It was an average, casual Monday. Staff meeting in the morning, drove my daughter to the airport to fly back to college, came home and did some youth ministry work. Cooked some glorious steaks on my brand new grill, watched some TV, brushed my teeth and headed to bed. And then it happened. For the third time in five days, an excruciating pain in my abdomen. A pain that previously lasted about two hours, went away and I would go back to sleep. But this was different. The pain didn’t let up and I found myself laying on the living room floor, texting my wife upstairs that it was time to head to the ER.

“Mr. Henning, your gallbladder has to come out.” Excuse me, “come out”? I had never had a surgery in my life! My nurse-wife and everyone else informed me it’s a common procedure. Yank it out, home usually the next day with some additional time of rest. Right. Not exactly how it went for me.

A long list of complications landed me 5 days in the hospital.

When home, I was talking to a close friend of mine about all of it and how strange it was to be totally out of control of everything. He asked, “And what did you learn from that?”

I knew he was prodding for some deep spiritual response, maybe some kind of epiphany I had in my downtime. My answer… “Nothing”. At that moment I was aggravated, annoyed and inconvenienced by this needless speed bump in my life. By doctor’s orders, I couldn’t go to the gym for 5 weeks. 5 WEEKS!!!!! No driving, no picking stuff up, no nothing! Not to mention, worst of all, I had a youth retreat I was leading, happening in one week! I do not have time for this!

But after the dust settled, I DID learn something. Something kind of cool.

While in the hospital, I prayed, but I never had a “Dear Jesus, please protect me, please watch me, please give the doctors wisdom, please… “, (anything else scared people about to have surgery pray for) moment. Might be unusual behaviour from a Pastor, but here’s my “epiphany” on it all. Mike, listen up, here it is.

I realized, with some excitement, the state of my faith, the level of our relationship, God and I. You see, through the whole process, my wife was by my side. I never had to beg her to stay with me, to help me, to look out for my best interest. Because of her love for me and her history of never leaving my side, I just… knew. I could be assured of her presence even if I didn’t request it.

It was the same for me and the Lord. I guess I didn’t feel the need to go into panic-prayer mode because I just knew. I knew He was just as present at the hospital as He is when I’m at home writing sermons. He was just as present when my organs were being ripped out as He is when I’m cleaning the garage. Whether I begged Him or not, because I was His child, He never turned his head from the situation at hand.

That’s a pretty good feeling. I think too many people, even heartfelt Christians, trade the truth of an omni-present God for an “emergency present” God. One who seems to respond more to hospital prayers than everyday cares.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not insinuating that those moments of panic-prayer aren’t normal or even necessary. Even the greatest heroes of Scripture rang God’s doorbell in their darkest and most frightening moments. Chances are I’ll have a few more of those in the future myself.

What I’m trying to say is it’s important to remember the depth of truth in Psalm 139:7 “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” As crucial as prayer is in the life of a believer, We don’t always have to push the call button to be tended to. He’s already there.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

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