When I was twenty-one years old, and living in Montreal, Quebec, I had surgery to repair an umbilical hernia. That was many years ago and a distant memory. Fast forward to the present time and the recent COVID-19 pandemic. I was able to avoid this virus for a long time even while caring for family members who succumbed one by one. Of the fifteen of us in my immediate bubble of children, grand and great-grandchildren, only a granddaughter and I had not gotten the virus. Little did I know that that was about to change.
In August of 2022, I volunteered at a local Vacation Bible School (VBS) and was particular about washing my hands and keeping my mask on, as there were many children in attendance. When VBS concluded, I went to Vancouver, British Columbia, for four days to visit my son. I decided to take a COVID-19 rapid test when I got home, as I was not feeling my usual self. Sure enough, it was positive, so I spent the following week in the basement.
My symptoms were mild, just a runny nose and coughing. But a few times I coughed so hard that I thought I would bring up a lung. In September 2022, I felt a hard lump in my stomach while showering. That was very concerning to me, so I made an appointment to see my family doctor. He took one look at my stomach, felt around a bit, and declared that it was a hernia. That confirmed my suspicion, so I innocently asked if it would repair itself. I did not like the answer that came next. No, I would have to have surgery!
I am a pretty healthy woman in the “winter” stage of life, and I have not had surgeries except for the one in Montreal. My only other hospital stays involved giving birth to my children. The idea of “going under” did not appeal to me at all. Up to that point, I only saw doctors for my annual checkups and other minor issues. I was referred to a surgeon who examined me a few weeks later, and I was scheduled for surgery on November 9, 2022.
In the afternoon of October 18, I received a call indicating that there was a cancellation, and could I be at the hospital at 6:00 a.m. the following day? What! Panic set in immediately. God knew that because of my nature I would be stressing for weeks until the surgery in November. Now, I had no time to waste and too quickly blurted, “I will be there.” I called my husband, making arrangements for him to take me to the hospital in the morning before going to work.
At the hospital on October 19, I went through the security and administrative processes, then was assigned a cubicle with a bed. Clad in my cap and hospital gown, I was eventually wheeled into a waiting area outside of the operating room. The professionalism of the attending staff helped me feel at ease. Then the time came to take me to the “theater.”
As I was being wheeled in, I heard the surgeon address me by name and age, to which I made a snide remark about him calling me old. Everyone in the room laughed and introduced themselves. There were about seven people gathered together, with varying specializations. The surgeon was reputedly one of the best, as shared by the porter who informed me that if she were having surgery, she would want him to do it. I appreciated the vote of confidence in this man that I did not really know, however, I knew a Man that I trusted completely.
Praying to the Great Physician
Everyone was prepped and the anesthesiologist explained that she would be putting me out. She approached my face with a mask in her hand and said, “Have a nice sleep.” I immediately replied, “Hold on,” and she probably thought I was having a panic attack. I quickly added, “I have to pray.” At that, they stood quietly while I lifted each of them and myself up to God, the Great Physician. It dawned on me that no one in the room knew how long I would be “sleeping.” It could be hours, days, months, or even years if something went awry. The last thing I remember was the mask being fitted over my nose.
What seemed like mere seconds later, I opened my eyes and noticed that I was back in the cubicle with the nurse asking me how I felt. Since I felt light-headed, I put my head back down and closed my eyes. I woke up about an hour later and was informed that I needed to urinate before they would discharge me. Immediately afterward, they called my husband to come for me. I praised God for seeing me through the surgery and enabling me to go home.
While I recuperated for six weeks with a ban on heavy lifting, I could not help but reflect on what I had gone through. The Bible refers to death as a sleep. In John 11, we read the story of Lazarus who was sick, so his sisters Martha and Mary sent for their Friend, Jesus. When Jesus heard the news, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (verse 4). Jesus tarried where He was for two more days, then went to Judea. The disciples were concerned because threats were made against Jesus’ life, so they tried to persuade Him not to go there again.
Jesus told them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up” (verse 10). Clearly, the disciples did not get it, because their response was, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well” (verse 12). Jesus brought the point home by stating plainly that Lazarus was “dead.” So, was Lazarus really dead or only sleeping?
By the time Jesus arrived in town, He found out that Lazarus had been in the grave for four days. As soon as Martha heard that Jesus had arrived, she rushed to meet Him saying, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (verse 21). Jesus’ response to her was, “Your brother will rise again” (verse 22). Martha, being a good Bible student, knew that Lazarus would rise again in the resurrection. What she had overlooked was that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He had the power to give life and give it more abundantly.
Dead to the World
Like Lazarus in the tomb, when I was in the operating room, I had no awareness of what was being done to me. It was as though I was dead to the world. In a sense I was, and God brought me through. Martha went home and told Mary that Jesus was present, so she ran to meet Him, stating essentially what Martha had already expressed. Mary was crying, and Jesus was moved with compassion, for He loved Lazarus and his sisters. Jesus asked where they put Lazarus’s body, so Mary invited Him to come and see. After the ever-compassionate Jesus openly wept, He went over to the tomb and ordered that the stone be rolled away. There was some reluctance to open the tomb, as the body was in there for four days and there would be a stench. Nonetheless, as they rolled away the stone, He looked up to Heaven and cried with a loud voice saying, “Lazarus, come forth” (verse 43)! And he who was bound hand and foot responded to the call of Jesus and came out of the tomb. Lazarus was unquestionably dead, but Jesus restored him, giving him a second chance at life.
So long as we live on this Earth, death is inevitable, for the wages of sin is death. Lazarus eventually died, and if time should last, I will die. The good news, however, is that there is Someone who conquered death and the grave, once and for all. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John recount how Jesus was deemed a threat by the jealous and spiteful scribes and Pharisees who knew very well that He was healing the sick, raising the dead, and performing many other miracles. People followed Jesus wherever He went, which rubbed the religious leaders the wrong way. They plotted to entrap Jesus since He claimed to be the Son of God, which in their opinion amounted to blasphemy. After a mock trial, the death sentence was pronounced on Jesus, and He was crucified on a cross between two thieves. This form of death was for criminals, yet the One who was completely innocent laid down His very life for you and me!
After Jesus died, the religious leaders wanted to remove His body quickly because the seventh-day Sabbath was approaching. Jesus was laid in a tomb belonging to a rich man named Joseph, and the entrance was sealed with a heavy stone. Since Jesus had told these leaders that He would rise up in three days, guards were stationed outside of the tomb so that no one could steal His body. On the morning following the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene and her friend Mary went to the tomb, amazed to find it empty. In Matthew 28:5-6, an angel of the Lord told the ladies: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” Isn’t that good news?
Call to Action
Meditate on these words taken from John 3:16-17: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
Jesus left the splendor of Heaven, came to Earth as a baby in a manger, and lived a simple life doing good and giving hope to the hopeless. He died for you and me, rose from the dead, returned to Heaven, and is coming again to rescue us from this world that is full of death and decay. Oh, what a Saviour!
All scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.