In light of recent events, I am sharing the all-time most popular post of my blog. This tale of trials and deliverance seems so timely right now. Originally published August 20, 2015.
Please allow me to share my tale of woe.
The past five years have been tough for the Smith family. Lots of unpleasant things have happened to us.
Forgive me if it sounds like I am looking for sympathy…that is not my intent. But I do believe that this true account of our season of trials provides a great excuse to brag on the Lord a little.
March 2011 – I had my second heart attack (see Another Routine Day in the ER) which maxed out our health insurance out-of-pocket expenses for 2011. (Out-of-pocket maximums that have more than doubled since the implementation of Obamacare, but don’t even get me started on that!)
Summer of 2012 – a dear friend of mine, a very sweet woman whom I had worked with for 12 years, became gravely ill with cancer and had to undergo a year’s worth of chemo, radiation and surgery.
November 2012 – I had emergency gall bladder surgery right after Thanksgiving. I was one sick little puppy before and after that procedure! (See My Birthday Trip to the Emergency Room.)
December 2012 – I had another surgery right before Christmas to remove a small cancerous tumor from my bladder. This surgery was followed by check-ups every three months with an urologist who used a “not-slender-enough-to-suit-me” scope to inspect my bladder and search for any recurrence of the cancer. (I will leave the unpleasant details of these inspection procedures to your imagination.)
Needless to say, we again maxed out our out-of-pocket medical expenses for 2012!
January 2013 – My wife Peggy slipped on some ice and broke her right ankle. It was a compound fracture that laid her up for over six months. It was a stressful time…loss of half her wages, hospital bed in the living room, multiple surgeries and follow-up visits (in the winter)…you get the picture. She was in a lot of pain during most of this time, and her ankle will never be the same. Arthritis has set in, and her cartilage is gone.
You guessed it: We maxed out our out-of-pocket medical expenses again for 2013!
December 2013 – Peggy is at fault in a minor auto accident. She says her foot “slipped” off the brake and hit the accelerator. We had to pay the auto insurance deductible for vehicle repairs.
March 2014 – I am laid off from QEPI after 10 years on the job; a job I really liked with a great group of people. This was a job I really hated to lose.
April 2014 – Peggy is at fault for another auto accident. She ran into two vehicles at the same time because her leg twitched and slipped off the brake onto the accelerator…again. My wife, who has never had an accident in 43 years of driving, has now been at fault for two crashes in a five month period.
Summer 2014 – Peggy starts complaining about a variety of symptoms: muscle twitches, dizziness, loss of balance, and grey spots in her vision. Her optometrist refers her to an ophthalmologist, who suspects Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and schedules her for a brain MRI and a visit with a neurologist.
September 2014 – Peggy meets with the neurologist, who officially diagnoses her with MS and prescribes a drug regimen which will hopefully help control her symptoms.
You guessed it again: We maxed out our out-of-pocket medical expenses for 2014! And have I mentioned that those costs have more than doubled since the implementation of Obamacare? Oh yes, I think I did…a thousand pardons, dear reader…I told you not to get me started on that!
May 2015 – I had another heart attack, this time while working up in Delphi, so the ambulance took me to IU Arnette Hospital in Lafayette. The surgeon there added three new stents to my collection and stopped my heart attack. But later, after surgery, he gave me the bad news: I had a few other blockages that weren’t fixable with stents. He recommended that I schedule a triple-bypass procedure with a cardiac surgeon at IU Methodist in Indianapolis.
May 2015 – After two days in the hospital in Lafayette, I came home to recover, but I had a terrible stomach ache. It was the worst stomach ache I have ever had. It wouldn’t go away. So after being home only three days, I couldn’t stand the pain anymore and went to the emergency room at St. Francis Hospital on the south side of Indianapolis. After a few tests, the ER doctor informed me that I was suffering from Acute Pancreatitis and I would need to spend a few days in the hospital while they gave me pain meds and starved me, since “bowel rest” is the only cure for Pancreatitis.
I asked the doctor, “What are the chances that I would end up in two different ERs with two different maladies in the same week?” He shrugged his shoulders and said, “You’re just lucky, I guess.”
July 2015 – I checked into IU Methodist and spent seven hours in surgery for a triple-bypass procedure that will cause me to miss at least three months of work while I recuperate. This is a body-slam that has laid me low like I have never been laid low before. Obviously, taking three months off work for recovery time means some more lost wages.
So once again, in 2015, for the fifth consecutive year, we have already maxed out our out-of-pocket medical expenses!
I wish I could report to you that I have been a pillar of faith and unwavering confidence in the Lord during all these misadventures, but then I would only compound my sins by lying.
Truth is, I’ve done a fair amount of whining and complaining…you know, the usual “Why me, Lord?” kind of whimpering that comes so naturally to us all. But after every one of my little pity parties, I could feel God’s comforting presence, and I could hear him asking, “Will you trust me?”
Well, what could I say? Where else could I turn? When all is said and done, I have to accept the fact that everything that comes into my life is either brought to me by God, or allowed by him for some higher purpose – whether I like it or not.
Like a wise old preacher once told me: “Nothing touches the life of a Christian without first passing through the hands of God.”
The only proper response to God in times of trouble is, “Yes, Lord, I trust you. Do whatever you want. Lead me and I will follow.” All of us will go through seasons of life when we can do nothing more than put one foot in front of the other, and walk through the valley one step at a time.
So I have to keep apologizing to God for ever doubting him. When I start to feel a pity party commencing, I have to remember to count my many blessings, and then thank him again for always supplying all of our needs.
We have never missed a meal. All of our monthly bills are caught up. Somehow we always get the medical expenses paid on time. Whenever there has been a real need, the Lord has sent someone our way to help take care of it.
So as I sit at home today, nearly five weeks into my recuperation from the heart surgery, I realize that I have a lot to be thankful for. I have a family that loves and supports me. I have friends and neighbors who have blessed me with numerous favors ranging from driving me to doctor appointments to delivering food.
Anonymous donors have given us cash gifts. I have friends and co-workers who have written and called with encouragement and prayers for my recovery. I have three part-time employers who will put me back to work as soon as I am ready to return.
One of those three employers is the company that had laid me off. They brought me back on part-time once business picked up a little bit late last summer. I am very happy to be back at QEPI.
Peggy still struggles with ankle pain, but she is able to get up and around on her own for short distances. The medicine she injects three times a week is controlling her MS symptoms, and so far she is still able to enjoy a reasonable quality of life in spite of this disease.
Our blessings are many.
If there is one itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny thing we might give ourselves credit for, it would be our decision in 1996 to begin tithing. It was a step of faith we made at a time when we were really struggling financially. And the Lord has been faithful to us in ways we could never have imagined.
God makes some tremendous promises in the Bible about supplying our needs when we are obedient in honoring him with that first 10% right off the top.
He wants to impress upon us the fact that everything we possess in this life is, in reality, a gift from him. Our regular offering to him of 10% reminds us that he owns it all. Our “possessions” are merely a loan from him. If we allow ourselves to believe that we “own” anything, we tend to become selfish and foolish.
Tithing also encourages us to depend on him. And it tests our faith. Do we trust God enough to obey him and offer back to him that 10% of our income? This leads to another question: If we cannot trust God with our earthly finances, how can we say we trust him with our eternal souls?
I am absolutely convinced that we are better off living on 90% of our income, and having it blessed by God, than we would be if we kept it all and forfeited that blessing.
So even though we have gone through numerous times of testing, I can look back in awe at the way God has guided us through every difficulty we have faced over these past five years. He has always supplied our needs. He has kept his promises.
Even when our circumstances are bad, God is still good. He is still in control.
And when we are struggling with tough times in life, he asks every one of us the same question: “Will you trust me?”
I recovered reasonably well from the triple-bypass and feel about 80% back to normal. I semi-retired in August 2019 and now I am fixing up my neglected homestead and spending more time writing.
Peggy’s ankle pain slowed her way down, but she had ankle-replacement surgery in January 2017 and has since made a good recovery. Her ankle is mostly pain-free. So far her MS is still under control with regular medication.
So, as my old buddy Floyd used to say, “We’re in pretty good shape for the shape we’re in.”
And God still wants us to trust him.