Teaching Through Tough Times
You brought me up from the grave, O Lord. You kept me from falling into the pit of death(Psalms 30:3 NLT).
In 2014, the day after Thanksgiving, my throat began to swell. My husband tried early in the evening to give me an antibiotic. However, my throat pain and swelling progressed to the point where I couldn’t even swallow a sip of water. Around midnight, Val drove me to the emergency room.
The emergency room doctor diagnosed me as having epiglottis, which is a life- threatening condition that occurs when the tissue protecting the windpipe becomes inflamed. He then left the room to see other patients. A couple hours later Val noticed my condition had worsened as I was having difficulty breathing. He then asked the nurse to send the doctor back in the room.
Upon further examination, the doctor decided he needed to intubate me. He tried twice, unsuccessfully, so Val suggested, “Maybe you should call a pulmonologist.” The young physician replied, “No, I can do this. I’ve done it many times.”
However, after his third unsuccessful attempt, he called in an anesthesiologist who took one look at my airway and decided there was too much blood to attempt another intubation.
I woke up a few hours later in a private room only to discover I couldn’t talk due to a tracheostomy performed on me to save my life. I said to God, “Lord, You could have taken me home to Heaven and I would have seen my baby granddaughter, Hannah, my friend and neighbor, Terri, and our friend and dentist, Bill Walsh. But you’ve allowed me to stay longer for my husband, children, grandchildren, the women You’ve given me in my Bible study and those I am yet to meet. I am grateful.”
During my two-week stay in the hospital, God revealed a number of things to me. While reading II Corinthians 5:1, where Paul talks about our bodies being like tents, the Lord revealed my tent had been wind blown, but had not been taken down yet. God had shown me years before, through the death of our first grandchild, Hannah, that He is sovereign over life and death. And not one of us is leaving earth until it’s our time to depart. When our testimony and work is complete. God tells us through His word, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed,’ (Psalm 139:16 NLT).
Throughout the entire recovery, God gifted me with a sense of humor. I told my grandchildren, “LaLa (that’s what they call me), has a blowhole like a whale.” We all had a good laugh. When I went home from the hospital, two friends came to visit while my husband went shopping to find a humidifier to keep my tracheostomy from drying out. Upon returning home, he set the humidifier down. I said, “That looks like Darth Vader’s head.” My friend said, “Well, you sound like Darth Vader.”
Not only did God give me His grace and humor through all of this, but incredible encounters took place with people who worked at the hospital or came to visit. One doctor said to me, “You have a lot of people praying for you, and I’m praying for you, too.” Another doctor said, “I’m going to ask my monsignor to hold a special mass for you.” Over and over, various people came into my room and I would be given a special opportunity to share something with them about the Lord. One day Val said to me, “Well, God didn’t send you on a mission trip this time, but to the hospital to share Jesus with others.” And to this day, I believe his words rang true. Even in the midst of difficulties we learn who He is. He not only cares for us, but for those He brings into our lives.
When the doctor failed the attempted intubation three different times, he damaged one of my vocal chords. In 2011, I had been diagnosed with a voice tremor, so the vocal chord damage heightened the difficulty in projecting my voice. Using my voice effectively has been an on-going challenge. Although it would be easy to feel sorry for myself, I’d asked the Lord to help me not go there. I did, however, want to understand His purpose for me and asked, “Lord, why have you specifically left me here? And what would You like to do in and through my life?”
One day I shared my struggle with a friend, telling her maybe I’d fooled myself into thinking my big dream of being a public speaker wasn’t what God wanted and that maybe I was right where He wanted me to be. I told her I had taken my website down because I was tired of spending money, and no speaking engagements were coming from it anyway. She looked at me and said, “Sounds like Sarah to me.” I immediately knew she was referring to Abraham’s wife who laughed when she was told she’d have a baby even though she was well past childbearing age.
I had known for a long time God had called me to speak, but perhaps not in the way I thought. A day after my friend shared about Sarah with me, my phone rang and it was a church in another city telling me someone had suggested me as a speaker for their women’s retreat. When I hung up the phone, I said, “What God? This is hilarious. Now? With this voice? You’ve got to be kidding me!” I immediately knew I had behaved like Sarah.
As I talked with the lady on the phone through my strained voice, she asked if I could speak for at least forty-five minutes. I responded, “I think so, but let me check with our church’s media director to see if using a microphone would be of help.” She agreed.
The media director at our church felt the microphone would help and encouraged me to say yes to the opportunity. She then prayed with me. As I left her office, I said to God, “Lord, don’t let me be disappointed if this speaking event is not for me.” I called the lady from the church back, but she never returned my call. And I felt no disappointment.
We know from scripture Paul had a physical ailment, which was his thorn in the flesh. He had asked God to remove it three times, but God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness,” (II Corinthians 12:9 NIV). Paul recognized God used His ailment to be the very thing to keep him from boasting about the things he had seen and heard.
While in the hospital, I’d also had the thought, Lord, is this my thorn in the flesh to keep me from boasting about the things you say to me or have shown me? Later, I also found myself wondering, Had I done something to cause damage to my voice? Or was u the enemy who had come to steal my voice just like Ursula, the sea witch, had done to Ariel in the Little Mermaid? Was he attempting to keep me from declaring the praises of the Lord and speaking His Word to those He sends my way?
Shortly after my hospital visit, I received the following poem in an email.
A Whispered Word by Terri Caldwell Scroggins
There was a man who whispered
At times with labored breath
God chose this man to be my father
The man with scars upon his neck
He could have used the option
To decline God’s call to speak
For he could only whisper
Often feeling very weak
He chose to face the masses
And he watched them bend their ears
As he whispered words from heaven
That God wanted them to hear.
The voice of God spoke clearly
As my father faced the wind
Overcoming every obstacle
Speaking louder than his pen.
There were hearts that needed mending
The common tone might not be heard
Sometimes you only hear God’s voice
Through a whispered word.
As I read the poem, I felt the truth of the words resonating to my core. I knew God was letting me know He could still use me to speak-in spite of my frailty, in whatever way He chooses. In the most difficult times in my life, God has taught me not only who He is but of my value and purpose to Him. He has shown me once again through the challenges with my voice, He can do more for His purposes through my weakness.
I wonder about you. In what way are you being challenged? What has come your way in the form of opposition? Maybe like me, you need His courage to do what He’s called you to do in spite of your difficulties.