Isaiah 40:28-31 and Mark 8:34-38
The first day Joe was in the hospital in Minneapolis I wandered down to the gift shop and picked up a book titled, What If God Wrote Your Bucket List? by Jay Payleitner. Some of the chapters are: Set Goals-but Not in Concrete, Drive Through the Storm, Become Like Little Children, Love and Be Loved, Bounce Off Brick Walls, Redefine Vacation, and Entertain Angels. Joe and I would do a couple of chapters each day, and the book has given us a new, deeper way to look at life in our relationship with God and with other people.
The first chapter, Set Goals-but Not in Concrete reads, ‘Set personal goals, be specific. Being wishy-washy is never good. Be bold. Forge ahead. Give yourself deadlines and five-year plans. Take risks. But don’t forget also to expect the unexpected. Never stop praying. Never stop pursuing God’s will. You might actually hear direct instructions from heaven, such as “Noah, build a boat,” “Abraham put down that knife,” “Joseph, marry that pregnant girl,” or “Peter get out of the boat and walk on the water.” God often uses the unexpected to get your attention, drive home a lesson, and do his best work in you and through you. (pp.14- 15) Joe’s illness was unexpected and it changed our lives!
Jesus says to the crowd in Mark 8:34, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” I believe that denying our human bucket list and focusing on God’s bucket list, keeping our faith, trusting in God, submitting to God’s will in our life is what Jesus is referring to here. Verse 35 reads, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” We have to get to a place in our faith journey where we say to God, I surrender to your will. Your will, not mine be done.
There are times when our faith takes a beating. We may wonder, “Why me Lord?” Joe began to wonder that a few times at the beginning of his illness. Then he said to me one morning, “I started to think, why not me, Lord. If Jesus could suffer and die for me, why should I complain about what I’m going through.”
July 23 Joe began feeling ill with a headache. As the week went on he developed flu like symptoms. He was achy all over, running a temperature and feeling very weak. Ryan and I both thought he had the symptoms of Lyme’s. He called the clinic and said he wanted a blood test for Lyme’s disease and he went to the lab at the Ontonagon hospital for that.
By Sunday at 3 A.M. he couldn’t get out of bed and I took him to the emergency room at the Ontonagon Hospital. They were able to access his blood test and it was positive for Lyme’s. They put him on an antibiotic for Lyme’s and sent him home.
As the week went on he kept getting worse, so I took him to his VA doctor in Hancock. She sent him to the ER at the Portage Hospital because she felt there was more going on and she wanted more blood tests. The ER doctor realized how dehydrated he was and began IV fluids. This saved his kidneys.
They kept him there for two nights, but couldn’t figure out why his CK levels, those are the levels that tell doctors your muscles are breaking down, were continuing to rise. Normal CK level is 500. Joe’s were 16,000 when he left Portage for the hospital in Marquette.
He was in Marquette for 6 days and his CK levels continued to rise. They rose to 29,000. Marquette wanted to send him to a hospital where they had more advanced testing. We prayed for God to send him to Mayo, but we also told God we trusted Him to send Joe to the hospital where he would be healed. God answered our prayer in a way we couldn’t have imagined. God sent him to the University of Minnesota Hospital in Minneapolis, where our son Jay and our two oldest grandchildren live. Our son Ryan and his wife Julie live 3 hours north of there and they were all able to visit us.
The doctor came into Joe’s room in Marquette and said, “We are running out of places to send you. Every hospital we contact is full.” Joe said, “What about the University of Minnesota?” Joe didn’t even know they had a hospital! That was definitely God directed!
They transported him in a six-hour ride in an ambulance and he was there for 14 days. He was so weak and filled with fluid that he couldn’t feed himself. I was feeding him in Marquette and our son Jay was at the hospital in Minneapolis when he arrived and fed him for the first day and a half until I arrived.
While in the hospital in Minneapolis he tested positive for Babesiosis, another tick born disease, and Epstein-Barr Virus. The doctors think the combination of all that infection caused his immune system to go on overload and attack his body, his muscles. We had an appointment with his Rheumatologist on September 8. He was cautious about lowering the doses of the steroid Joe is taking, but he did and Joe continues to improve. The steroid is the only medication he is on.
Thanks to your prayers and the excellent care he had at Portage Hospital in Hancock, the Marquette Hospital and the University of Minnesota Hospital, it will be a long recovery time, yet Joe will recover completely. There is no kidney damage and no permanent muscle damage.
Every morning in my hotel in Minneapolis, I would kneel down and surrender Joe to Jesus. I would see Jesus’ sandaled feet and the hem of his garment and I would envision lifting Joe to Jesus and Jesus reaching down and picking him up and holding Joe in his arms and healing him. Yet, I submitted Joe’s life and my life to God’s will. We knew whether Joe was healed or not, whatever happened God was with us.
Jesus says in Mark 8:38, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
We testified to our trust and faith in God in all three hospitals, by the way we acted. They would see our faith when we did devotions and prayed together. We treated the doctors, nurses, aids and the custodians as we thought Jesus would, with respect, and made a point of thanking them every time they did something for us. There are a lot of grumpy, demanding people in hospitals and we did our best to not be one of them! Many were surprised by our faith and our attitude. You make a lot of friends when you’re in the hospital for two weeks. One custodian hugged Joe when he left!
Joe and I found we could do nothing about his illness and we surrendered to the will of God. We knew Jesus was walking with us through this valley of illness and we trusted Jesus to bring us out of the valley to level ground again. We trusted that God had sent him to the hospital where he would be healed, but we knew if he wasn’t healed God would continue to walk with us on our life journey. We found peace in this.
Isaiah 40:31, “But those who wait for the Lord, (who trust in the Lord, who become weak before Him, who rely on His strength instead of their own) the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings of eagles.”
During communion we will sing, ‘I Surrender All.’ The first verse and the chorus is this: All to Jesus I surrender; all to him I freely give; I will ever love and trust him, in his presence daily live. I surrender all, I surrender all, all to thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all. I encourage you to surrender your life to Jesus, to trust Him, to seek his will for your life.
The last song we’ll sing this morning is ‘Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.’ The first verse and chorus is this: What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms; what a blessedness, what a peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arms. Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.
If you want joy divine and peace that only comes from trust in Jesus: If you want to soar with wings of eagles; then surrender your life to Jesus and lean on His everlasting arms.
Joe and I have found this is the only way to live!
Pastor Rosemary DeHut