Recently, I went to the funeral of a nineteen-year-old girl who died from an asthma attack. On her ribs, atop her lungs, there was a tattoo of Job 33:4. “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
She had tattooed those words on her abdomen to be a constant reminder that although she had asthma, her breath and her life came from God. I see this as her way of letting God know that no matter what happened to her, in life or death, she would never be without the real breath of life. She willingly placed her life in God’s hands. (Photo by http://www.kaylajohnsonphotography.com )
The words of that verse and their meaning to her spoke volumes to me and drove me back to the book of Job to see what other morsels were in there that I might be able to “tattoo” on my heart and apply to my life. I was surprised when I read a little further in Chapters 33 and 34 to find words that would minister to my heart at just the right time.
Before I share those verses with you, let me preface them by explaining what my family has gone through since the first of the year. Having come out of a period of unemployment in 2012, a less-than-spectacular Holiday season because of our inability to purchase gifts for our loved ones, and the demise of my beloved vehicle with no way to replace it, we were feeling a bit like Job already.
On January 9th, my husband suddenly became ill. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital, fearing a heart attack. After two days of tests, they released him and told him to follow up with his primary care doctor. There was no diagnosis for what had happened to him. Before we could schedule an appointment with the doctor, another attack happened and we ended up in the emergency room of another hospital. Again, they tested him for everything they could think of, found nothing wrong, and sent him home to follow up with his doctor.
The months that followed were full of questions, doubts, sleepless nights, confusion, and a bit of wrestling internally as to why God would allow such an affliction to come upon my husband with no answers as to the cause and with no solution readily available. It wasn’t so much a question of why God allowed this sickness to happen but of how long would it last before we knew what it was. For we know we live in a fallen world with bodies made of deteriorating flesh and bone. It is no surprise that illness and the financial devastation that often occurs because of it will fall upon us.
However, prior to this, we were at such a wonderful place in our lives with two God-serving grown children, great jobs, a wonderful church body to serve in, and a love for each other that would soon be documented by the celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary. Because of a momentary euphoric feeling about life, we were kind of blindsided when this illness struck. When doctors told my husband that nothing was wrong with him and that maybe he just had anxiety, panic disorder, and a need for a psychiatrist, discouragement nipped at our heels and continued to do so as the days went by.
But we spoke with our mouths what may not have yet been fully planted in our hearts—the fact that God was sovereign and that His plan was better than ours.
Nonetheless, our lives were put on hold, our bank account was plunged into the negative, our plans to give selflessly to those in need and to our church were foiled. We had many questions for which the answers did not come.
Two hospital stays and seventeen doctor visits and lab appointments later, we finally had a diagnosis. Sleep apnea. The very thing that killed my mother twenty years ago. Just like a villain in a novel, this condition was robbing us of our sleep and was trying to rob us of our joy, our peace, and our restoration. Worse, it was trying to rob us of our testimony. This villain was ruthless, badgering every area of our lives. Trying to take everything we had and leave us high and dry, ready to turn our backs on the One who gave us our very breath. So when I found the verses below, they hit extra close to home with me.
Job 33:12-18 (NIV) says:
“But I tell you, in this you are not right, for God is greater than any mortal. Why do you complain to him that he responds to no one’s words? For God does speak—now one way, now another— though no one perceives it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn them from wrongdoing and keep them from pride, to preserve them from the pit, their lives from perishing by the sword.”
We had questions that were not being answered and we were crying out to God, asking our Hero to rescue us. However, the villain was robbing both of us of our sleep, the time in which God can speak to us without us interrupting Him and giving Him our opinions of what is best for us. It’s no wonder that as the days passed, 117 days to be exact, that we both grew weaker and weaker in our strength and our resolve. Although we still had the Word of God, our prayer time, and the encouragement of our friends, we were losing that restorative time at night where God could whisper gentle, encouraging words to us and the ever so important words of instruction and rebuke that we all need in order for us to remain humble and on His path.
Job 33:19-26 (NIV) says:
“Or someone may be chastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in their bones, so that their body finds food repulsive and their soul loathes the choicest meal. Their flesh wastes away to nothing, and their bones, once hidden, now stick out. They draw near to the pit, and their life to the messengers of death. Yet if there is an angel at their side, a messenger, one out of a thousand, sent to tell them how to be upright, and he is gracious to that person and says to God, ‘Spare them from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for them— let their flesh be renewed like a child’s; let them be restored as in the days of their youth’— then that person can pray to God and find favor with him, they will see God’s face and shout for joy; he will restore them to full well-being.
Once the diagnosis of sleep apnea was given, we were able to get the CPAP machine and supplies that my husband needed. We were able to sleep again. Although we have yet to get a full eight-hour night of rest because the machine is noisy and the mask doesn’t always seal properly, we are on our way to healing. We have both begun to dream again. This tells me that our Hero is not far from us. He is whispering to us in our sleep, showing us that it will all be okay. He has chosen, for now, to spare our lives so that we can go on and share with others the great works He has done in us.
Job 34:21-22 says:
“His eyes are on the ways of mortals; he sees their every step. There is no deep shadow, no utter darkness, where evildoers can hide.”
God, the real Hero in this battle, is constantly watching over us and making sure that the Enemy, the Villain, will not win the war against us. We must get in this war and fight, even if the fight is to the death. For in death, we shall have life eternal!
Sleeping woman: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/822092