by James Robison
"Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak.
Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony." (Psalms 6:2)
Allowing a doctor to participate in
the healing process does not
compromise one's faith.
Less than two weeks ago, I underwent a hip replacement. For me, this surgery was a very serious decision. For the past few years I had experienced increasing pain in my right hip joint that affected my sciatic nerve, which caused all the related muscles to fire uncontrollably. Even during the night, I was unable to sleep for extended periods of time without being abruptly awakened by the pain. About a year ago I received several epidural injections to relieve the pain enough to sleep better while the doctors analyzed my hip and the related joints and muscles. Over time, it became apparent that the lining of the hip had been deeply damaged. There was bone-on-bone contact and arthritic inflammation. Surgery became the best option.
Believe me, we prayed as much as a family and staff could, seeking help from every place a true believer can go to find supernatural relief. I also tried everything from deep-massaging to "Rolfing," a specialized therapy that I likened to water boarding. I endured muscle strengthening, stretching and other forms of natural healing. Though they usually brought me temporary relief, nothing worked as a permanent solution. Throughout this time, I heard positive first- and second-hand reports of hip replacement surgery. Those who had gone through it sometimes expressed regret for delaying it as long as they had. I was interested enough to investigate the possibility.
I enjoy playing golf. It was the one exercise I could still do, even with the limitations brought on by a bad hip. I could play golf and still walk the following day. I heard that legendary golfer Tom Watson had the anterior-approach hip replacement surgery where they do not have to cut any large muscles. The surgeons enter the front part of the leg, separate the muscles, sever the femur, remove the joint and replace it with a titanium prosthesis.
Sound like fun? Well, I couldn't find anything appealing about it, but when I saw Tom Watson almost win the British Open a few days before his 60th birthday, he confirmed the positive reports. He walked the course with no limp and swung the golf clubs as naturally as men half his age. Given my excellent recovery in less than two weeks, I hope to be walking the golf course soon, too. Thank God for His healing power, both natural and supernatural. From the bottom of my heart, I also thank God for the healing hands of dedicated, gifted physicians and surgeons.
It saddened me to watch the media coverage of the Madeline Neumann case. She was the 11-year-old Wisconsin girl who died because her parents refused medical assistance. Instead, they fervently prayed while their youngest child slowly succumbed to her fatal, but curable, illness. Predictably, the media cast it as "faith versus physicians." The dominant headline refers to it as the "prayer death" case. Casting these two healing forces in a competitive light is nothing short of deception. God has given us many methods of healing, including human hands, and we should never discount one as ungodly, even as we seek His wisdom in knowing the proper course to follow.
Through my own experiences, I believe I have learned something significant for all believers. I absolutely believe that God heals. I have seen tumors disappear, blind eyes open, and crippled people walk. I have seen every member of my family experience supernatural interaction in some way in their life, but I have also seen God marvelously and wonderfully use the skilled hands of a doctor to give people miraculous relief. When the medical community provides the life-giving service in the way that they should, I believe they work in harmony with the heart of God. When a limb is broken, we know God heals it, but we want it correctly set in place as the healing process completes. I wanted God to supernaturally heal my hip. I believe He did so, but He did it as he often does, through the skilled hands of a physician. There should be no sense of competition between the community of faith and the practitioners of healing. Both seek the same goal: wholeness and healing.
The medical community really stepped up for the Robison family this year. Our youngest daughter won a battle with a dangerous cancer. We were shocked to learn that our precious baby girl, now the mother of three teenagers herself, developed a cancerous tumor the size of an egg from the base of her tongue to her tonsil, crowding her throat. She could not eat or swallow, necessitating a feeding tube and tracheotomy.
We watched our daughter submit with perfect trust first to God, then to the doctors and oncologists who could help her. She went to the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Tulsa to undergo seven challenging weeks of intense radiation and chemotherapy. It was difficult, but she never wavered. Always the fighter, she didn't doubt her healing for one second. From the moment she was diagnosed, she began signing her emails, "I win! I win! I win!"
Just a few days ago, she was cleared once again after her third CT scan and follow-up visit. She has no cancer. To God be the glory! I know that the medical community helped our daughter. As I write this column, tears fill my eyes with gratitude for the miraculous hand of God and the skilled hands of her doctors.
Every time I consult a physician or healthcare provider, I have first consulted God. With every opinion and diagnosis, I go to God. If I don't have peace about what I hear, I seek another opinion. First, I want to know God's will and God's heart. If he wants to use a doctor to bring healing, then so be it. Jesus chose Mark, a physician, as one of His disciples. If a doctor was good enough for him, why wouldn't one be good enough for me! Jesus Himself is referred to as the Great Physician.
Our son suffers from macular degeneration. Over a four-year span, he has nearly lost sight in both eyes as the retinas partially detached. Only immediate surgery preserved his sight, though he still suffers from some residual damage. Still, he is grateful that he will watch his four children grow up. Through it all, he held to a promise that God gave him long ago: "You will see your grandchildren." At the time, he had no idea that he would battle vision loss. He believed the promise only reflected longevity. But his faith gives him the strength to face his medical battles with peace and assurance, even as various doctors carry out the practical aspects of God's promise.
As you can see, I understand the complementary relationship between faith and physicians. I truly thank God for the orthopedic surgeon I was led to see, Dr. Phil Berry! About 22 years ago, Dr. Berry received a liver transplant. In fact, he was one of the earliest recipients of a liver transplant. His new lease on life gave him more time to effectively help others find relief and help. He could have retired several years ago, but continues his work because he is such a caring man. Every time I walk in his office it's like a family reunion. I don't think I have ever seen so many people love a doctor so much. As he worked on me before, during and after the surgery, it felt like the hands of Jesus. His care and concern, combined with years of skilled practice, brought the answer to my prayers.
I began walking the day of my surgery. I have now been walking for a week and five days. I drove on Thursday and went to lunch with LIFE Outreach leadership. I have been recovering, reading, praying, rejoicing and thanking God for the gift of life. Friday, I turned 66 and it's a little strange that I'm just glad that I can stand up, keep my balance and walk. But I'm so grateful! I feel like I have a new shot at life, from a physical standpoint, because I'm able to enjoy the activities that have been difficult in recent years.
This journey with hip pain actually started 52 years ago when, as a poor boy without a father, I worked almost every day for two years to make enough money to buy a red Cushman motor scooter from Sears. I had walked or ridden a bicycle three miles to junior high and to work every day for two years, but finally saved enough money to get some wheels.
At the time, a 14-year-old could get a license for a scooter. The one thing you couldn't get was a helmet. Not only were they not required, but they were nowhere to be found! One day, a car suddenly turned in front of me as I crossed a four-lane highway intersection with a green light. I saw it and couldn't believe it. I slammed on the brakes and threw the scooter on its side. Strangely, I can actually remember the car lurching forward, allowing me to miss the passenger area and take the back end off the car -- bumper, trunk lid, everything. I landed on the opposite side of the highway in disbelief. The driver hadn't seen me. I watched him talking on a radio, calling for help. I remember thinking, "Dear God, I hit a policeman."
Actually, it was a deputy sheriff. He came over and tried to gingerly move me out of the street. The impact had literally driven my Levi blue jeans into the muscle of my right thigh. At the hospital, they had to extract the jeans from the muscle. They told me that no bones were broken, but my hip was severely damaged.
Even with the damaged hip, I went on to participate in football, basketball and fast-pitch softball. I preached in over 600 citywide crusades, and actively raised three children. Occasionally, it bothered me, but it was such a miracle that more damage hadn't been done, I now know it had to be the hand of God. The deputy sheriff told me, "I knew I had to try to get out of your way." Had he not lurched forward by accelerating, rather than hitting the brakes, my head would have slammed into the cab of the car and would likely have been crushed. I truly believe God spared my life for His glory and eternal purposes.
I tell you these stories to express how grateful I am for every year I have had the privilege of living to share God's grace and mercy with others. In the highly-publicized movie The Passion of the Christ, one of the most moving moments to me occurred when Jesus stumbled beneath the weight of the cross and looked into His mother Mary's eyes and said, "Remember I make all things new."
He made something new last week. He gave me a new hip and a chance to continue living life to the fullest. I thank God, all the people who prayed for me and the doctors who had a part in my healing. I know that people still suffer and we continue to pray for them. My prayer is that they will find their healing in the Lord and have the spiritual discernment to know when He is using a physician to carry it out. Whether they realize it or not, the medical community can only learn how to heal by the grace of God. Even then, their abilities are limited. But for those of us who know the Great Physician, we understand that He has no limits. With our God, all things are possible, how ever He chooses to bring it about. To Him be all the glory and gratitude.
Thank the Lord for the health you have enjoyed, even if limited. Look for opportunities to engage others in your healing process, both physically and spiritually, including those in the medical profession.
"Lord, you created me and you know my triumphs and challenges. Give me wisdom to know how to take care of this body that You gave me and deliver me from the pain of this fallen world."