Peace Like A River (A Kidney Stone, an Airplane, and a Prophet)

God is powerful and can be trusted – no matter the circumstances!

Easy to say: until you get a kidney stone!

Now I don’t want to make light of tough times, but I woke up on my wedding day with chicken pox, and then I woke up on our 25th anniversary on March 12th and had to go to the ER with what I discovered was a kidney stone.

I’ve lived long enough that I have suffered pain and loss. I have lost people I love. Personally, I have been through emotionally painful and physically painful experiences. God has brought me through some really difficult times, and through Him and through community I have found healing, so I know God can be trusted.

However, when you are experiencing acute and indescribable pain, trusting God is really hard!

I’ve experienced some excruciating pain before:

• I grew up in Texas playing football.
• I’ve torn ligaments snow skiing.
• I’ve been hit by a car riding my bicycle. I flew into the windshield and over the car onto ground with cuts requiring 80 stitches on my arm and legs.
• My back has gone out countless times over the years until finally it went out for good causing sciatica that lasted for a month before I was finally approved for surgery.
• During that month I couldn’t sit or stand but could only lay down to alleviate any of the pain.

But none of those compared to the kidney stone I had on March 12th! And the ER at the hospital was moving slowly! After an hour and 20 minutes and asking several times how much longer, I didn’t think I could make it much longer without passing out from the excruciating pain in my back! I told my wife, if they don’t call me to the back to be treated in the next 5 minutes, call 911! I wanted the EMT guys to come running out of the ambulance to treat me! I didn’t know if I had an appendix that was rupturing or a baby alien about bust out of my back! It was awful!

A few minutes later, they brought me to the back. They gave me medicine and diagnosed me with a kidney stone. Apparently, if you drink too much Diet Coke or have a genetic predisposition, your kidneys can create a rock that is too big go down the tube you’re your bladder, and it is pain worse than a giving birth to a baby! Now, I’m not claiming that, my doctor said that!

They sent me home with high powered medicine and warned me it could take days to pass. Miraculously, I came home and kneeled at the side of the bed and begged God for mercy and to heal me. The medicine was making me sleepy, so I laid down for a nap. An hour and a half later I woke up completely disoriented. It was light outside but it felt like I had been a sleep for days. Most disorienting: the pain was gone!

Our prayers had worked! Some of you were part of that prayer team!

All seemed to be back to normal until I went to the airport on Wednesday morning to travel to Charleston where I was a speaker at an event for pastors. The pain was back. Now it wasn’t as bad as it got at the end of my time in the ER lobby, but it was just a bit beneath the pain level of what it was just before I decided to go to the ER. I started to panic: what if it got worse on the plane! What if this keeps happening all the time! What if…? I started texting Deborah for advice about medicine, and I messaged some of you to pray for me. I got on the flight to Dallas because of course there are no direct flights out of Austin for almost anywhere, and I was starting to sweat as the pain began to increase. I asked the stewardess for water, and she immediately asked: “Sir, are you feeling ok?” I assured her I would be fine, I just needed to take some Advil. I began to hope I was telling the truth.

All that to say, I couldn’t concentrate to write on my journal or to work on this message or to work on my talk for the pastors in Charleston. I was in too much pain to try to sleep. So I just started reading Isaiah 40-66. That was the bonus reading for this Sunday. I just asked God to heal me and speak to me and to give me hope.

I figured if God could help the people of Israel in the midst of their struggles, surely helping me with a kidney stone on a plane would be easy!

Then two passages stood out to me as if they written prophetically to me all those 2700 years ago!

But now, this is what the LORD says – he who created you… he who formed you… “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… 4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you… 5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you…. – Isaiah 43:1-5

And then this one even more specifically:

This is what the LORD says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. (I need this rock to go! Teach me, please!)
18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, (Don’t drink so many Diet Cokes?)
your peace would have been like a river, (I want peace like a river!) your well-being like the waves of the sea.
19 Your descendants would have been like the sand, (I would do anything for this stone to become like sand!)
“The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob.” (I need to be redeemed!)
21 They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock; (And then the greatest line of all!
he split the rock and water gushed out. (May it be so, God! Please split the rock!) -Isaiah 48:17-21

I found myself laughing in spite of the pain. I began to calm myself down. The prayers and the Advil kicked in, and I started feeling better again!

So I can tell you, God can be trusted! He can be trusted even if the pain had not stopped. Sometimes He says “yes” to the small things so we will trust Him when He does not answer our prayers the way we want in the big things.

You can hear me share this story here:

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