About 18 months ago, I found myself feeling extra-ordinarily anxious. This wasn’t just the normal kind of anxiety that you might experience when you’re nervous about something. No, this was different. I’d never felt anything like this before in my life. Normal tasks caused me to be uptight. Little things became significant concerns. I was on edge. The curious thing was that if you’d seen me, you would never have known my struggle. I didn’t look the nervous type. But inside, this thing was a big deal.
One day, I went to see a doctor about it. This is not the kind of trip I’d normally take…call it ‘male pride’ if you will. But I was pretty desperate. Within five minutes, the young medic was able to identify what was going on. I’ll never forget the letters he uttered “P.T.S.D.” – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
See, earlier that summer, my wife became seriously ill after giving birth to our daughter. The two week hospital drama was an almost surreal experience. Every day during those 12 long nights, I was in ‘fight’ mode – I mean that in the best sense of the word. I was fighting in prayer. I was fighting the good fight of faith. I was fighting to support my wife. I was fighting to speak positively in the midst of the negative medical reports. Then after two weeks of ‘touch and go’, one day, the senior consultant expressed amazement at Lydia’s progress – and announced that she was free to go home. A week later, we moved into a new home (long story) with a three week old baby. All seemed well.
In the subsequent weeks, I threw myself into fatherhood duties and serving my church. Life was great. So much to do and to accomplish. But I hadn’t really taken the time to process the enormity of what had just happened during the summer. How could I? Life was moving at 1000 miles per hour. While my mind was more than delighted to move on, it was as if my body wasn’t so willing. There’s a really helpful book on the psychology of trauma called ‘The Body Remembers’ by Babette Rothschild – worth a read. But how are you meant to rest when you’re a new dad and you’re pastoring a growing church plus you’ve got a billion other responsibilities? The point is…these questions are an irrelevance as far as the body is concerned. If I didn’t take some time to stop, then the body would stop for me. It needed to recover from the ‘fight’. Thankfully, I was able to identify my issue just in time. I dread to think what might have occurred if I’d just ploughed on.
Over the next weeks and months, I found myself gradually getting better. Sometimes, the old anxieties returned with a vengeance and it felt like I was back to square one. But little by little and day by day, I got better. Even still, there are moments of inexplicable anxiety that I have to deal with. But I’m learning to lean into God like never before when these moments occur.
I’m no medical expert. However, the one thing I’ve found most helpful during this season has been perhaps the most underrated miracle cure in the world….R E S T. During those times of anxiety, I’ve learned to create time to rest – even moving my diary around so it can happen. It’s only when I’m well rested that I can manage the tension of worry and find perspective. I would go as far as to say that rest is a spiritual thing. Jesus himself invited us to rest when he said ‘Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you REST’ (Matthew 11:28).
Rest is an act of faith. It is not complacent – but is a statement of trust in God’s grace. Ultimately, this is the resting place of those who follow Christ.
If you find yourself struggling with worry, I want you to know that you’re not alone. Anxiety is no respecter of persons. No-matter how ‘strong’ you think you are, no-body is THAT strong. It’s in those times of struggle that we need to learn to lean in and make our resting place in God. He is our shelter. He is our fortress. His name is our strong tower. The Bible tells us that ‘The righteous run into it and they are safe’ (Prov 18:10). This has certainly been my experience. May it be yours too.
Ten years ago, I wrote a book called ‘In Pursuit of the Miraculous’. I reckon I could write a follow up based on the past two weeks alone! It has been nothing short of miraculous.
It all started when my wife Lydia gave birth to our beautiful baby daughter Sophia Hope at 11:27am on a balmy Monday morning in mid August. All seemed to be going well at first. However, later that evening, Lydia had a faint whilst she was on a short walk to freshen herself up. The medical people initially put it down to sheer exhaustion. But the following day, she had two more similar episodes, the latter of which resulted in a complete loss of colour from her face. As I held my little daughter in my arms and watched my wife slump to the ground surrounded by nurses and doctors, an uncomfortable lump formed in the back of my throat that I could hardly bear to swallow. It was an unbelievably shocking situation, the gravity of which I was more than aware of. I will never forget the feeling of absolute vulnerability as I wondered whether my little girl might lose her mum. It was heart breaking to see.
Further tests showed that Lydia had developed internal bleeding during which she lost 3 litres of blood. They carried out two blood transfusions, none of which were successful. In fact, her blood count afterwards was even lower than before. Furthermore, her blood pressure continued to drop dramatically while her pulse rate raced dangerously high beyond 150 bpm. These were all the signs of continued internal bleeding. That night, the consultant told me in no uncertain terms how serious the situation was if the bleeding should continue. The medical team then proceeded to administer two more blood transfusions. ‘The next 12 hours are critical’ were the parting words of one consultant.
It was around this time that I sent out a message asking people to pray. So many agreed with us for a miraculous breakthrough. We were certainly in miracle territory. I personally called out to God and laid my hands on Lydia’s head, believing for complete healing. This was no time for nice prayers. It was the cry of a broken & desperate man claiming healing over his wife’s life. I remember feeling a powerful sense of God’s presence in that moment.
The next day, Lydia began to slowly stabilise. Her blood pressure rose, her pulse rate dropped and her haemoglobin levels were higher. These were all signs that the internal bleed had stopped. It truly was a miracle. God had answered our prayers.
Over the next few days, there were a few more drama’s including threats of further internal clotting and a lot more calling out to God (those stories are for another day). However, time and again, God answered. Eventually after 11 days in hospital, all her levels normalised and we were allowed home. That was an emotional journey for sure (ok, playing disney tunes didn’t help!).
Archbishop Temple once said ‘When we pray, coincidences happen’. I am in no doubt whatsoever that God did a series of miracles in my wife’s situation in August 2018. I don’t understand it all, but I just know that God was at work.
Having had some time to reflect on what happened, it has not dented my confidence in God. The very opposite is true. There’s a growing conviction in my heart to believe like never before for God’s miraculous power in others. With him, all things are possible. I totally believe it.
To all those who stood in agreement with us, thank you. To the medical team who cared for us, we salute you. To Jehovah Rapha who intervened and heard our cries for healing, we honour you. God is real.
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