You’re going along, life seems normal, and suddenly, everything is different. It was an ‘and suddenly’ moment for me.
It started last summer during our week of prayer and fasting. We were gathered together, praying and seeking the Lord, and a brother in Christ felt like the Lord gave him a word for me.
He said, “I don’t know what’s going on in your life, but I feel like God’s saying at the end of the year, things are going to look different. You’re not going to be working in roofing. I don’t know what it is, but he has something different for you coming.”
I pondered it, wrote it down, and just pocketed it.
I started feeling sick around the 1st of November.
After a couple of days of not feeling well, my wife and I both tested positive for COVID. So we hunkered down and thought, “We’re pretty healthy, we’ll press through, and this’ll pass.” And because my mentality was to downplay it, I didn’t share exactly how serious things were getting or reach out to a doctor as soon as I should have. Growing up, I had pneumonia multiple times and bronchitis, so that may have been one of the reasons I was more susceptible to the virus.
After having been sick for about a week, my oxygen levels were low enough for me to go the hospital. I wasn’t too worried though. I walked in. I felt fairly strong. The doctor said I’d be fine.
But after being admitted, I kept going down, and down, and down. I was going through treatments, but I wasn’t getting better. When the time came to go on the ventilator, I thought, “Okay, I’ll go on the ventilator, but only for two days. After two days, take me off, and I’ll be ok.” I like to control things. But you can’t control a storm.
Due to the COVID restrictions, I hadn’t been able to see my family since I’d been admitted. I was still strong enough to use my phone at that point, so I called each of my three sons and actually said goodbyes. My sons, Josh and Christian, waited outside the hospital just so they could see the ambulance transfer me from Laguna to Mission Viejo.
I was 51 years old and thinking, “I’m not gonna make it.”
Storms will come. We don’t want the storm— we’d rather be safe, stable, healthy— but He was with me.
In Luke 6:46, as Jesus is giving the Sermon on the Mount, he says:
46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.
The Rock in this case isn’t Dwayne Johnson, it’s Jesus! We build our lives on Jesus.
Jesus says in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” You will have trouble. Storms will come. However, he goes on to say, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I was on the ventilator for over three weeks.
It was really hard on my wife. She had to deal with all the questions around my care, let alone the biggest question: “Is my husband going to die?” She suddenly had to pay the bills and take over all the things I usually do.
In the first week of December, the doctors were losing optimism. They told Tammy to expect the worst.
I want to pause here and talk about prayer. The sheer number of people who prayed for us was inspiring and overwhelming. We have felt so loved by not just our church family, but the body of Christ all over the world. I heard from half a dozen churches who were praying for me— even congregations where I only knew a single person.
The reason I’m here today, is because of your prayer. I should have died, in fact, I kind of did— my heart stopped at one point.
In Luke 18:1, Jesus tells the disciples to “always pray and not give up.”
We aren’t guaranteed the results we want. As my family was praying for me, as my church was praying for me, you didn’t know what was going to happen. Other people did die from COVID. I don’t know why they died and I didn’t.
Maybe you have been praying for something for a long time, the same prayers over and over again. But know that he hears your prayers. And he says always pray and never give up.
Take a moment to pray into that thing with a new hope. The things you’re praying for, hoping for, believing for, Ask the Lord— for breakthrough, miracles, grace, answers, whatever it is— now.
My church family called a prayer meeting and the next day, I came off the ventilator.
I thought I’d be able to wake up, get up, and walk out.
But when I came to, I was swollen, my hands were numb, my skin was scaly, and my hair was falling out. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t touch my fingers to my thumb, I couldn’t press the button to call the nurse. I couldn’t swallow after the tubes were down my throat for so long. I’d been on an IV for over three weeks and lost 52 pounds.
I wanted to escape, to bust out. I called my son Christian and said, “Back your truck up, stick me in the back, and get me out of here!” But you can’t escape a storm.
They said I’d get it all back, but that it would be a long journey and that I would essentially be disabled for the next few months.
So how do we prepare for storms?
Firstly, listen to what God is saying. The primary place we hear from God is through His Word. I’ve been reading the Bible for 33 years and no matter how many times I’ve read a passage, I can discover something new and be freshly convicted.
Do you have a steady, spiritual diet of the Word of God, or are you just snacking here and there on the Bible app’s Verse of the Day and considering yourself fed? What’s Jesus saying to you through the Scriptures? Are you hearing it? Do you need to develop some practices for getting into the Word? Maybe out to someone who does this well and learn from them.
Secondly, do what He tells us. If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you know a lot by now. But are you doing it? Jesus says loving him is obeying him (John 14:15). He says you are his disciple if you hold to his teaching (John 8:31). He’s looking for obedience. It’s by obedience that you build your house on the rock. Jesus continues on storms by saying:
26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Jim Yost, one of our missionary friends Indonesia, talks about “The 48 Hour Rule”. When the Lord puts something on your heart, you should respond within 48 hours. If you’re not doing it that immediately, it’s not obedience. Delayed obedience is disobedience.
This verse also highlights how when your house is not built on the Rock, there are consequences. When the storm comes, your life begins to crumble. When you do build your house on the Rock, you find not just eternal life, but abundant life here on Earth as well. It’s not always easy, but life in the Spirit is abundant.
In Corinthians 12:8-10, Paul pleads with the Lord to remove the thorn in his flesh:
8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
And I have to say, it’s been amazing. I’ve had joy sitting in my room alone, unable to move. He gave me joy and grace. He gave me rest. People would say, “I wanted to come to encourage you, but you actually seem happy.”
There have been such sweet moments. My boys came and read Scripture to me and prayed with me, when I couldn’t read the Bible for myself. People prayed, visited, carried us financially, and poured out support on us. Peter cleaned out stuff from my beard!
The Lord gave me grace in the midst of the storm.
I moved to a care facility, then, at the end of December, was able to come home. Tammy had to do everything for me. Tammy and Grayden would load me into the device that would get me out of the bed and into a chair, bathe me, feed me, change me. When I came to church for the first time, four guys had to come to help me get back up my stairs.
But over the next couple of months, my physical therapist got me standing, then using a walker and a wheelchair, then a cane, and now I can walk without the cane.
I’m getting stronger each day.
Not every story has a happy ending. Some have lost loved ones to COVID, or cancer, or car accidents. I pray that Jesus would release grace and strength over those of you who are going through storms right now.
I want to build my life on Jesus, on his teachings, on the Rock. Let’s not do things our way, let’s do things his way.