My husband had a heart attack 6 weeks ago. It was unexpected, shocking. But God walked with me through the darkness and had a few things He wanted to show me.
1) I am not alone. The first moments in the hospital waiting room on a Saturday afternoon, it was entirely silent, only my body in the quiet space. But I did not feel alone. I relished the quiet as the presence of Jesus engulfed me, filling me with peace and strength. The moments of clinging to Jesus in quietness were precious.
2) God manifests His presence in the form of loving family and friends, but does not mean for them to replace Him. Loving friends barged into the waiting room with hugs and encouragement, infusing me with strength. I welcomed the interruption. They helped divert my thoughts off myself and the crisis. God did not intend that they squeeze Him out, but to be a physical reality of His nearness. Later when they all left, He didn’t leave. In the days after, I had to remember to turn to God and not let people take His place.
3) I’m stronger than I thought I was, by His strength. I always thought that if anything happened to my husband or children, it would be hard to even take the next breath of this life and function. Sometimes people really do endure more than they can bear – they crack up, fall apart. But God promises His grace is sufficient, and that His power will be made greater in our weakness. I learned that maybe I really can survive without falling to pieces, that my life could go on, and that He would give me the strength I need if I will open my hands to Him and receive it.
4) Joy is found in cherishing the moments and not taking the little things for granted. The hospital’s ICU kicked me out when visiting hours were over. When I returned to my empty, quiet house, all I could do was clean and try not to think about the “what if’s”. As I swept my floor, I thought about my husband’s strong hands that laid the ceramic tile. As I dusted, my heart melted at the thought of the book shelves he built with love for me. As I slept alone in my bed, I longed to hear his heavy breathing next to me (even if it was his snoring). He wasn’t there, but the evidence surrounding me that he had been touched me. I never even really noticed before.
5) It’s easy to let fear take the driver’s seat. When I woke up early the following morning post crisis, I was attacked by the “what if’s”, starting with the biggest one of all – what if he had died? Unless I hit the brakes on the circle of thoughts as they explored various avenues of my future, fear will take control and lead my emotions down a road to anxiety and panic. I can’t just stop the fear or quit the “what if’s”. As soon as I catch myself, I have to replace those thoughts with something else, like remembering the things to be thankful for instead. It’s not about being in denial of reality; it’s simply not worrying about what will be or what won’t be, preparing for the future but living in the present.
6) I’m not in control, even if I try to be. There’s a difference between being out-of-control and releasing control. I couldn’t keep it from happening. I couldn’t control the speed of the doctors. I couldn’t just close my eyes and make it all go away. However, it wasn’t all utter chaos. Someone else was in control, and I had to release myself to His control. He already knew in advance this would happen. It didn’t take Him by surprise.
7) God is good, regardless of the outcome. I didn’t know if my husband would survive. Still, in those uncertain moments, God was assuring me He was good and He was in control, and it was okay if I didn’t understand. He just wanted me to trust Him and remember His goodness and love for me.
He still has chest pain. It scares me sometimes. And the tornado that wiped out our old house and decimated the former neighborhood where we once lived in Moore, Oklahoma, I am reminded that a crisis could occur at any moment. Any kind of crisis. I could keep busy with worry. I don’t want to live worrying about the next crisis, but when it happens, I know now that I have these seven lessons learned that I can hold onto firmly, and that the list of lessons will continue to grow. And so will I.