One day not long ago I was safely riding along the interstate with my husband behind the wheel of our car. While scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I clicked on an article about medical trauma. Suddenly, even though it had been 10 months since my Emergency Room visits, my chest tightened and my breathing quickened. I felt like I was back at the hospital in my hometown.
I’d gone in for severe and persistent pain after my mom insisted something was wrong. Twenty days of intermittent abdominal pain had turned into sleepless nights of tossing and turning and groaning in agony. But the ER doctor told me there was nothing she could do and walked out of the room, while I sobbed after her. That was my moment of medical trauma—the feeling of utter hopelessness and despair that I kept reliving.
The next day my husband and I went to another ER at another hospital. That’s where I got the scan I needed, which prompted a surgeon to put me on an emergency surgery list. Four days later I came home realizing I had almost died. It was all I could think about—and still is sometimes.
The general surgeon who removed my appendix put me on that emergency surgery list because my appendix appeared three times the size it should have been. When he got inside with his tools, he realized that my appendix was inflamed, for sure, but everything was not as it seemed on the scan.
Later he told me that most likely 15 days prior to my surgery my appendix had ruptured. But instead of making me dangerously ill, my bowel had wrapped itself around and around the appendix, covering the rupture and likely saving my life.
So not only did this surgeon need to perform an appendectomy, but he had to gently remove the tender tissue of the bowel from where it was fused to the appendix. Then he had to inspect it and clean any infection from it, and place it all back together and close it up with some nice surgical glue.
This guy saved my life! But first, God was saving my life every day since my appendix ruptured, and before that when it became inflamed, and even before that when He put me on a path to health so many years ago.
A bleak and challenging journey
When my appendix ruptured last fall in the middle of a global pandemic, I was on my 50th day of a 75-day “mental toughness” challenge. During those first 50 days I established lots of healthy habits and learned many things about myself. I began walking and was blazing through the Old Testament with an audio Bible. I lost 13 pounds and had progress photos to prove it. I was doing well. I was healthy!
The truth is, though, I was never as healthy as I thought—even when I was feeling my best. My relationship to health has not been a lover’s walk in the park. It has been an uphill climb all the way.
Nine years ago in a doctor’s office at a public clinic a man not much older than me said I wouldn’t lose weight because obesity was “genetic.” Then six years ago, just before my 29th birthday, I was diagnosed as being “pre-diabetic.” After years of working hard, the weight still comes off very slowly.
In addition, I’ve had injury after injury (ankle, hamstring, shoulder) and multiple surgeries—some emergency, some planned. I experienced all these things and more…and yet many of my friends and family consider me the healthy one because I always fought to rehab my body and came back stronger.
Lessons I’ve learned along the way
God doesn’t promise perfect health; He promises us Himself. Even when the sinful diseases of this planet try to kill us, God still gives us abundant life in Himself.
Remember that Genesis 2:7 says, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” When we’re overweight, we’re still living beings walking around Planet Earth with God’s breath in our lungs.
David says in Psalm 139:13-14, “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.”
When I was focused on outward affirmations, God worked among my inward parts. When I worried over my reflection in the mirror, the mirror image of God Himself was miraculously saving me. When the ER doctor at the second hospital saved my life after the first doctor sent me away, God knew what was happening…and He was working.
We live in a world filled with noise about health from all kinds of “experts.” Magazines tell us what size we should be and what we should wear. TV commercials tell us which products we should buy to make us attractive and healthy. On street corners and billboards we see ads for pre-workout and hormone-balancing drink mixes. We have the World Wide Web, social media influencers and podcasters. We even have Veja-links and our own “health message.” Every tool is at our disposal to gain information on mental, physical and relational health.
Yet we often feel poorly and can’t hear the Maker remaking our inward parts.
After wasting years yo-yoing through different diets and spending hundreds of dollars on products and memberships, what is the most important thing I have learned about health? God is the one in charge of my heart and my health, and I need to listen to Him. That means removing anything that may interfere with hearing His voice.