When surprise strikes, how we respond shouldn't be a surprise

By Rev. Dr. Howard S. Russell, CHM President & CEO

From the April 2018 issue of Heartfelt Magazine.

Members’ testimonies that appear monthly in Heartfelt are consistently moving, with men and women sharing some of their lives’ most significant, traumatic, terrifying—and uplifting—moments.

Many of them share the same type of reaction: surprise when serious illness strikes.

Such an example is in Heartfelt's March 2018 issue in a testimony by Margaret Greene of Keystone, S.D. Her husband, Richard, went to the emergency room for tightness in his chest. Then, Margaret wrote, “We were shocked to discover that he was suffering a heart attack—he was eating a healthy diet and regularly used his treadmill.”

Time after time, in testimony after testimony, members say that they had always enjoyed good health, had never had a significant health condition, were taking care of themselves and didn’t expect any healthcare shocks—and then the shock arrived in the form of a serious illness or injury.

There are testimonies that joyously describe recovery. Some are about the struggle to recover. Others deal with the anguish of losing a loved one.

The testimonies detail the aftermath of such moments: fear, concern, sadness, grief, determination, uncertainty, love, prayer, and hope. Most of all, faith. How we react in such moments says a lot about who we are. It says a lot about Christ.

Often in the background are difficult questions: Why, God? Why this, why me, why now, why at all?

Here’s my answer: I don’t know. But I know in whom I believe and am persuaded that He is able to meet every need (see 2 Timothy 1:12).

When our oldest son, Stephen, was born with autism, my wife, Barbara, and I asked those questions because such a situation was—to put it mildly—a surprise. When our second son, Joseph, grew from childhood to adolescence, a tumor also grew within his hypothalamus. We were again surprised and then came the questions, yet again. (Please note: Stephen is a fine young man who, while he has his challenges, has a remarkable aptitude for many things. Joseph is doing well; his tumor hasn’t grown in years and he has become a talented musician, photographer, and computer whiz).

The answer—for us and for everyone dealing with trials—is this: God’s grace is sufficient.

The Apostle Paul was no stranger to times of uncertainty, and he asked the same questions, as found in 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9 (NIV): “Therefore, in order to keep me from being conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

No one knows the nature of Paul’s thorn, but whatever it was, it was a torment. Yet, God enabled him to declare victory.

That’s a recurring theme of our members’ testimonies: that God was with them, that their faith actually grew through their experiences, and that they were made more aware than ever that His grace is sufficient.

We at CHM treasure these members’ stories and are deeply grateful for their willingness to share them for the encouragement of fellow believers.

We are grateful for all of you. It’s a privilege to serve you. It’s a privilege to be part of this ministry, a 21st-century expression of Christians fulfilling Christ’s words: that the world will know we are His disciples if we have love for one another (see John 13:35).

On that basis, the uplifting testimonies from our members is not at all surprising.

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