I had my normal multiple house calls during my first week back in the Amazon. All were “normal” medical problems that had not responded to the care provided by the local hospital. Two were as follows:
“Naldo” is a 53 year-old man who had been coughing and wheezing with intermittent marked difficulty breathing for close to two months. He’d had similar, milder “fits” of coughing in the past but nothing to this extent. He had gone to the hospital multiple times during this illness, thinking each time that surely he was about to die from suffocation. Each time he went to the hospital, he was diagnosed with “bronchitis” and was treated with an aerosol medication and antibiotic. He would minimally improve, only to de-compensate again at home a few hours later. He was exhausted from lack of sleep and had lost much weight from the respiratory work and inability to eat. He would not have lasted much longer in the condition in which I found him – markedly short of breath, gray, unable to speak more than one word at a time, etc. I prayed for him and treated him with some basic asthma medications and he not only survived the night, he was a new person in 48 hours, smiling, walking, conversing (a lot!), and eating without difficulty. He was so grateful, giving repeated praise to God, in David-like manner, for “saving” him. He could not believe the difference one medication could make, especially after fighting for air for so long. I can’t begin to imagine going through what he did for two months.
I was also asked to the home of a 24 year old young woman who, for several days, had lost all feeling and strength on the left side of her face. “Rimunda” was petrified that she had had a stroke and that her inability to close her eye along with her profound facial weakness, which made swallowing saliva and speaking almost impossible, were permanent. She had gone to the hospital and received an “antibiotic”. I was able to reassure her by identifying the illness, speaking to the common-ness of her condition (that it wasn’t a stroke), encouraging her that her symptoms would likely resolve (but over several weeks), and initiating treatment. She also gratefully received prayer and expressed gratitude that God had responded to her cries for help. Now four weeks later she is almost symptom free.
There are always so many people with interesting stories, some more serious and some more minor, but it was the uncommon, beautiful responses of these two people to their afflictions that made it a joy for me to play a part in their stories. Each had been brought to a place of marked desperation by their illness and circumstances. Both openly shared about their despair and how they had cried out to God for help. Both saw their problem as beyond human ability (each had tried jungle remedies, the local hospital, and following advice from everyone). And, after more time than each of them would have preferred, God responded. He responded using various tools, especially a doctor and some medication. Naldo and Rimunda were unique in that they cried out to God in their desperation. They were more unique in that they recognized His response (though not “miraculous”), and were humbly so grateful to Him for His intervention. They could have given glory and gratitude to nature, man, coincidence, prayer, faith, luck, or medicine and they could have not been grateful at all. The desperation that they experienced and their resulting humble, excited, child-like gratitude to God left me quite challenged.
So many times, especially since living in a third-world setting, I have marveled over the beauty of a certain, simple tool and cherished its usefulness. A hand saw in building shelves or a hammer in securing a roof… Our Father loves using tools similarly. Jesus used weather, angels, his clothing, people, a lake, fish, pigs, donkeys, mud, pools, priests, and more to help Him accomplish a task. Our Father seems to enjoy using earthly things (like medicine and people) to carry out His work. He loves using men to teach, to serve, to comfort to edify and to correct. He uses circumstances to guide us, to break us, to bless us, and to draw us to Him.
This brief earthly life is full of blessings and challenges. One of the blessings we can experience is to be used as a tool to benefit another person, and to then point to the Builder as the only One worthy of glory and attention. Could God do the work without you or me or by using another tool? Of course. To be the (always imperfect) tool selected and used is a privilege.
Especially during this Christmas season, we remember Mary. Mary was chosen to be used for God’s purposes. If she had refused, God would have used another woman (another tool) and His will would have been accomplished without a glitch. She, however, accepted the privilege of being a tool in the sure hands of the Carpenter, thereby experiencing more joy and pain than we’ll ever know,. Paul, Peter, Stephen and so many since were also greatly privileged in being chosen, in accepting, in suffering much, and in receiving their reward – to dwell in the house of their Lord forever.
Let’s endeavor today to see every little thing that our Father provides for us through people, circumstances and other tools of His choosing, and express our gratitude to Him. And let’s make ourselves available again for our Father to use as He will, counting our lives as spendable for the sake of another, however our Master would see fit.
“I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” – Mary (NLT)
“I’m certain that I don’t understand, but I am yours to use, to spend, to wound and to bless how you will. I trust my Lord. Your will be done in my life, no matter what it is. I accept.” – Mary (Tim’s “re-phrase”)
Please have a special Christmas season. Please move slowly, sing loudly, laugh heartily, rest soundly, connect deeply, and worship fully! — tim and betsy
PS. I will list some of my “observations of life” at the right. They were written for my kids but many have been challenged and encouraged by them. Perhaps they will be helpful in stimulating thought and conversation with your Father.