January 11, 2012

The Strength of my Heart

The last couple of weeks have presented a trial that I did not expect (or want). I have a heart condition known as A-fib, for short. My heart skips beats or flutters, or beats rapidly during an episode. In the past several years, I’ve had an episode 1-2 times a year, at most. Caffeine is an instigator. I’ve never enjoyed coffee or colas, etc. so it is not difficult to stay away from caffeine. Chocolate is another issue. Mild chocolate seemed okay, but rich chocolate (the good stuff) became a no-no. Then, before Christmas, so did mild chocolate as it also aggravated my pulse.

On Christmas day, I took Tylenol Ultra without realizing that the Canadian version is loaded with caffeine. After that reaction, my heart soon calmed down, but since then, I’ve had many episodes without identifiable causes. As soon as we go home, I need to get medical attention. This is not deadly; the A-fib websites tell me that, and also that there are several solutions (from pills to a pacemaker). In the meantime, I’m not sure what each day will bring. I do know that God is in charge of my life, even my heart. Years ago, I memorized this verse:
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)
Of course I’ve been asking Him about this problem. If I’m doing something I should not be doing, I want to know. If there are reasons for this, I want to know that too. What is God trying to teach me through this unpredictable and annoying affliction? I woke up this morning with a strong, regular pulse, but still asking questions. This is what God gave me from the passage in today’s devotional selection.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2–4)
God, in this or any other trial, wants me to be steadfast. This word means a cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, a constancy. It is about being patient and enduring during troubles, waiting on God for the answers, solutions, or resolutions, instead of trying to get away from or out of the situation. Of course this does not mean that I skip seeing a doctor. What it does show me is how I should be thinking while I wait for an appointment.

This is where Christianity becomes supernatural. No one in their normal mind can be gleeful under trial because they are excited about becoming more patient. Most of us want our situation to be “fixed” as soon as possible. Enduring is the last thing that we think of. However, the Bible says that I have the mind of Christ. This means that I can think as Christ thinks.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1–2)
 Christ faced the most horrible trial anyone can imagine. Crucifixion is a painful way to die, never mind bearing the weight of all sin committed by all people for all time. Yet He endured it, not even considering the shame of it, nor letting the horror of it keep Him from trusting His Father or from going ahead in obedience. He anticipated great joy and honor so He endured.

I don’t know what my near future holds, but I do have the promise of God that He is testing my faith in trials of various kinds. These tests are not to break me in pieces, but to produce in me the same kind of endurance that Jesus has, an attitude that James says will give me a maturity that lacks nothing. With that promise, I might not be dancing in delight, but because spiritual maturity seems so unlikely for me, at the very least, I can smile broadly.

Lord, these verses from James were a surprise in answer to all my questions. However, just knowing that You are in control of all that happens to me, including personal health and the state of my heart, gives me great comfort. You are a great and wise God. I desire to cooperate with whatever You are doing. Forgive me if I’m somewhat lacking in the “count it all joy” department, but even that becomes easier as I focus on Jesus instead of myself.

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