|EDITOR'S NOTE: The question of miracles is a difficult area of discussion. I have had Christian friends who were strong Christians and died of hepatitis when the medical treatments of interferon did not work. Why would God allow a miraculous cure for one strong Christian and allow another to die? Quite frankly I have no answer to that question, and I doubt any human does. Here is a story that Glenn Goree tells of his personal experience and analysis. He comes to us as a man who was struggling spiritually and suddenly was faced with his own mortality. For our atheist readers, this testimony will probably not be convincing, but there are lessons for all of us here if we will listen. --John Clayton|
God gave me a "new life" day, or rebirth day on November 19, 2004 and I cannot keep quiet about what a great and glorious God we have through Jesus Christ! You see I was given a "third chance"--a life altering reprieve from physical death that was confirmed on May 19, 2005.
Not many people are given second chances in life and as far as I know I am about the only one in my circle of friends and family who has been given a "third chance." Let me explain. I was baptized when I was 8 years old (first chance), but my faith grew weak and I fell away from Christ. Then at 19 I renewed my faith (second chance), became a missionary in Africa, but I fell away from Jesus in my mid-thirties and only returned to God about 3 years ago at age 52. This is where the "third chance" comes in, because in November 2003 I was diagnosed with hepatitis C 2 (genotype 2). This virus had been in my liver for 18 to 20 years, possibly longer and I did not even know it. It was discovered through a blood test for a term life insurance policy application.
When I first learned I had hepatitis, denial was a great tool for self deception that the tests were wrong and a mistake had been made. After all, had denial not served me well in the past when I blamed everyone else for my falling away from Christ? However, I could no longer employ denial's disregard for personal accountability to avoid the truth for both my liver and my soul. The cold hard medical fact was that my liver was diseased and in the last stage of deterioration before cirrhosis. Once reached, cirrhosis would mean a long slow death if not treated. Knowing my soul was lost, shortly after death I would be knocking on heaven's door (probably with no reply from the other side) if the prescribed treatment for the hepatitis did not work
Just as for cancer treatment there are no guarantees for hepatitis treatment. My particular type required a series of pills taken twice daily, and weekly injections of interferon self administered for nine months. At three months a treatment evaluation is conducted to determine if the viral count has diminished to a certain level indicating it is working and if it is not treatment is terminated. Treatment options if interferon is unsuccessful are usually bleak, painful, long, expensive, and ultimately terminal if a transplant is not forthcoming and even then there are no guarantees.
Now let me tell you what happened step by step during the course of my treatment and if you are not prepared for miracles (however you choose to define them) then I suggest you stop reading here because you will not believe what follows. Truth be known, to this day, I still cannot fully comprehend my great health. I also want to say that a book could be written on each point of God's love revealed in this story but since this is an article, I cannot go into detail and can only give you personal conclusions of why I believe God chose to heal me.
Facing death could have led me in one of two directions. I could have chosen to harden my heart towards God like Pharaoh or I could have chosen to confess my sins and ask for forgiveness from Christ like the thief on the cross. I chose the latter because like the thief on his cross, my cross of hepatitis made me confront my life of rebellion. And like the thief, I could no longer steal the truth from my heart, nor hide it from my conscience because eternity was impatiently waiting. As the thief on the cross had both his legs broken to ensure his death, I too had no leg to stand on any longer.
I will never forget the day I fell on the ground flat on my face like Moses did countless times in the Old Testament. There I repented and confessed my sins to God, His Son and the Holy Spirit and have continued to do so. I later met with a close friend who is one of the ministers of the church where I attend and confessed to him my sin and rebellion. And it is interesting how my prayer life has evolved. You might say it has gone through the following six stages:
||God, I beg you, please save me!|
||God, I am not worthy of being saved.|
||God, your will be done.|
||God, WHY did you save me?|
||God, please show me your purpose for saving me.|
||God, please help me fulfill your purpose for saving me.|
Now here is the part where the miracles begin. At the three month critical evaluation the virus was completely GONE! In fact the doctor had me do another blood test because he thought I had a false negative. In my interview I asked him if this had happened to him before with a patient and he answered, "NO!" Mind you, this is a liver specialist known in San Antonio, Texas, as being the "best" in the business and had practiced many years and was a careful man of science.
So I asked, "Where do we go from here?" My hope was that we could stop the treatments even though there were six months left because as I will reveal later it was terribly painful. In fact, like Job, I often cursed the day I was born and asked God to let me die. Obviously, God did not take me up on my request. The doctor said that the treatment must continue the full course to insure the virus was gone. There is more I could tell you about this topic, but I will cut to the chase. My liver has tested clean of the virus and in normal function range ever since and this is December of 2006. In fact I have never been in such overall great health.
Now you think it could not get any better than this? Well it does. In 2003/04 my pills cost just over $1,000 per month for each 30-day supply and four preset syringes of interferon were just over $1,000 each! So we are talking around five thousand dollars per month, for a grand total of $45,000 total cost of completing the treatment. At the three-month junction, my financial resources were nearly exhausted.
One day I came home and found the following message left on my answering machine by the nurse in charge of my case. She said, "Mr. Goree, we know you have been having trouble with your insurance and want you to know that we can GIVE you the rest of your treatment from the doctor's office. The drug reps were by here today and left me with a few complete treatments and I thought of you first. Are you interested?" A significant point of this part of the story is that I never once asked for God to give me the medicine! Did I need it? Yes. Did I know where I would lay my hands on $35,000 to pay for the next six months to hedge my bets against an insurance company more interested in profits than health care? No. Had I exhausted all resources I knew to pursue getting the money and come up empty handed? Yes. When I heard her message, I fell flat on my face, wept and thanked God! Another miracle? You be the judge.
I would like to conclude this article with a question. Why? Why would God save a man who is spiritually dysfunctional, hypocritical, inconsistent, hot and cold and at the core utterly selfish? Why would God save a man who was not the spiritual example he should have been for his children and nearly wrecked his marriage, not once but several times? Why would God waste His time waiting thirty years, for him to come to his senses? (I may have been a Christian on the outside by going through all the motions, but not until three years ago was I one on the inside.) Why would God put up with me, tolerate my sinful behavior, and care for me? Had I been in His shoes I would have given me over to Satan decades ago. Why did He patiently wait while I wallowed in my ego and pride like a pig rolls around in a sty? Here are only brief summaries of just five of my conclusions. You might say they are the top five ways a diseased liver and rebellious heart can be a good thing!
God is God. As a child my dad would say to me, "do it because I said to, I don't need to explain!" Why? Because DAD WAS DAD. Today as a father and grandfather, I realize Dad's actions along with his words made sense and he owed me no explanation. This same principle is true with God. In Exodus 33:19 God said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Why did God save me when there are millions of people with terminal diseases more deserving than I of life over death? God does not owe me an explanation!
God Forgives. In Luke 15:11-32 did the prodigal son's father stop loving him when he broke his father's heart by asking prematurely for his inheritance? Did the father stop loving his son when the son ran off and squandered his inheritance? Did the father stop loving the son when he saw him returning home broken hearted, defeated, ashamed, filthy, and dressed in rags? No. Look at verse 20, "But while he was still a long way off his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." God forgives because there is one thing God cannot do. It is impossible for him to stop loving His creation no matter what they do. This is why David wrote in Psalm 130:3-4, "If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared."
God Comforts. I have a very close friend who was with me throughout the treatment ordeal. He was with me when I went to the doctor for my first visit confirming my diagnosis and explanation of the virus and how the treatment regimen would be administered. He spent a day at the hospital from 6:00 a.m. to late afternoon sitting by my bed cheering me up when I had my liver biopsy. When I learned how seriously the virus had injured my liver and had the uncertainty of the prognosis explained to me, I went to his house and wept on his shoulder as he held me in his arms and comforted me. He is a retired nurse and he carefully showed me how to administer the injection in my thigh each week and was there when I injected my first dose of interferon. He went to the doctor's office the day I learned the virus was gone and rejoiced with my good news. Throughout the entire nine months he patiently stayed by my side no matter what! In Psalm 4:8 David wrote, "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." Knowing my friend was there at crucial times comforted my aching body and gave me some peace, but God's comfort healed my broken spirit, bruised heart, and diseased liver.
God Uses Pain. In nine months I lost thirty-four pounds, or nearly four pounds a month. I had aches and pains in places that I did not know I had places. I had itches, irritations, and throbs that only being asleep relieved. My business was going down the tubes, my marriage was under strain and I experienced depression that bordered on suicidal ideation daily (sometimes hourly). About half way through the treatment I developed a cough so intrusive that it only stopped when I was sleeping and it caused a left inguinal hernia and bleeding in my lungs. The damage to my lungs later developed into bronchitis which lasted for a year. I learned that a severe cough is a side effect of the interferon for some patients. I now know what Job felt when he wrote in Chapter 3, "May the day of my birth perish, ..." "Why did I not perish at birth and die as I came from the womb?" "What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil."
We live in a society of immediate gratification and pain avoidance at all costs. You can now purchase Listerine without the alcohol because people complain that it burns their mouths. We have forgotten that pain can be beneficial. It is therapeutic and tutorial. When we seek to avoid pain, we miss God's instruction, because pain makes us ask why. The answer to why is found in Christ. This is Solomon's point in Proverbs 20:30, "Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being." How does pain purge the inmost being? By clearing away denial so we come face to face with the real self. Pain is the only way God can reach our hearts.
God Has a Plan. Let me quote some scriptures here to lay the groundwork for this section. First, Job 14:5, "Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed." Second, Psalm 139:16, "Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordianed for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Third, Proverbs 16:9, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." There are many more passages that illustrate the point--God has a plan for our lives because our lives belong to Him. We can be like Jonah who when he heard of God's plan for him to preach to the city of Nineveh, "ran away" (Jonah 1:3), but ultimately like Jonah we will fulfill God's will.
But wait a minute you say! Hold on! What if God had chosen to let you die, would you be so excited? The answer is yes! "Why?" Because in facing the reality of my death, it woke me up to face the reality of my sin. O.K. you say, "What if the hepatitis returns and kills you?" The answer is still yes! (Though I believe it will not.) You see God has taught me I do not belong to myself because I belong to Him so that personal possession in all forms is a delusion. I am His creation and steward of what God has graciously permitted me to use while on this earth. Besides according to the Apostle Paul in Romans 14:7-8, "For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord."
The atheist or agnostic might argue, "Well there must be other patients who have been healed by this treatment and they did not believe in God." Yes, I am sure there have been some patients completely healed like me without believing in God. My answer to this point is found in Romans 9:16-18, "It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: 'I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name be proclaimed in all the earth.' Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy and he hardens whom he wants to harden." Personally, I cannot understand how an agnostic or atheist could be healed like I was and NOT rethink their position, but I have concluded what my job is as a Christian.
It is my job to accept God's grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness and do what the thief on the cross did, give my life to Christ! It is my job to use every minute of every day to put every aspect of my life in God's hands. This means my marriage, my family, my business, my children, my retirement, my home, my cars, my everything. It further means that no matter what the problem when I turn it over to Christ, He resolves it, and time and paper cannot begin to explain how God has blessed my life since. One last word, does this decision mean everything has gone my way since renewing my faith three years ago? No, but the beauty of it is that I have God as my Shield, my Rock, and my Defender. As David wrote in Psalm 147:10-11, "His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love."
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, MayJun07.