Several weeks ago I almost died!
It was late afternoon and I was sitting at my desk and doing some writing. I began sweating profusely, my vision began getting blurry, and I couldn’t catch my breath. I felt like my heart was beating out of my chest and I began to feel weak, dizzy, nauseous.
I stumbled over to my bed, called my wife with what little strength I had and weakly told her “call 9-1-1!”
I was struggling to breathe, focus, and not lose consciousness. Believing I was having a heart attack and was dying, I began praying to God; thanking Him for His salvation, His presence in my life, all the blessings of my life, to forgive my sins, and finally, to save my family.
I weakly grabbed my wife’s arm, and gasping for breath, softly and slowly whispered—eking out the words to my shocked and panicked wife and two kids: “I love you all.”
I had made my peace with God and with my family—and I was ready to die.
But praise God, I made it to the hospital emergency room and was stabilized and admitted. What followed was four days of poking, prodding, tests, and consultations.
The fine medical professionals saved my life took world-class care of me, and I am eternally grateful for that.
I also had a lot of time to think and pray.
It was a forced vacation of sorts—the kind that no one wants to take.
The doctors found the problem, and praise God, I was discharged and am on the mend.
Four Life Lessons Learned
However, during those four days stuck in the hospital without any family members being allowed to visit—due to Coronavirus, I learned four life lessons that no matter how I’m feeling or what’s happening with me, I do every day.
Before I tell you what they are, I want to tell you the following:
- These lessons don’t include connecting with God daily—that, as a Christian, is something that you should already be doing consistently
- All four of these lessons are about improving relationships—because, in the end, that’s what makes life worth living
- I had already been doing these things, but not doing them proactively and consistently
- None of these four lessons are earth-shattering or profound, but wise life-practices that we should all be executing daily.
(1) Always be kind
Ephesians 4:29: “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift” (MSG).
I don’t know about you, but I have a sharp tongue and in the past, whenever I would get stressed out or be angry, tired, sick, or hungry, I would lash out. I wouldn’t be verbally abusive, which would be like hitting someone with a bomb. No, that wouldn’t be Christian at all. I was slicker than that. I had a tendency to be sarcastic and passive-aggressive, which is more like hitting someone with slow-burn acid. Now don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t always like that, but just the fact that I was like that at all and called myself a Christian was not okay. All of a sudden almost dying made me realize and recognize that if I allow God to do it, He can and will “set a guard . . . over my mouth (Psalm 141:3, NIV). At the beginning of every day, I proactively pray that God will help everything I say to be loving, kind, truthful, and gentle. With God’s help, I have been learning (and have been successful) to say the right thing, in the right way, at the right time.
(2) Always be grateful
“Be thankful in all circumstances . . .”(1 Thessalonians 5:18a, NLT).
This one came easy for me because God literally saved my life and has given me another chance; because if it wasn’t for Him and the wisdom, knowledge, and discernment he gave all those medical professionals in the ambulance and hospital, I wouldn’t be alive to write this.
This is something that I have done for as long as I can remember, but all of a sudden this took on a new and more powerful significance. In the past I would thank God for the big things…you know. Things like my relationship with Him, my home, my family, my food, my job. But now I thank God for everything—in all circumstances. I thank God for the birds I hear, for my hearing, and for the trees and bushes and flowers I see, and for my sight. I thank God for everything! I could spend the rest of our time together giving you research from tons of eggheads that proves that being thankful daily increases our mood and helps our bodies, minds, spirits, and souls to feel better.
(3) Always serve others
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others . . .” (Matthew 20:28, NLT).
We are all on this earth to glorify God, to know Him, and to make Him known! We can do this most effectively by serving others. Some of the happiest people are people who make it their business to serve others. By contrast, some of the most miserable people are people who focus solely on themselves.
Whatever is happening with you today, choose to serve others. Doing something as simple as shooting someone a text, writing a note, sending a letter or email, or calling someone and checking on them will help you to feel better. Remember the egghead research I mentioned in the last point? The same thing applies to this as well. If you want to be healthier and more joyful all the way around, serve others.
(4) Always sharpen the saw
“Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat” (Mark 6:31, NLT).
Out of all the lessons I learned, this was the most difficult one. Previously I admitted that being in the hospital for four days was a forced vacation that I didn’t want. Ever since I can remember, I have always worked.
Presently, I have one full-time job and two part-time jobs. I like to work. But taking time for myself to rest and renew myself is also work for me. I am a Seventh-day Adventist Christian and as Adventists we recognize the time from Friday night sunset to Saturday night sunset as “The Sabbath”, a time to rest from the work that we do all week long, and rest, recharge, renew, and reconnect with God, with others, and with ourselves. But to be honest with you, it has always been difficult for me to shut my brain off. In fact, during the Sabbath, a paradox happens for me.
Because as a Community Mental Health Therapist (my full-time job), come Friday night, I am physically and emotionally exhausted. I mean, I am done! But I have a difficult time turning off my creative mind. In fact—and here’s the paradox—during the Sabbath hours, I have some of my most creative ideas for stuff to write (my two part-time jobs). I have to force myself not to write, because, no matter how much I love it, that is still work.
To be honest with you, during the week I may read, experience, or hear something that I may have a passing thought hmmm, that might make an interesting bit of writing, but to be honest with you, I don’t have the time or emotional or physical energy to give it any attention—much less to think, ponder, and pray about what God may want me to write about it. So, why do I have all those creative ideas on Sabbath? Simply because I have taken the time to be proactively still. And in that stillness and margin my mind is relaxed and God, through His Holy Spirit, gives me those ideas.
This is just one example of how taking time out for yourself is important but you should be doing it not just once a week but daily as well.
Living it Out
As I said before, none of these four lessons I learned were new, but almost dying gave them renewed significance.
As you purposefully and proactively choose to live out these four profound and powerful principles, your life will be enriched and you will have more peace and joy.
I pray that it will not take almost dying for you to do it.
Take it from someone who almost died in order to take these lessons to heart, begin today and you will be blessed.