We had an interesting visiting speaker this morning at church. He was a pastor from California and told us his “story within a story” His name is Mike Reed and the list of horrible medical issues he has had to face since childhood was beyond comprehension. As he told his story he made connections showing that in hindsight if this (negative thing) hadn’t happened, then this (good) thing wouldn’t have happened. He saw God at work throughout his life.
He was diagnosed with aplastic anemia at the age of ten and though not expected to live several times and enduring months of chemo-therapy and radiation he survived only to deal with other problems that occurred because of the chemo and radiation, like cateracts, infections, inability to sweat, or salivate. About the time he was diagnosed his Dad was furloughed from his job as a pilot and found another job. He got his job back as a pilot but kept the second job foreseeing medical expenses. Because of this he had two insurance policies. If it hadn’t been for those policies there was some treatment that Mike would not have received. His dad losing his job ended up being part of what saved Mike’s life. Later he had severe liver problems and needed a liver transplant. This was at the beginning of the use of live related donor treatments. A man who’s fiance wanted him to check out the church near where they would live came and met with Mike and though later found that he was actually at the wrong church, joined. Though he and his wife moved across the country shortly after that, he ended up being the liver donor. Mike’s life was saved again because the man came to the wrong church.
He said that we as church people, know scripture, claim to know the Lord and believe His word – but do we really? He had a slideshow playing in the background as he spoke and one slide said:
“Happiness – feeling. Root – happening, circumstance.
Joy – attitude: deep settled confidence that God is in control of every area of my life.
Joy is a choice – choose it!”
He said that in the midst of all this he realized that not one second would be snatched from his life that God did not allow. If we really believe God’s word then we should have joy. Romans 8:28 promises us that:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
but it doesn’t promise that we will see it. Though Mike Reed was able to see the connections through hindsight – he was saying that we should live knowing those “connections” where God is at work in our lives are there even when we can’t see them.
Some quotes in the presentation that underscored what he was saying:
“If God can accomplish his purposes in this world through a broken heart, then why not thank him for breaking yours?”
“I believe that pain and suffering can be a prison or a prism. The tests of life are not to break us but to make us.”
There was a lot more to his story and more than he had time to share with us, and though many of these experiences were horrific, he was not a gloomy or pitiful person. He had humor and made jokes throughout his talk. He is now married and has two adopted daughters and is a pastor in Oceanside, California. There were some hints that he still had medical issues to deal with and I suspect he will have til God takes hime home, but it was obvious that he will be serving the Lord til that day.
I envy people with that kind of conviction – the “cracked pots” that God uses; and yet I hesitate to pray for it for myself. I may be a cracked pot too but I’m not sure I would have the strength to go through so much and still be able to maintain an attitude of joyful service. I don’t even do well waking up early.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.