It is true that 48 hours earlier I had been deeply anesthetized during surgery. More anesthesia than usual, as it happened, because scar tissue from an earlier epidural prolonged the procedure, and also to offset a sudden increase in blood pressure during surgery. Then there were the post-op pills — an anti-inflammatory, a muscle relaxant and a narcotic pain reliever. Whatever the reason, sleep had been troubled both nights since surgery. Frightful nightmares, interrupted by waking almost hourly to a sense of horror and thoughts of death. I prayed for peace of mind and sleep, but neither came then. I wondered if my faith had failed.
On Thursday, daughter Melanie gave me a present — handwritten words of a favorite old hymn, which she taped to my bathroom mirror, and which I read with reassurance each time I awoke after that:
Savior grant me rest and peace,
Let my troubled dreamings cease;
With the chiming midnight bell
Teach my heart that all is well.
I would trust my All to Thee,
All my cares and sorrows flee;
Till the breaking light shall tell —
Night is past and all is well.
With that prayer, I thought of Abraham, who also experienced “terror and great darkness” (Gen. 17:12). Of others who experienced “darkness and the shadow of death” (Psalm 107:14). Of the Savior himself, who agonized with sweat-drops like blood and eventually cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Lk. 22:44; Matt. 27:46). I remembered that God is present in every situation, even in the deepest darkness. Slowly God reminded me that faith is not feeling, and that it often coexists beside great fear. As my mind cleared, I knew again that God’s faithfulness, power and love do not depend on our subjective perceptions of reality. I remembered that faith means entrusting ourselves to God despite all perceptions. And as I exercised that simplest faith, my feelings of forsakenness gradually changed and fear vanished into the night.