When no one else can help

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by Glen Doss, Major –

On September 29, 2009, a team led by three surgeons at Stanford Hospital, Palo Alto, Calif., performed a 14-hour procedure that essentially rebuilt my spine. It was remarkably successful. I remained in the hospital six days, followed by a lengthy recovery at home, visited regularly by nurses and physical therapists. I will always be grateful to my God-sent partner, Mary. I thank him every day for her.

I have had several surgeries, but this was by far the most trying because of the invasiveness of the procedure and the lengthy time I was under anesthesia. I thank everyone who supported me through prayers, cards of encouragement and personal visits. Following is an account of how God gave me grace through this ordeal.

Locked within my pain-wracked body, I gaze out through a fog. Pain envelopes me; it adheres like glue. I am suddenly seized by a sense of panic. I am desperate for an avenue of escape—any avenue at all. The pain is so excruciating.

“Take this button. Press it if you need more morphine,” directs a nurse. But though I push repeatedly, the pain does not subside to any appreciable degree. As my day in ICU goes by, I become increasingly irritated by the nurses’ inquiries. No matter how much I plead with them, they will not give me what I demand: an avenue of escape from the web of pain I’m trapped in.

On the second, day I am wheeled out to the ward where every time I close my eyes I am assaulted by vivid nightmares. Shockingly intense in color and detail, they embody my deepest, most personal fears—guilt from past sins I realize have long haunted me from within my unconscious. Wrenched from deep in my gut, from an area no human being has ever accessed, I find my deepest fears played out before my eyes. All is so convincing I am wracked by anguish from head to toe. “No! No! No!” I scream aloud—seeking yet finding no escape. I awaken suddenly, sweating, trembling throughout my whole body. Moments later, my eyes close again, and once more I am assaulted. I am somewhere other than the hospital, reliving a dreaded past. Guilt and shame are pervasive.

On my third day, it strikes me that none of this can be real. For I find myself in a hospital bed connected to IVs, unable to turn without help and the severest pain. Only now do I suspect the experiences to be mere hallucinations—yet so real to my senses it is difficult to believe they did not occur.

Finally, though I have prayed many times before, I do so from a deeper and more personal level. I sense that Satan has assaulted me, but now I allow God to stretch me. I am no longer the man I was three days before. I am reminded that, locked within my pain-wracked body, there is absolutely nowhere else to turn but him. Spirit and soul though I be, I cannot escape my body this side of the grave. In the confined space of my skin, only God can help me. From deep within my morass of personal pain I plead, “Dear God, help me, take me, hold me. May I be wholly yours and you be my all in all. As Satan attacks me, I will not permit him to bring me down. I fully trust you to help me through this. I pray I will not succumb to the devil’s onslaughts. You have forgiven me for the sins of my past and will empower me to live obediently today. I yield my all to you.”

Now his arms envelope me—gently, soothingly. Though I am immersed in a cauldron of pain, I find God’s loving caress is enough; it is all I need. I thank him for his love.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world (John 16:33 NIV). I hear the Lord’s words and I smile.

“Though intolerable pain inflicts me, I cling to you, my God,” I pray. The words of Scripture soothe my soul as I recite them: My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God. For I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:10-11 NIV).

“I praise you, O Lord, from within the eye of the storm. Even as Satan assaults me, surfacing my most shameful memories and guilt-laden thoughts, I praise you. Though he taunts me with jibes that sting, suggesting you have not forgiven my past sins and that you do not accept me as your child, I will not believe him. I will never give up on you, dear Lord. You have given me so much. Thank you for holding me securely amidst this ordeal.

On my bed I remember you. I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:6-8 NIV).

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