Life is filled with risks and rewards. With so many decisions we face in this life, we are faced with both. When learning to ride a bicycle we are afraid of falling (risk), but when we see the fun others are having and imagine ourselves doing the same (reward), we keep trying until we can.
This keeps happening in life. When I first learned to ride a motorcycle, and some year later learned to scuba dive, I did consider the risks, but for the promised rewards I chose to proceed. In both cases I was glad that I did. When at age 20 I prayerfully considered whether to ask Helen to marry me, I considered the risks and rewards of that decision, and rightly concluded that this would undoubtedly be one of the best decisions I would ever make.
Far more than these examples, when I decided to follow Jesus; or more accurately when I said “yes” to His invitation for me to follow Him, I had very little idea of what this would mean for my future. In light of this uncertainty, at a certain level it felt like there was some degree of “risk” involved. But not really, for I knew in faith that my Lord would be with me through it all, and I instinctively knew that the rewards of trusting and following Jesus would far exceed any perceived risk. My own life story affirms that I was entirely right about that, for Jesus Christ has been and always remains faithful. I wholeheartedly affirm that the rewards of following Jesus far surpass all perceived risks.
So, what do we do when along our life journey we face yet another situation with both perceived risks and potential rewards? As followers of Jesus Christ, we can choose to pray, looking in faith to our Lord. Rather than floundering in worry and uncertainty, we can rest and trust in Him, assured that He will not let us fall. I have lately had opportunities to do this yet again concerning my health.
As I have previously mentioned, a few months ago, after experiencing some difficult symptoms, an MRI confirmed that I had suffered two strokes. When various tests were done to rule out potential causes, it was determined that I had a PFO (Patent Foramen Ovale), which is a hole between the left and right Atria of my heart. As other likely causes for a stroke were ruled out or considered unlikely, it was posited that this PFO was a likely cause, allowing blood clots to travel through the hole, then to my brain, clogging an artery and causing a stroke.
My Cardiologist suggested that this hole could be closed by a procedure called PFO Occlusion, offering the potential reward of removing this as a cause of future strokes. When presenting this option to me, many risks were listed and discussed, one of which was the possibility of developing Atrial Fibrillation, which the Cardiologist said occurs in 3-5% of persons who go through this procedure. I was now faced with a decision that had both risks and potential rewards, which is a common occurrence along our life journey. On that occasion, I prayerfully decided to proceed with the PFO Occlusion. That procedure went well, and that hole is now fully closed.
But I have since been experiencing Atrial Fibrillation, which was one of the stated risks of the PFO Occlusion. AFib is an abnormal heart rhythm, which for me has included both Tachycardia (very fast beating) and Bradycardia (very slow beating). The symptoms of this have at times been difficult for me, keeping me from safely or comfortably doing things I would like to do. My cardiologists tell me this could possibly be a temporary problem that will eventually resolve, but the only way to determine if this is so, is to give it some time.
I am now on a prescribed blood thinner to prevent blood clots that could possibly cause a heart attack or stroke. But because I continue to experience AFib episodes, my Cardiologist and the Electrophysiologist to whom I was referred, have both recommended another treatment option for me, which again carries both risks and potential rewards.
Their recommendation is for an antiarrhythmic medicine which can immediately stop the AFib episodes (rewards) but can also carry harsh reactions (risks). Because of the risks of this medicine, introduction to it requires a 3-day hospitalization for close monitoring. If my body responds acceptably to this medicine, the Atrial Fibrillation episodes should immediately stop. The plan would then be to stay on this medicine for two or three months, then go off it to see if the episodes have entirely stopped. If the AFib episodes do not return, no further action should be required. But if the AFib episodes do return, then a more permanent solution would be required.
Regarding this decision, as it includes both risks and potential rewards, I have been prayerfully leaning on the One who has always been faithful throughout my life. I have trusted Him to guide me in this, knowing that whatever happens in the days ahead, my Lord will surely be glorified, and I will be blessed. Helen and I have prayed together about this, and she fully supports my decision to proceed.
It will be my privilege to preach God’s Word at Emmaus Church in Northfield, Minnesota this Sunday morning (July 17). Then on Monday morning (July 18) I am scheduled for admission to the Minneapolis VA Medical Center for three days of close monitoring while my body is introduced to the anti-arrhythmic medicine. I will appreciate your prayers, as I wait to see what God will do.
On this side of heaven, we will all face risks and rewards. But like a young child learning to ride a bicycle with a loving parent running along beside us, we know with the certainty of our faith in Jesus Christ that God who is with us will not let us fall. We know that the ultimate reward is certain. God's presence is real, and His promises are forever true!