly describes what was going on in my life around March 2013:
The ICD is a reference to the fact that in March 2013, I only needed the pacemaker and not the defibrillator and for a while, seemed to be doing better. This excerpt stops at around April 2014 when I started to feel like my condition was slipping. A few months later, I would have the echocardiogram that showed that my ejection fraction (or EF) had deteriorated so much that I was in need of an ICD and I needed to also be treated by not just a cardiologist but a heart failure doctor.
The bottom line is that I know that anxiety does not help my heart – for all sorts of reason, including the bad adrenaline surge that is triggered. But to be candid, it can be hard to mitigate or even eliminate the anxiety when you start to see possible signs of another decline.
Happily, two things happened during the week after the anxiety surge hit. The first was that I had a really good talk with my minister and vented a lot of frustration and anxiety. Plus, I began to realize for probably the millionth time since this heart failure saga began that it is too much for me to handle without the help of my faith, and most importantly, of God. But how do I accomplish this outreach yet again, and is God just rolling his eyes at me?
The second thing that happened was on a Sunday morning, my minister reached out to congregation members to see who was interested in preparing daily devotionals for the season of Advent. The process was to pick one or two bible verses from a list and then write about them. So early in the week I told the minister that I was interested but I had forgotten to sign up. I asked if he could just assign me something to write about, and he did. He assigned Psalm 85, verses 8 – 13 to me.
A few days later, I had my water heater replaced, which meant I was captive for a few hours in my condo while the work was done. So, I decided to read the verses and prepare the devotional. To my surprise, this purely random pick said that God promises peace to his people, his faithful servants, but to not let them not turn to folly. According to the Webster’s online dictionary, folly is a foolish act or idea.
Can you guess what I concluded was the foolish act or idea that was blocking my road to the peace God promises? If you guessed that it was my anxiety, congratulations. If you didn’t guess that, it’s probably because you only started reading my blog posts. But anxiety has been my mortal enemy for a while now.
I think I have a strong faith in God, but people looking in from the outside might conclude the opposite because I can become so anxious. What they don’t know is that I don’t doubt the power of the Lord.
What I doubt is my ability to control my health, and to put things in perspective when the health starts to decline. But it dawned on me that if I am becoming anxious because I doubt my ability to withstand the impact of my health, I am doubting God. Why? Because if I am made by him in his image doubting me if you take it to the logical next step means I am doubting the God who made me. So, I have concluded that it is my faith, a gift from God, that will help me conquer my fear and help me be at peace in my life.
About the time I finished drafting this devotional, the minister reached out to say that there were some verses still available. The way I picked a verse this time was even more random. I decided I always liked the name Philippians, and one of the two verses from Philippians was in Chapter 4. The other verse was from an odd-numbered chapter. I prefer the symmetry of even numbers to odd numbers so I picked Philippians 4, verses 4 – 7.
Imagine my shock when verse 7 said: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ.” Once again, a random pick of a verse not only spoke volumes to me, a sense of both calm and tenacity descended upon me. Those two words may sound inconsistent to you – if I feel calm, isn’t it going to be undermined by a persistence that might start that damaging adrenaline to go coursing through my veins? No – because in this case, I feel that God has been telling me to be steadfast. I feel that God has been telling me that there is something that I need to do.
The calm helps me hear his voice. God put me here for a purpose. It has been hard for me to discern that purpose when anxious voices swirl in my head. The calm will make it easier to hear the voice, and the tenacity will be the perfect balance to make me strong and persistent to accomplish his will.
Some people would doubt that God has anything to do with my change in attitude. They would call it coincidence. Merriam Webster website definition of coincidence: the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection. This goes beyond “a connection”. This is a calling to me, a gift of direction. I am recognizing I have to do something that is much bigger and important than anything I have done before. And although my heart may be begun to fail my body, I will not fail in fulfilling my purpose.
If you agree with me that God was involved, would this be an instance of divine intervention? It was hard to find a good definition of this term. Dictionary.com/e/religion has this to say: “Divine intervention is the interference of a deity in human life, popularly extended to any miraculous-seeming turn of events.” Regarding where does divine intervention come from, it says: By the early 20th century, divine intervention entered into secular discourse to describe any event that appeared to have been guided by a great force, especially for troubled events that suddenly, as if miraculously, turn out well.
I think we all like to think that problems in our life are solved with the blare of trumpets, some great optic event, and miraculously all will be well. I don’t think what happened to me is as dramatic as that. I had been consumed by my fear for a while, but it wasn’t like I was about to die. I was just incredibly anxious, and it was blocking me from moving forward. So, while God was talking to me – he wasn’t yelling dramatically or sending bands of angels to rescue me. Rather he got to me through something as subtle as helping me to stumble on two of many verses in the Bible that spoke to my specific circumstances.
I like to think that what it comes down to is providence. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary website, providence means divine guidance or care; or God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny. From everything I have described, I think you can see that subtle, gentle nudge pointing me to a direction that would not only make me at peace, but give me a purpose to keep me occupied and oblivious to those evil anxious voices that want to disturb me.
What a gift, in the season of the gift of God's son. God has also given me the gift of hope that will bring good fortunes not just to me but hopefully to others.
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. Since that time, she has been learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth.