The power of the past when facing present challenges.
by Helen Heavirland
“When can I go back to work?” my husband asked.
“Whoa . . . slow down,” the orthopedic surgeon responded. “You just got out of surgery. You surely don’t want to lose any of your new screws.”
He laughed in his jolly way, then winked and headed toward the door. Almost there, he turned back. His smile had disappeared. He returned to LeRoy’s bedside and said in a serious, almost-somber voice, “You may be asking the wrong question.”
LeRoy’s eyebrows furrowed. “What do you mean?”
“Your ankle was crushed badly,” the doctor replied. “I’m not as concerned about when you’ll go back to work. . . .” He paused, then took a deep breath. “. . . as . . . if . . . you can go back to work.”
A black storm cloud seemed to blow over LeRoy. He looked stunned.
Deafening silence overwhelmed the room. The air felt like it might explode.
After the surgeon left, LeRoy looked bewildered. “What will we do if I can’t go back to work?”
My stomach was already in knots. LeRoy ran a business, and I worked for it. In one slip of the ladder, our active lives and our total family income had dissolved — definitely for now, maybe . . . forever.
I sent a silent SOS heavenward: “What can I say that’s encouraging?”
“I don’t know,” I answered, “but I suspect God knows.” I hoped my words carried more assurance than I felt. LeRoy sighed.
Just then, a nurse came with another pain shot, and LeRoy started getting sleepy. I headed home.
In bed, sleep eluded me. What will we do? How will we pay the hospital? And doctor bills? How will we pay for heat and groceries and. . . . My mind twirled on a merry-go-round of questions with no answers.
Suddenly, I stopped. “Those thoughts won’t take me anywhere I want to go!” I said aloud.
I looked up into the darkness. “God,” I prayed, “I need some sleep so I can be there for LeRoy tomorrow. Please heal his broken bones. And please give me assurance that You’ll be there for us.”
Pondering a promise
A Bible promise came to mind — Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs,” I recited, “according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” I pondered the promise, then started focusing on it, word by word.
My God. Paul wasn’t talking about a stranger; he was talking about his God. The God he knew personally. The God he knew to be dependable in all circumstances — shipwrecks, beatings, and prison, for starters.
Will meet. Not might meet your needs or might help a bit. There’s no question. Total certainty. God will supply.
All. Not bits and pieces. Not part. But every bit. Every single smidgeon. And . . . all my needs . . . piled in as overwhelming a mountain as I can imagine. Even LeRoy’s hospital bill will be pocket change to God. All . . .
My thoughts drifted into sleep.
When I arrived at the hospital the next morning, LeRoy greeted me, then asked, “What will we do if I can’t go back to work? How will we pay our bills? How will we eat?”
Lying there in his hospital bed, LeRoy looked so helpless — so unlike my brawny, on-the-go husband.
“I don’t know what we’ll do,” I admitted. “But. . . .” Assurance I hadn’t felt the night before strengthened my voice. “I do know that God is bigger than what we can see right now.”
Selling a business
We talked about Philippians 4:19 and my experience the night before. “We’ve seen Him meet our needs many times before,” I added.
“Yeah,” he agreed, but with little conviction.
“Remember when you sold your business in Montana?”
“Yes.” LeRoy smiled and started retelling the story. “When the buyer picked up the equipment and saw the paint sprayer, he said, ‘I don’t want anything to do with painting. You can just keep that.’ And when we packed our pickup to go looking for a new job and home, I stuck in the paint sprayer — just in case.”
He grinned. ”Just-in-case has supported us for . . . uh . . . has it been twenty years?”
“Close to, anyway.”
Boom and bust
LeRoy looked out the window at the gray sky, then back at me. “We ended up in Williston, North Dakota . . . in the middle of an oil boom. Arrived the day an ad came out in the newspaper for a painter.” He smiled. “The oilfield was good to us.”
“For a lot of years.” I took a deep breath. “But remember the year the boom busted?”
“How could I forget?” LeRoy shook his head. “Hardly any work. Good thing we’d stayed small and out of debt.”
I smiled. “The total business income that year was two percent of what it had been the year before. The total year’s income was less than two house payments.”
“But we didn’t starve.”
“No.” I chuckled, remembering the myriad of economical meals I’d created that year. “But I could have written a cookbook called A Thousand Ways to Eat Beans.”
We both laughed.
Paying a bill
Then we talked about the time, that year, when I’d fretted about how to pay an upcoming bill. We had a small asset — a contract where we were to receive thirty dollars a month for several more years.
When the bank statement came, the contract had been paid in full. God had arranged to have money in our account to pay the bill I’d worried about.
That day in the hospital we repeated story after story to each other about how God had taken care of us in the past — in small ways and large. Psalm 103:2 became a lifeline: “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
We praised the Lord some more and told more stories about God’s blessings — Bible stories, blessings friends had received, others we’d heard or read about, and our own through the years. By the end of the day, we still didn’t know how God was going to take care of us, but our faith that He would was much stronger.
A couple days later, I took LeRoy home. Days became weeks. LeRoy delighted to retire his wheelchair and turn to crutch racing. In subsequent visits, the orthopedic surgeon repeatedly said, “I can’t believe how well your ankle is healing.” Then he’d shake his head and add, “It’s like a miracle!”
Before the surgeon agreed for LeRoy to lay crutches aside, he gave a warning: “You’re doing amazingly well, but realistically, you will deal with arthritis in your joint. Just plan on needing an ankle replacement in five to eight years.”
Five months after LeRoy’s fall, he went back to work — pain free, limp free — just in time for the summer season when he made the bulk of our annual income.
We continued praising God. He’d strengthened us through those months and amazed the doctor. We had another faith-building story. We could trust God as other crises came — and they did.
Months became years. We rarely thought about the doctor’s ankle replacement warning. Now, twenty years later, LeRoy is still walking on his original ankle. Only occasionally does it pain. We often remind ourselves — especially in tough times — “Praise the Lord . . . and forget not all his benefits”!
Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.