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First Thoughts

A Personal Health Update

Dear First Baptist Family,

This morning I shared with our church the bad news that I now require another surgery in an attempt to correct the nerve problems in my brain. For anyone who was not there, I wanted to share this information with you.

Many of you know that since my second surgery last year, I have endured ongoing symptoms of pain, discomfort, and spasms. I have been able to manage some of these symptoms with medication that have stifled the pain and minimized the involuntary movement, but it has become increasingly clear that my problem has remained.

A few months ago, I was recommended to a different neurosurgery team at a different hospital to see if there was anything more that could be done to address this problem. Just over a week ago, I met with my new doctor to review the results of my latest MRI. Unfortunately, those images clearly show more blood vessels compressing a crucial nerve in my brain. This neve compression is the cause of my trouble and must be relieved for me to have any chance of improvement. The only way to do this is with another surgery.

For those of you keeping count, this will be the third surgery on my brain in three years. These operations are grueling; I am tired of them and do not relish the thought of another one. Nevertheless, this is what the Lord has for me. It is so clear that this is from the Lord and that he wants me to experience another season of profound weakness. I know God. I love him, and I know he loves me. I trust that this hard thing will be a good thing in his compassionate hands.

In 1 Samuel 3, Eli the priest gets bad news about suffering that he and his family are going to endure, and his response is to say simply, “He is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him” (1 Samuel 3:18). These are the first words I thought about when I got the news last week, and they are a reflection of my own heart. God is in control of every part of my life. It is mine simply to go where he leads.

Sharing this news with you is very hard for me. To be completely open with you, I dread dragging our church through another one of my surgeries almost more than I dread the surgery itself. You have always been so kind, so generous, so compassionate, and loving, but I know all this takes a toll on you too. I am so sorry about this and want to ask you to please come with me another step on this painful journey I’ve been walking.

As we go down this road together, I want to ask you to pray for several specific things.

Pray for my family. Pray for everyone, but especially for Lauren. Nobody has a heavier burden to bear in the aftermath of these surgeries than she does. Lauren is the kindest and most faithful wife there is. She loves me, wants me better, and will do whatever it takes to make sure that happens. But recovery from these surgeries is a heavy load. It requires her to be more than a wife. It requires her to be a nurse and single mom. Ask the Lord for grace and strength as she does this.

Pray for me. This has been a long road for me. This trouble started for me in 2017. It has been five years of dealing with this difficulty. Then there are the surgeries. The point of the surgery is to solve a nerve problem but to solve it, they have to create a hole in the back of my head to access it. That means that I wake up from surgery with what amounts to a bullet hole in the back of my skull. To say that recovery is unpleasant is, to say the very least. Please pray for comfort and rest while I recover and that I would bounce back quickly. More than that, it would mean more than I can express if you would please pray that this surgery would work, that the Lord would heal me, and that this painful trial could finally come to an end.

Finally, pray for our church. No surgery comes at an opportune time. But exciting things are happening at our church right now, including expanded educational space, new space for ministry to people with disabilities, completion of our newly-renovated auditorium, and near-completion of our renovated and expanded gathering space in the West Lobby. More than that, we have had dozens of people joining our church. It is exciting, and I want to help, not slow it down. Pray that our church grows, expands, and increases its faithfulness during this time. Pray we grow in love and dependence toward God. Pray that we look back on this and see his hand using this to guide us into a new and exciting season in the life of our church.

On August 4, another surgeon is going to drill into my skull for the third time in three years. When he begins his work of cutting and drilling, it will be an extreme act, but not a violent one. Everything he does that day will be to care for and help me. If a human physician knows how to use scalpels in an effort to bring about good, then we can trust The Great Physician to turn all of our suffering for our good and his glory.

In each of my other surgeries, I have met with the Lord in profound and powerful ways that have changed my life. I believe that is going to happen this time as well. But it is not enough for me that I meet with God. I want all of us to do that. Let’s pray together that this will be a time of growth and spiritual renewal where God does exciting things beyond anything we ask or imagine.

I have great confidence that this is exactly what will happen.

Regardless of what happens, however, I want you to know how much I love you. I can’t imagine that any pastor has ever experienced such great love from such a remarkable group of Christians as you. It is my joy—and the joy of my entire family—to live with you, to serve with you, to grow in Jesus together, and to love you and to be loved by you. Thank you for everything you are and for all that you do.

I love you with all my heart and can’t wait to see you in September.

In Jesus,

Pastor Heath.

Dr. Heath Lambert is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL. He is the author of several books, including The Great Love of God: Encountering God’s Heart for a Hostile World. 

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