The whole of wisdom is contained in two Biblical statements: “I am that I am” and “Be still and know that I am God.”
— Ancient Proverb
When the chips are down, who do you trust? Is there a God? Does He exist? Is He distant — what some scholars call a “clockwork God,” who created the universe, setting things in motion then retiring to the heavenly realm, or is He available and active in daily life? Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe God answers prayers?
I do — and so do three prominent doctors!
As those of you know who read these musings, I was struck down 8-1/2 months ago with what my doctors told me was a “life-threatening” staph infection in my spine. In a situation like that, ‘who do you trust?’ is a big, big question. It really makes a big difference how you proceed.
I was hospitalized (for the first time in my life!) three times – twice in the UT-Southwestern Medical System and once in the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. A team of Mayo doctors confirmed the Dallas doctors’ diagnosis that the staph infection, eating away like little termites, had destroyed the disc between vertebra T4 and T5 and devastated significant areas of the two vertebras. The CT Scans showed that one little bone spur was keeping things stable. My two options were a 9-hour surgery to implant rods, screws and the like, or watch, wait – and pray hoping that T4 and T5 would fuse naturally. Linda and I chose to take our chances with God.
Dr. Pat Thomas, a years-long friend and former Chief of Surgery of one of the large hospitals in Tyler, informed me at a party just last week that he had months ago told his wife, Mary Dale, that from a medical point of view there was “no way” that I would escape surgery. Pat didn’t tell me till last week. He and Mary Dale resorted to prayer as did, gratefully, many of you.
Does prayer trump medical science? It is a mystery, but sometimes it does. On August 18, Linda and I, with some fear and lots of faith, went to review our final CT Scan with Dr. James Emanuel Beshay, our Spinal Specialist. With a big smile on his face, he showed us the current scan compared with one from four months ago. The white space had filled in with hardened tissue and the two vertebras had fused.
Our conversation went like this:
Me: Dr Beshay, I notice your middle name is “Emanuel.” Are you a Christian?
Dr. Beshay: “I am from Egypt and I am Coptic Christian.”
Me: “Do you believe in miracles?”
Beshay: “I do. I see things frequently that cannot be explained by medical science. That has been your case. Come see me again in six months and if things remain OK we’re done.”
I instantly thought of a famous quote from Albert Einstein that goes something like this: “What is beyond the reach of science is in the realm of God.” Talking to Pat Thomas last week, he said, “You can count your healing as a miracle. I have no doubt about it.”
There was one other unexpected confirmation: I get a full physical each year at the world- famous Cooper Clinic. Dr. Kenneth Cooper, now in his 70’s, who has written twenty-seven books on preventive medicine, has chosen to retain a few personal patients, mostly famous folks. I am fortunate to be on his list.
There was an unopened letter on our kitchen counter when I came home from a visit to UT-Southwestern. I thought it was a bill in a Cooper Clinic envelope. I opened it up and verbatim, here is what it said:
I was so pleased to learn of the improvement in your health as a result of the physiological fusing of the vertebra. As mentioned in your letter, this could be described as being a “miracle” since it rarely occurs spontaneously in the practice of medicine.
Stories like this remind me to go back to the Bible and seek His promises. If you have not done that already, read James 5:16, which I believe is the reason you have shown such dramatic improvement.
Thanks for sharing this note with me and I wish you continued success. Do keep me informed.
Warmest best wishes,
Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH
Wow! I hastened to look up the verse Dr. Cooper relied on. Here it is:
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
James 5:16 (New King James Version)
I was grateful to find an explanatory note at the bottom of the page in my Ryrie Study Bible. “God may heal directly, through medicine or in answer to prayer.” I have been the beneficiary of each and it looks like I am pretty much out of the woods after 7-1/2 months of prayer, massive doses of antibiotics and pain pills, competent medical care and months of waiting to see that final CT Scan. Linda and I are both so thankful for friends who expressed concern and prayer that this would all turn out.
I feel a new season that I am now calling Life III. Dr. Cooper has promised to keep me alive until age 100! I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the work I am called to do and the people with whom I get to work at this fortunate stage of my life.
One of the great benefits of my current line of work attempting to serve God’s purposes is that “little miracles” seem to happen with greater frequency – things that defy rational explanation.
The verse that kept me upright when Linda and I lost our only child 23 years ago and has been a mantra ever since came from the Old Testament:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding.
As I have been saying lately, we live in crazy, unpredictable times. The scripture commands us to pray, but we don’t always get the answer we pray for. In those cases, “who do you trust?” is a big question, perhaps the biggest question to determine one’s peace of mind. For better or for worse, I am prepared to accept that God’s will is what happens.
At age 95, Peter Drucker was asked in an interview three months before he died what he thought about God and the possibility of eternal life. He answered, “I don’t think about it. It’s not my job to think about it. I am told. It is my job to say, ‘yes Sir!”
That’s a good enough answer for me. How about you?
Feedback — Tell me the story of a favorable outcome in your life that defied rational explanation.
Bob Buford is chairman of the board of The Buford Foundation/Leadership Network and, until the sale of his company in July 1999, served as chairman of the board and CEO of Buford Television, Inc., a family-owned business that started with a single ABC affiliate in Tyler, Texas, in the early fifties, and grew to a network of cable systems across the country. A classic entrepreneur, Bob has authored four books – HalfTime, Game Plan, Stuck in Halftime (Zondervan), and Finishing Well (Integrity). Bob was the founder and initial chairman of the board of the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management, now Leader to Leader Institute. He and his wife Linda make their home in Dallas, Texas.