It was a frightening departure from England to the U.S. It was apparent that medical problems needed to be addressed immediately, but there remained a desire to return to the life we were enjoying in Britain as soon as possible. After all, our daughters were still there and developing so well culturally in that environment. But I also knew that at least two medical problems would require attention in the U.S. Could they be resolved quickly? Would we be able to return to the faith-nourishing environment that the Lord had provided in England? Would I even survive the transatlantic flight without a medical problem en route?
A close friend drove us from our country cottage to the airport very early that June morning in 2003. I remember walking with my cane from the door to the auto and looking around at this most soothing of environments. A small prayer played in my mind: “Father, this is the place where you brought me close. Let me be healed quickly and return, if it is your will”. As Carmen helped me into the car, I turned to the cottage and Rachel, who was waving farewell in the doorway. I knew that she knew that it could take some time to figure it all out, but her smile was so encouraging. And then we were off.
I remember praying silently again en route to the airport. I was worried that one of my most pressing medical issues, the one that triggered an immediate return to the U.S. for a surgical procedure, could require emergency treatment in flight. I had been trained to self-treat myself, but I just knew it could be a frightening experience, if it occurred. So I took my worry to the Lord in prayer.
And I kept praying throughout the flight and listening for some sign from God that all would be well. But it’s so difficult to listen amidst the distraction of the aircraft’s air flow sound and the goings up and down of passengers nearby. As we were descending into Orlando, I realized that God had answered silently. There had been no emergency. I took this as a good sign.
God chose to wait until after we had retrieved our bags and piled into a rented auto to head to friend’s home, where we were planning to stay for the expected few weeks of treatment until we could return to England. It was during the drive from the airport to that friend’s home that I heard it. Clearly. Distinctly. “You are not returning there. Be at peace for you are in My care.” I took my eyes from the road and glanced at Carmen beside me. She was staring straight ahead. Her lips weren’t moving. My eyes shifted back to the road as I heard it again … word for word: “You are not returning there. Be at peace for you are in My care.”
It was distinctly not my voice and not my thought. Not returning? Not happy about that, I thought. In His care. Very grateful for that. Be at peace.How?
But I knew then and there, as clear to me as the sky above and road below, that we were back in Orlando to stay. I didn’t quite know how to tell Carmen, but I remember telling her later without much explanation that I believed we were back to stay.
Within a week of arrival, the first surgery took place. It was a complete success.
Then the bottom dropped out. Scans ordered by another doctor verified an earlier X-ray. There was a cancerous lesion on my lung. Lung surgery, we were told, was the only option for survival. In late June, a portion of my right lung was removed. The lesion had been malignant. The cancer had not spread. The prognosis for long-term survival was good, if the cancer did not return for five years. I would want to be near the doctors that were treating me for that period.
In August I underwent total hip replacement surgery and in December the fourth surgery of that year took place to correct a hernia.
Throughout it all and even at the moments that could have been most terrifying, I knew that He was close by me and I knew the peace that was foretold as He spoke to me that day we arrived from England. At His direction, we settled in, bought the kind of home we had always wanted, and found a new career direction. More important, we found the opportunity to expand in the U.S. a ministry He had brought us to England to find. He was true to His word. I was healed. I found a new peace. I haven’t been back to England to the day of this writing.
I think deep down, we all want to hear God. To know that he cares about me, specifically, not just in some general “God loves us all” sense, but to know He knows me intimately and still He loves me.
To grasp the fact that I am fully known and loved by God, in spite of all the flaws and faults I have, is often a big hurdle to get over. For most of us, I think it also takes some faith. You know, the kind of faith that takes a leap and …. wow I did not fall …. He was there and held me up through it all.
Our story this week encompasses some major life and health crises. Fortunately, not many of us have to face the life threatening health issues Lon faced. Four major surgeries in less than twelve months, plus relocation to another country and starting a new career from scratch. In our experience, when God speaks to us as clearly as Lon experienced, it is because He knows what lies ahead. He does care about us individually, enough to give us a word to “hang on to” when the going gets tough.
There is a story, believed to be from one of the oldest books in the Bible, about a man called Job. In the dissertation by Elihu son of Barakel the Buzzite, he asserts:
For God does speak – now one way, now another – though man may not perceive it.” Job 33:14
Here I think this young man has grasped the real issue of our hearing and listening to God. We fail to recognize Him.
I think God speaks to us in many ways, but in the frenetic lifestyle we succumb to living, we miss Him. Possibly altogether. Or we put it down to something our minds can rationalize to fit in with what we want.
As we Walk in the Spirit each day, we need to be prepared to alter our path, our direction, and go where and how He leads us. The Bible uses many stories and metaphors to describe us and our relationship to Him. I think one of the richest is where we are referred to as sheep. These normally very meek animals, can follow along the designated path the shepherd has determined. Then, for no apparent reason, suddenly balk, or dart off on a tangent – remind you of anyone?
God's word comes to us in many ways. He wants to communicate with us. He cares deeply about His creation and in particular about us. The ones He put in charge of the planet, to rule over and nurture it. The ones that He cares so much about that He gave Himself.
Think about the ways he has spoken in the Bible, from a still small voice to an apparently stubborn donkey that saved the riders life. From angelic visitation to “...it seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit ...”. Thus how do we develop a renewed ear that really wants to hear whatever He wants to say.
The following verses mention God speaking – Rather than giving just the verse, we give the surrounding verses so you gain a sense of context – vital for correct understanding.
Lastly, look in 1 Samuel chapter 3 – this is a wonderful story of how God trains a young boy to hear His voice, would, we all develop a sensitivity to truly hear His voice.
We recognize our need to hear you speak to us and pray that we clearly discern your voice, however it comes. Please help us to continue responding to and being obedient to your instruction and guidance.