“In drawing attention to his greatness and goodness, God helps us understand the privilege of being one of his people. In glorifying himself, God opens our eyes to the blessings of being his child. That’s a loving thing for him to do.”( p.55)
“… our assurance is not just limited to our future inheritance. We also enjoy the present assurance of wonderful intimacy with God. The New Testament describes this as “boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him” (Eph 3:12). ( p. 56)
In July 2006 I was asked to prepare a talk for our church’s upcoming women’s retreat. The subject was predestination and God’s sovereignty. I got into the background reading straight away, re-reading some of my favourite books and discovering some new ones. One of the favourites that I pulled from the bookshelf was The Invisible Hand by RC Sproul, an astonishing book about God’s providence. The subtitle of the book is “Do all things really work for good?”
A few weeks later, on 4 August at 1 o’clock in the morning, my husband Paul woke me. He looked pale and distressed. He was holding his chest and telling me I had to take him to hospital. As I raced to get my clothes on, struggling to get my mind to work, I asked him questions about what it was he was feeling. Normally able to tolerate a lot of pain, Paul was not coping and asked me again to hurry up. It was then that I called the ambulance.
The paramedics arrived within five minutes, told me Paul was having a heart attack, faxed his ECG from the ambulance to Royal North Shore Hospital who then directed them to come straight to Emergency there. After I had spoken briefly to our two drowsy teenagers, we left for the hospital, arriving fifteen minutes later (normally a 30-35 minute trip). The paramedics went through the handover procedure with the emergency team, and I tried to fill in forms with a shaking hand. We’d been there five minutes when Paul’s heart stopped. He was still on the ambulance gurney. They sent me around the corner while they used the defibrillator to get his heart started again, then rushed him to surgery.
I was taken by one of the nurses through the labyrinth of dim corridors to a waiting room somewhere on another floor. She offered me a drink and then went away. I sat there on my own for the next 45 minutes, curled up on a plastic chair in the semi-darkness, not really knowing where I was or where Paul was. But as I sat tired and bewildered on that chair, I became acutely aware that I was not completely alone. I remember picturing myself falling back into God’s loving arms, trusting that they would catch me, hold me and comfort me.
In his great kindness God had given me 19 happy years with Paul, and I was suddenly overwhelmed with gratitude for his provision for me and by a profound sense of peace. Only months before, we had attended a marriage enrichment day and as part of the ‘work’ we had to do as a couple, we had written letters describing what we loved and appreciated about being married to one another. Paul had written me a wonderful letter, full of love, humour and encouragement. And now as I sat in the hospital I knew that if Paul died, God had provided for me a precious, tangible declaration of my husband’s love. And it was enough.
A surgeon emerged from the shadows and came over to tell me that Paul’s surgery had gone well, and that he had inserted Stents in two blocked arteries. Although Paul had had a massive heart attack and very nearly died, the speed with which he was able to be treated, and his relative youth, meant the prognosis was good. He also said that in calling the ambulance I had saved his life.
I don’t know why God spared Paul’s life; I very nearly didn’t call the ambulance, and so many families go through similar traumas and their loved one dies. But during the ensuing days, weeks and months I was able to see very clearly how God, in his sovereignty, goodness and great kindness, had prepared me for that difficult August day and had carried me through. In preparing for the talk for the women’s retreat – a talk I never gave – the Lord focussed my thoughts on his providence and his character, and in doing so provided me with a unshakeable basis for faith in him when I had nothing else to hold onto.
Through this experience God helped me to understand deep within my soul that even if he had required me to endure a painful and wrenching grief (if Paul had died), he was more than willing, and more than able to sustain me because of his sovereign power, unfailing goodness, unchanging faithfulness and overflowing love. Who he is – his very nature – underpins every promise he makes. His nature is the rock solid guarantee that no matter what trials we endure in this life, he will ensure that ultimately all will be well; as believers who trust in him and in what he has done for us in Jesus, we will – in his strength – make it to heaven to be with him and enjoy him forever. And as our faith increases, so he will convince us more and more that there is nothing better.