Sunday Afternoon Story

In the church tradition Sunday is resurrection day; every Sunday celebrates the resurrection, not just Easter. It is also a day to celebrate victory of life over the obstacles of life, and this story by Dave Moore, a regular reader and contributor to this blog, can give each of us reasons to pause and give thanks to God — for the resurrection.

My Stroke of Insight

When it rains, it pours.  Along with recently experiencing severe pain in all my joints due most likely to rheumatoid arthritis, I had what hopes to be a once in a lifetime experience with a minor stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack).

Sunday night I was watching TV with our oldest son, turned to him, and tried to say something, but the words could not be articulated.  My tongue seemed heavy and moved slowly, though my mind was fully engaged.  To say the least, it was rather unsettling.  David ran to get Doreen.  My speech came back within a few minutes.  My mind went into overdrive to process what had occurred.

Doreen drove me to a Seton hospital here in Austin.  I got immediate and great care from many, dedicated people.  I love to watch anyone who does their job well.  These folks were competent and kind.  What a wonderful combination!

Many tests were taken.  The CAT scan said my brain functioning was normal (some may object whether this has ever been the case), the artery scan showed that they were all clean, and the echocardiogram showed no problems with my heart.  The doctors are not positive what caused the minor stroke (nice oxymoron), though it is possible that the arthritis and attendant inflammation could have been the culprit.  My cholesterol level in some categories could be better, but in other areas is very good.  One doctor said I was a bit low on vitamin B-12 and suggested that lean, red meat is a good source of it.  This is a good motivation to stay put in Texas!

One of my favorite books, Pensées, is by Blaise Pascal.  Pensées means “thoughts,” so Pascal recorded his reflections on several different areas of life.  He never finished the book, but what we have available today contains a goldmine of insights.  Pascal’s individual thoughts tend to be short.  One in particular captures why I feel compelled to offer some thoughts of my own about this recent challenge. Pascal said, “Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature [a bit of an overstatement]; but he is a thinking reed [spot on].”   In light of remembering afresh my own frailty, let me share a few things I thought about during the rather dense fifteen hours from Sunday night to Monday afternoon:

*During the CAT scan, I was grateful for the many people who over the years have encouraged me to meditate on and memorize Scripture.  As I was reviewing various verses I have memorized, I landed on Ex. 14:14 which was a great encouragement.  If you have not memorized it, I think you might be tempted to do so!

*Seeing others suffer around me in the ER was sobering and gave me a greater compassion for them.  Being sick and keenly aware of your own mortality can produce good fruit.  By God’s grace, I believe it will in my own life.

*I have a greater desire to focus on that which is most important.  It is too easy to get caught up in good things which are not the best.  I have many interests and am curious about many things which are not bad things per se, but they can keep me from focusing on the few things which are truly necessary.

*Gratitude to God for family and friends.  There are too many blessings here to recount, but I must say that my wife was awesome through the entire time.  We actually did quite a bit of cutting up and found humor was, as William F. Buckley liked to say, quite “salubrious.”  You ought to look up that word if you don’t know what it means.

*Soon I speak at a retreat in Colorado.  I have been asked to take people through some of the significant themes from one of my all-time favorite books, The Pilgrim’s Progress.  John Bunyan understood better than most that Christians are individuals.  As such, some struggle more with doubt, some more with worldliness, and so forth.  I am grateful to God for the treasure trove of literature which has been used to equip and encourage me in the Christian faith.  Bunyan’s book certainly helped me through my stroke.

*Most of all, remembering that God is merciful, loving, and good no matter how the circumstances turn out.  Mine turned out very well, but God is good irrespective of the outcomes of one’s circumstances.  Notice how often people attach the words “God is good” to prayers where the desired outcome occurs.  Well, God is good whether you get healed or not.  The cross of Christ settles once and for all that God is loving.  Looking back at Christ’s work on the cross is what gives stability to the Christian’s life.  Determining God’s goodness based on whether He is fixing my circumstances in the way I deem best is what an older believer in the faith calls a spiritual cul-de-sac.   If we calibrate the goodness of God on how well He fixes our negative circumstances, we will find suffering a constant threat to “growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.”

Thanks  for your love and prayers!

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • EricG

    I’m part of a community of young people with cancer, many of us terminal and have young kids. I had both a positive and negative reaction to Moore’s post.

    First, my positive reaction: Moore says: “Notice how often people attach the words “God is good” to prayers where the desired outcome occurs.” This is a pet peeve of mine too. When someone has good news with their cancer, the response is often “God is good!” When the news is bad, which is often the case when you are terminal, nothing similar is said. The incongruity is very noticeable.

    My negative reaction to the post: It is easy for someone in Moore’s position — where things turned out well — to say things such as “Most of all, remembering that God is merciful, loving, and good no matter how the circumstances turn out.” This sort of statement can come across as not-so-helpful advice to the ones facing the far more serious threats — for the twenty-something father I know who recently died months after his first baby was born, for example, or to the parents who are facing the death of their young child. Someone in Moore’s position often cannot relate to the depth of the existential crisis in these circumstances, and should be very careful to hand out advice to people less fortunate than he is.

  • http://www.twocities.org Dave Moore

    Hi Eric,

    Thanks for your note.

    To clarify: I wrote that to underscore the very concern you mention. My circumstances, though frankly a bit more uncertain now, have no relevance whatever to whether God is good or not. Saying that mine turned out well is simply a statement of fact, nothing more.

    Best,
    Dave

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Dave, glad to see it seems to be working out. I had a TIA about 7 or 8 years ago, for me I lost the right side of my vision in both eyes, but it came back within an hour. Same drill as you, lots of tests and observation without finding anything. I have not experienced anything since.

    It was certainly an eye opener for me since I was in my early 40′s and was definitely not expecting such. It totally freaked my wife out.

    Good luck, listen to the meds they tell you to take and take care.

  • http://www.twocities.org Dave Moore

    Thanks so much DRT. I am finding there is a pretty big TIA club out there!

  • EricG

    Dave,

    Thanks, I think we may be miscommunicating though. You are making the statement that “God is merciful, loving, and good no matter how the circumstances turn out,” and then even appear to question people who have concerns about God’s goodness depending on the circumstances — you say: “Determining God’s goodness based on whether He is fixing my circumstances in the way I deem best is what an older believer in the faith calls a spiritual cul-de-sac. If we calibrate the goodness of God on how well He fixes our negative circumstances, we will find suffering a constant threat to ‘growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.’”

    That isn’t fair to say. Our own negative circumstances, and the suffering that many others go through, can raise legitimate questions about the goodness of God; they have for untold centuries, and will continue to do so. To suggest otherwise based on your experience that turned out well is not fair. What you are describing doesn’t put you in a position to make that sort of judgment over others who face harder circumstances — e.g., the young father dying of cancer, the mother holding her dying infant who is in pain. We should be more open to the fact that these can present serious questions and challenges to faith.

  • http://www.twocities.org Dave Moore

    Eric,

    Yes, it seems we are missing each other. I have no problem whatsoever with people struggling over whether God is good. I have encouraged that sort of wrestling in much of my teaching and writing. And I have struggled through this issue myself on numerous occasions.

    My point in the reflections above is not to say don’t question and/or struggle. It is to say that at the end of the day it is the cross of Christ which settles once and for all whether God loves us. That is not meant as a quick fix, but a simple (though hard to believe at times) statement of ultimate reality. We process it over a lifetime and suffering forces us to look at in fresh ways.

    I hope this helps…

    Dave


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