As I lay in a hospital bed at Hebrew University’s Hadassah-Ein Kerem Medical Center, it was obvious to me that my body was completely out of control. My heart had been beating erratically for over 100 hours, and the only hope for restoring my heart to normal rhythm was cardioversion (electric shock therapy—in this procedure, doctors stop the heart beating for a brief instant, and then restart it).
Because my heart had been out of sync for so long, drugs no longer had any effect on the arrhythmia. An extra dose of my heart medication did not, as in the past, bring my heart’s fibrillation under control. Nor did the attending physicians have a drug in their arsenal that would return my heart to sinus rhythm.
Furthermore, I could not will my heart to be normal. I was reminded of what Jesus said: “Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his height?” (Matt. 6:27; Luke 12:25). I could not, by an effort of the will, make my heart’s rhythm normal anymore than I could by such an effort make myself eighteen inches taller.
At this point, God certainly had my attention. I prayed fervently and recited to myself Scriptures that I had memorized such as the Shema, the Lord’s Prayer, the 23rd Psalm—especially, the words, “Even when I pass through a deep and dangerous gorge, I’m not afraid [of what may happen to me] because you are with me…Nothing but good things will happen to me…”
Perhaps the most meaningful scripture passage was 2 Corinthians 12:7-10: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities…for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10; KJV).
“Well,” I thought with great hesitation, “if it requires a serious infirmity for the power of Jesus to rest upon me, then, Lord, though I’m not ready, I’m willing.”
I knew that Paul had asked God to remove his affliction three times (2 Cor. 12:8)—because of Galatians 4:15 and 6:11, I assume that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was poor eyesight. Yet God’s answer was, “No, I want you to live with the affliction.” Paul’s response was: “God’s power is manifest in that very weakness. This infirmity will produce blessing.” “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:27). The heroes of the faith “won strength out of weakness” (Heb. 11:34).
With a great physical (and spiritual) trial looming, Jesus prayed: “Father, if it is your will, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done” (Luke 22:42; RSV). In Jesus’ case, too, God did not remove the extreme physical suffering.
According to the late Hebrew University professor David Flusser, Jesus’ teaching can be summed up in a word: “Relax!”
As I waited to have my heart regulated by electric shock, I tried to relax. I wondered if I would be able to possess the Greyhound mentality: “Take a bus and leave the driving to us”? Would I be able to let God take the driver’s seat, let him have total control of my life? I waited for three days.
With these thoughts swirling in my head, I reached the place where I concluded: “It’s clear that I can’t trust myself. Nor can I even depend on the physicians since their knowledge is limited. I certainly can’t count on the electric shock! On whom can I depend? Only on my Father in Heaven.” There, on that bed, as I have done so many times in the past, I turned over my life to him. Reciting to myself, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20; RSV), I moved aside and let God take the wheel.
The end of the story is that on Thursday, September 13 my irregular heartbeat was successfully regulated by cardioversion. Now taking propafenone, a different medication, my heart has been performing perfectly for a week and I feel stronger by the hour.
In a sense, all of us are out of control—we are all frail human beings. The ultimate physical weakness is the body’s inability to overcome death. In this case, too, God’s power is manifest in our human weakness. We are, as it were, “sown a physical body,” but “raised a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:44). Our bodies are “sown in weakness,” but “raised in power” (1 Cor. 15:43). Jesus was “crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God” and “we are weak in him, but…will live with him by the power of God” (2 Cor. 13:4). Unfortunately, disciples of Jesus often behave as though they control their lives. Paul declared: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). I might rephrase Paul’s words, and add to them: “I am strong when I am weak, and only when I am weak.” (For an elaboration of this theme, see my article “The Strength of Weakness.”)
Will we relax and let God do the driving? May all of us daily subdue our wills to God’s will, and allow him to rule our lives completely!