My husband is a fisherman. As a young boy and teenager, he fished the lakes and streams of Louisiana. Some of the best bass I’ve ever eaten came from those waters. Then, after we married and moved to Texas, he began fishing the shallows of Aransas Pass in South Texas, as well as the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Nowadays, the lakes of Texoma (where Texas and Oklahoma meet) are home to him.
When C.J. was young, his daddy was his fishing guide. He knew where the little honey holes were that cloaked the bass and brim in the murky lake water. Some days were successful and some not so much. Either way, treasured memories unfold as C.J. remembers their time together on the water.
Those honey holes are a bit harder to find on Texoma, so C.J. employs the expertise of a fishing guide. He’s been using the same guide service for almost twenty years, and there is a level of trust with these guides—that they will have a full tank of gasoline for the properly maintained boat, state-of-the-art fishing gear and depth finders, fresh bait, lots of comradery, and life preservers for that rare flip into the drink. Whether fishing the shallows or the deep waters, my husband feels secure with his guide.
I’ve been pondering the similarity between a fishing guide and our Fisher of Men. What was my level of trust last week when fear clutched me with a death grip? I learned some things about myself, and about human nature in general. The most obvious “enlightenment” is that we can talk about the faith we have in our powerful, omnipotent God all day long, but when we are forced to face a life and death moment, how strong are we really? How strong was I?
Let me take you back with me a few weeks. I’ve had a condition called gastritis (reflux) for several years. The main symptom is a burning sensation in the area of my sternum (breastbone). It is exacerbated by strenuous exercise. Over the last 14 months in the gym, I have learned to gage my cycling, etc. to the extent of the burn I can tolerate.
A couple of months ago, that “voice” inside began to nudge me to get to the doctor. I was having the burn more often, even when not working out. I went to see my gastroenterologist who set up an endoscopy, but told me he thought I should see a cardiologist. Serendipitously, no Providentially, it was also time for my quarterly blood work, so I went to my primary care doctor for that. A low pulse and an off-handed remark of chest pain during exercise led to an EKG, which prompted a directive to get to a cardiologist pronto. (I’m giving you these details as a warning to the female readers. It’s a proven statistic that we “mature women” are prone to ignore symptoms).
After another EKG and a stress echo using resting and post-exercise sonography (which I failed miserably), the cardiologist scheduled a Cardiac Cath. I was assured that I would be asleep (which ended up being false) and that if they found any arterial blockage, the Dr. would insert a stent during the procedure to open up the artery.
Two events immediately came to mind on the drive home:
- Years ago, we went to Louisiana to visit our long-time friend who is a cardiologist. George is usually upbeat, but this weekend he seemed down. When I asked what was going on, he told me he lost his first patient that week during a Cardiac Cath. It’s rare, but it does happen.
- C.J.’s brother died suddenly the morning after he had a stent put in his heart just a few years ago.
You’ve heard the phrase and probably experienced “having ice water pour through your veins?” Yes? Well, that was my body’s reaction to the Cardiac Cath. news!
After writing First Fruits, I made the proclamation to the Lord that I was ready for Him to take me Home if He so desired, now that I had finished His assignment. Time passed. I was still alive and breathing (to my consternation)—until He made it clear to me one day that He had more for me to do. Hard stuff. I’m writing another book about the “hard stuff,” but that story is for another time.
Fast forward to last Tuesday, October 3rd. In the week prior to the procedure, I had experienced a full week of chest pain and anxiety, all the while praying and claiming scripture on fear and faith. I had many prayer warriors in the turtle huddle (a reference to warriors who used their shields in a turtle formation close together to avoid the flaming arrows of the enemy). Finally, after all the praying and meditation on God’s Word, I was blessed with peace about 36 hours before the Cardiac Cath.
Now, the procedure did not go exactly as I had thought. First, I got the “nervous pee syndrome” when they rolled me down the corridor to the operating room, so they unhooked me to use a restroom across the hall. I was then instructed to “just walk across the hall to the operating room, and use the foot stool to just hop up onto the operating table.” Does that strike anyone besides me as a little weird??
I’m lying there, eagerly awaiting my twilight cocktail. The surgeon is deciding whether he will be able to insert the catheter into my wrist or groin. Still waiting, eyes closed. I’m told to be very still, and then I feel the catheter being inserted into my wrist. (They lied! I was very explicit about wanting to be fast asleep for all this). Okay, not too bad—still waiting to drift off.
Guys, it never happens. I hear which music they decide to listen to, the “4,000 Hep” announcement two different times, Dr. talking, etc. Finally, I tell them I’m still awake and can hear everything they are saying. The Dr. tells me to lie still and expect some pain as they place the stent. Huh? I heard them mention “balloon,” but it didn’t register at the time. To be honest, the pain only lasted about 10-15 seconds, so the drugs they gave me at least helped minimize what I felt. But it was still SCARY!
Back to my fishing analogy. In thinking about the guide’s responsibility, it boils down to being prepared, knowledgeable and taking care of all the needs of the customer. How does that compare to the Fisherman we know as Jesus? Is He prepared for anything we send His way? Check. Does He know everything—including how to solve any problem we have? Check. Will He take care of us through any storm life hurls at us? Check. HE IS ABLE.
I used the concept of a “Rainy Day Faith Fund” in a radio broadcast several months ago. The idea is that if we are exercising our faith by studying God’s Word and developing a relationship with God through prayer, then when the trial comes unexpectedly (as big trials usually do), we can utilize those reserves of faith for times of testing.
A couple of years ago, I took a Bible study called “The Armor of God” by Priscilla Shirer (same study that taught me about the turtle formation). We were encouraged to write out Ephesians 6:10-19 on index cards provided in the book. I did that, and with some effort memorized those verses. The cards became so handy that I wrote out more of my “go to” scriptures on them. Guess what I just about wore out in the days leading up to the Cardiac Cath? My Faith Fund came into play, both in my prayer life and with those scripture cards. I was armed and ready for battle!
You see, the battle becomes a tug-of-war in our minds between whether or not God’s will is to answer our request in the way we want it answered. We know He can do anything—the question is will He?! … I bet all you believers out there are nodding as you read this! It is interesting to me that there are so many verses in the Bible on fear and faith. Here are just a few:
- For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. II Timothy 1:7
- Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee. Isaiah 26:3
- The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14
- But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back. But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Hebrews 10:38-39
- Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. II Thessalonians 3:16
What I realized anew is that God provided so many scriptures on faith and fear, not because we would read them once and apply them to our lives permanently; but that we would need to refer back to them over and over. He knew we would continue to need encouragement whether we are in the shallows or the deep parts of life. How comforted I am by that knowledge! I’ll close with this thought:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”