I have good news. Lots of it. I’ve been holding out on you too long, and I need to pass it along.
It’s about bad news getting better — amazingly better. It happened slowly, and gradually, but in retrospect it was an amazing answer to prayer.
The Bad News That Started It
It does start with bad news, though. I had disk surgery on my back in December, and I was recovering just fine, even traveling with Sara to visit our daughter and her family in Oklahoma. I took another trip in March to the home office of The Stream, where I’m a senior editor, and it was there in my hotel room that the bad news began. All I did was stand up from the chair at the desk, and something tweaked in my back. I knew I was in trouble.
Traveling gave me no opportunity to give it any rest, so it got worse. A lot worse. Within days of my return home, I was nearly immobilized, unable to walk from one room to the next without panting in pain.
The doctors gave me medicine for the pain and ordered an MRI. It showed that the December surgery had worked just fine, but the disk above it had blown out. So I scheduled a second surgery for April 25. What else could I do? Neither Sara nor I wanted to go through it again, but even on heavy meds, I couldn’t walk more than 25 yards without crutches.
Prayer on Good Friday
Easter was April 17, eight days ahead of the schedule surgery. Sara told me on Good Friday she wanted to go to a “Stations of the Cross” event held by a church we’d formerly attended, about 30 minutes away, in Lebanon, Ohio. I went along, mostly to spend the time with her, but I knew I wasn’t going to do the Stations, as it required walking around a large room. I just couldn’t do that.
But I went anyway, and we arrived, we the church had set up a circle of chairs in the middle of the room. An old friend of mine named Rick was sitting there, so I went and joined him. We chatted a good while, then I asked him to pray for my back. By then Sara had finished her walk and prayer through the Stations, and Rick invited a fourth person to join us as well.
Something powerful happened while they were praying. I felt my back moving, like it was straightening out. Rick did, too. I wondered if it was just something I did unconsciously, especially since nothing else happened immediately. On Saturday, though, I noticed I was a bit more mobile than usual, and even a little bit more on Easter Sunday.
Finally on Tuesday I knew for sure that God had done something, when I went for a one-mile walk through the neighborhood, carrying my crutches the whole way. I ran into a neighbor I’d never met before, who thought that looked funny. (I’m sure she was right.) I’d thought I was going to need them, but I didn’t! Halfway through the walk it occurred to me that Sara might be at the point of wondering if I had crumpled over in the grass somewhere, so I texted her to tell her I was feeling great. And I do mean great!
Two days later, Thursday, I went to my final scheduled pre-op appointment. On the way back to the examining room I walked past the surgeon standing at a desk, and he gave me a startled look look, like, “I wasn’t expecting him to look that good.” He was amazed at the difference. We canceled the surgery!
(He didn’t order a repeat MRI because he didn’t need one. My improved symptoms were enough to make that decision.)
So yes, it was a divine healing — not as dramatic as some I’ve heard of, like my friend Connie who was healed instantaneously from severe epilepsy through prayer — but just as definite. The difference may be that we prayed for healing in my back, and that’s the prayer God answered. We didn’t pray for all the muscle weakness and stiffness I had going on as a result of the back injury, and God is letting me recover from that the old-fashioned way, through time and exercise. That’s been slower, and it’s included some pain, so other than that one walk on that Tuesday, there was no dramatic moment of instant total recovery.
So it took a while to realize just how real the healing was. But it has been very real. And I am very sure it happened as a result of God’s answering my friends’ prayer on Good Friday. I am so grateful to God, it’s hard to know how to communicate it. I’m a writer; this is supposed to be my thing; but this is different. I really don’t know how to speak it.
I am especially grateful for the relief it gives Sara from having to care for me through yet another recovery. It would have been my 11th surgery in 11 years, we’re both tired of it, and this one would have been especially hard, coming so soon after the last one. God gave us both a gift, and we are both incredibly thankful!
The “Why?” and “What’s Next?” Questions
There’s a lot about this I don’t understand. I cannot say why God answered this time, but not all those other times I’d had people pray for my healing before a surgery. Neither do I know why He heals sometimes or some people, but not always or all people. I wasn’t any more “spiritual” or more “worthy” this time, and I don’t think my friends prayed with any more faith. This I do know: God heals miraculously sometimes, but He does it by His own sovereign decision.
It leads me to ask, “What’s next?” I’m optimistic about that, in fact, there’s more good news related to my ministry. This past month I’ve transitioned from a long period of study and preparation into the next phase, holding meetings with pastors and building momentum for courses for them on current tough topics such as sexuality, gender, critical theory, science and faith, and so on. There’s one more scheduled, on June 7, and you’re welcome to sign up!
Few pastors have time to study up on these things, while it’s been my role to work on them for years. My goal is to provide them with truly practical knowledge they can use in real ministry. And my prayer, honestly, is that many pastors will simply say, “Thank you, Tom. That really helped.”
Ministry to Pastors Is Growing
That ministry is coming together now. I have serious work ahead of me, especially in developing course materials, updating a website or two, and connecting with more pastors to serve and equip in this way.
So please pray specifically that God would lead me to a good web developer who would work with me on a volunteer basis. I know how to do it myself, but I don’t have time to do everything. And I’ve got plenty of other new things to work on, new systems to learn, especially for a man at my age of 65 years.
I’ve heard from many pastors how much this ministry is needed. I’ve heard, “Thank you, Tom. That helped.” But it’s only just getting started. I know God spared me that surgery for a reason. I can’t be positive what it is, but I suspect it’s because this ministry is indeed needed.
I’m so grateful to God for keeping me going, and for all my prayer and financial partners, too. I couldn’t do it without you. So when a pastor thanks me, he may not know it, but he’s thanking you, too. And so am I.
Image Credit(s): Jack Sharp/Unsplash.