Summary: I want to share with you the most important lesson I have learned that changed EVERYTHING since giving my heart 50+ years ago to Jesus Christ and receiving Him as Lord and Savior.
Towards the end of one particular year in my life, things started getting a little rough….Here are some highlights!
1. The terrorist attack on 9/11 had just happened, and my family was left reeling from the financial effects of the stock market crash and the loss of so many loved ones.
2. I was sued by a family member in a frivolous lawsuit that took way too much time and money to defend - and ultimately win.
3. One of our family pets died.
4. In November of that year, my wife was the victim of a malicious virus that lasted two months. Years earlier, my wife had been diagnosed with a terminal illness before our engagement and given seven years to live. That began a journey that lasted nearly 40 years. The virus had taken a heavy toll and both her kidneys failed. She became very sick right after Christmas and went to the hospital on a Friday to immediately start dialysis.
5. On that same weekend, I was called with the great news that I had been chosen to be the lead pastor of a large church in another state that was closer to family, so we had been eagerly waiting to hear back. I had no choice but to turn the offer down.
6. During the first months of that same year, I had some physical problems that greatly concerned me for fear that cancer had returned after beating it over 15 years previously. It took weeks and weeks of testing, and finally, a surgery date was set for mid-May. I had the surgery and was given a clean bill of health.
7. In between all the testing and doctor visits for the both of us, I got into a car accident. I was unharmed, but my pristine 21-year-old Italian sports car was totaled with me in it!
8. Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, my daughter's life was threatened by a stalker, and we lived under that threat for months with my friends Smith and Wesson at our side.
9. In May my father was the victim of a terrible accident. My Dad and step-Mom were visiting friends who lived a few hundred miles from their home in Oregon. My Dad had gone out into the garage to get something out of the car and bring it back into the house. There were three doors along the back wall to choose from, one led to a bathroom, another into a downstairs basement, and the last back into the house. He somehow chose the middle door that led into the basement. He stepped into the doorway and immediately lost his footing due to the first step starting inches below the inside doorsill. It was very dark, and he tried desperately to grab onto something to stop from falling, but the stairs had no handrail. He tumbled down the stairs and fell headfirst onto the concrete floor 12 feet below.
He was flown by Life Flight to a Trauma Hospital 200 miles away. He remained on life support for a few weeks, but just days before Father's Day he lost his valiant struggle to regain consciousness and passed on into the next life. I felt terribly empty after his death. I had always gone to my Dad for advice and solace during life's endless challenges, and now I was confronted with the reality that I had not first gone to God, the Father, who I had put into second place, and that sent me reeling with that realization.
Those were just some of the challenges faced that year. The storms of life have a habit of crashing hopes and dreams on the rocks of reality. There have been countless more 'challenges' since then. But in those short seven months, the pressure from it all was immense – I felt like I was on a hurling and shaking out of control roller-coaster ride. The best way I can describe my emotions through all of that was feeling like a scuba diver lost deep in the darkness of an underwater cave without a flashlight and running out of air!
Needless to say, I spent a LOT of time in prayer, pressing in really, really hard. One day, after months of trying to bear it all, I finally cried out to God in climatic desperation and told Him that all that had been happening had finally pushed me over the edge and I just couldn't take any more.
To my astonishment, I heard these words in my mind, "Good!" "I have been waiting for you to cast ALL your burdens and cares upon Me! You were over the edge a long time ago, but you just wouldn't admit it. Now I can give you ALL of My strength and lead you into My rest."