Lying in the Recovery Room after spiritual open-heart surgery, I recognize that I am now on the road to recovery with a newly restored heart, in spite of all the pain and discomfort that remains after surgery. My congenital heart condition has been fully repaired. However, traveling this road to recovery will take some time, and God Himself, my Daddy, is fully in charge of the whole process.
Interestingly, His plan for my full restoration to a joyous, fulfilling, meaningful, and productive life can be summarized by one word: “remember.” My recovery continues as I remind myself of the following inviolate, eternal truths every day:
Remember that no matter what may come in my life, what I learned during heart surgery remains true; 1.) the thoughts and intents of my newly exegeted heart are still only evil continually, and 2.) even though circumstances scream at me “God has forsaken you,” His unending love and care for me never waver.
Remember that Daddy just happens to be The Sovereign God of the universe. This means that He must be completely satisfied with me today, right where I am in the recovery process, or He would have me somewhere else! Oh Daddy, I believe that, yes I do! (But, please, help my unbelief!)
However, Daddy is not leaving me here, where I am today, but remember that He is always actively at work in me that I would ultimately “be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29), whether I can see that occurring or not.
Remember that this “conforming-to-the-image-of-Jesus” process, which theologians call “sanctification,” is Daddy’s job alone, and He does it without our permission, or even our knowledge. He does it in His own time and in His own way, with absolutely no help from us whatsoever. He is not, contrary to popular belief, a “Gentleman,” waiting for our permission to be involved in our lives. What loving father ever does such a thing? He is our Daddy who loves us all absolutely, and storms into our lives for our good whenever He wants, where “He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Daniel 4:35).
Remember that in this “conforming” process, He is showering down upon His children always only mercy and blessing, never vindictive, punitive punishment; that was all poured out on Jesus at the cross, so none is left for us!
Remember that along with the obvious, wonderful mercy and blessings that all can see, there are also the less obvious mercy and blessing that only the exegeted heart can see—the severe mercy that is His discipline. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).
Hardship, pain, loss, even besetting sins, are all a part of His loving training. All His blessings, both obvious and severe, come from a divine heart of love and are designed to lead us, in a way we cannot understand, to repentance and ultimately to abundant life (Romans 2:4).
You may be asking, “Robert, how can these things be? This gospel you are preaching goes against what I have always believed and how I have always lived.”
That is because living by this gospel means a whole new way of thinking that we initially rejected in Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and that was restored at the cross. Only the exegeted heart that remembers the above truths can live it—a life lived “by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
The very thing that sight tells me is only terrible hardship and pain, faith tells me is a blessing. Sight tells me my sin is a tragedy; faith tells me “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Sight tells me to hide my sins and be ashamed of them; faith says with Paul, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In the Bible, this is called “living by faith.”
Listen to Paul’s post-surgery attitude after God had exegeted his heart and shown him both his own continuing, utter sinfulness and God’s relentless, indomitable, irresistible, unconditional love. This is our future attitude as well, not exclusively when the Lord returns, but right now, in this life, as we remember who we are, who God is, and what He has done at the cross:
“How great are God’s riches! How deep are His wisdom and knowledge! Who can explain His decisions? Who can understand His ways? As the scripture says, “Who knows the mind of the Lord? Who is able to give Him advice? Who has ever given Him anything, so that He had to pay it back?” (God owes us absolutely nothing!). For all things were created by Him, and all things exist through Him and for Him. To God be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36 – GNB).