By Lori Ann Wood
Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Lori Ann's Story
As I woke up in the Cleveland Clinic Surgical Recovery, it was coldly quiet. After the year I’d been through, it felt familiar. But I still didn’t like it.
All my life I’ve struggled with silence. Even pauses in conversations or unanswered emails feel especially awkward for me. Seems a good communicator should be able to keep the talk flowing.
But six years ago, I embarked on a heart journey where I’m learning that sometimes silence can be the most effective communication of all, especially when it comes to hearing from God. This heart journey began in November 2015.
My youngest daughter was a senior in high school and we were about to be empty-nesting, identity-seeking parents. I could already hear the hollow echo of two empty bedrooms becoming three. Our twenty-six-year stint of having children in the home was ending, and our lives were about to make a sharp turn. No more distractions, no more waiting for the right time to make an impact on the world.
So, on November 6, around 10:00 p.m. on a stretch of highway near home, at a mile marker I’ll never forget, I prayed. I asked specifically for God to make my life matter in His Kingdom and pledged that I would do anything to that end. I felt certain I’d hear good things from Him soon. I just needed clear direction. It may have been the most heartfelt conversation I’d ever had with God. And the most dangerous.
Less than a month later, I almost died from heart failure from an unknown cause: severe idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy.
Though I thought I had the flu, the day after Thanksgiving 2015, I learned my heart was functioning at just 6%. I spent 14 days in ICU as doctors tried to save my life. All of this despite having no risk factors, no family history, low blood pressure, low cholesterol levels, and a recent medical evaluation declaring that I had less than 3% chance of ever developing heart disease. I was flown to Cleveland Clinic and became my doctor’s most critical patient for 16 months.
During that time, I wore a Life Vest external defibrillator and titrated potent meds to maximum dosages. I was eventually implanted with a Biventricular CRT-D, a combination pacemaker/internal defibrillator. We waited to see if I would hit transplant status as experts expected.
My life was suddenly plotted into two parts: pre-diagnosis and post-diagnosis. Pre-diagnosis I was healthy, I talked to God, and He seemed to guide me. Post-diagnosis, none of that happened. At least not at first. I was believing enough at that point to know He heard my highway plea. I was confused enough to believe heart failure and a shortened life expectancy were the answer. What I didn’t realize is that His silence was part of an unfolding response.
Some would say nothing much happened for many, many months. In this unlimited-text-and-talk world, the lack of communication felt like abandonment. God seemed unresponsive and remote for a year and a half. And I often gave Him the silent treatment right back. The two-way quiet threatened to dampen my faith. Even when I couldn’t, thousands of people prayed around the clock despite a grim prognosis and sympathetic tears from every doctor we encountered. Still, this God I thought I knew remained distant and cold. I was actually embarrassed that so many fervent prayers of others on my behalf seemed unanswered.
Was it me? Was my shaky faith the problem? I lived in this foggy, mute space and held on. Against all medical odds, my heart function was initially restored on March 27, 2017.
The most unusual part of my story is that I didn’t notice God’s answer until months, even years, after that heartfelt highway plea. All that time with no improvement when I thought He was ignoring me, He was actually leading me. God’s soundless delay was His grace giving my mind time to adjust and accept His plan. “You do not realize now what I am doing, but you will understand it later,” (John 13:7, AMP).
Those quiet months taught me that God’s silence doesn’t mean He’s not working. He may be doing most in those times. He’s behind and before us, repairing the past, and preparing the best possible outcome (Romans 8:28).
A year after my Cleveland surgery, I started writing the book that’s been inside me all my adult life. I may never have given myself the time or the urgency to do it in a safer, healthier life. God’s hush was clearing my heart for a new season. Still, believing behind the veil of silence has been spotty and painful and challenging.
But I’ve also discovered that these prolonged, silence-evoking requests have gradually shifted my focus from the result to the relationship. God has been patiently bringing me to the end of myself, and closer into His arms.
“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation,” (Psalm 62:1, AMP). He has been urging me to lay His past faithfulness over the conversations that still seem stifled. To stop demanding an answer and trust His inaudible process.
My story is not fully written. Two years after my life-saving surgery, my heart function dropped and I was in active heart failure again. Heart failure is a chronic, progressive disease. There is no cure. For most, medical science can manage the symptoms. For some, they can slow the progression. My doctors believe I will need a heart transplant in the future.
Through all the lessons I’ve lived and the mistakes I’ve made, I’m still a believer in training. Bending my ear toward Him, I am learning to discern His sometimes-silent direction. And to be honest, I do hear it more clearly now. Even when He’s not saying what I want to hear.
The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest writer series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. When we read each other’s stories of how He meets us, it reminds and reassures us that He is near. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.
Don't miss any posts in this series! Subscribe to receive notifications for each new essay, posted every other Thursday. When you subscribe, you'll receive a link to a FREE five-day devotional (45 beautiful pages!) called, “Closer: Five Days to Hearing God Louder.” Each day features teaching on one posture and a guided journaling section to help us practice taking steps toward hearing God louder in our every day.
Learn more about each of these five postures:
1 | Seek: If I Seek God, Will I Really Find Him?
2 | Know: Will God Speak, Even to Me?
3 | Expect: Can I Expect to Hear God?
4 | Listen: How Do I Listen for God?
5 | Connect: Is God Really Right Here?
New to this series? Check out the rest of the series!
Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens twice a year. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.
About Lori Ann
Lori Ann Wood lives in beautiful Bentonville, Arkansas, with her husband, the love of her life whom she found in 9th grade. She is mom to three great young adults, one amazing son-in-law, and a miniature dachshund named Pearl.
Lori Ann currently serves as founding leader of the Parenting Education Ministry at the church of Christ in Bentonville. She also serves as WomenHeart Champion Community Educator for Arkansas and American Heart Association Ambassador.
Lori Ann’s work has been published in numerous print and online venues, including Heart Insight Magazine, The Christian Century magazine, Just Between Us Magazine, The Joyful Life Magazine, Bella Grace Magazine, Sweet to the Soul FAITH Magazine, Pepperdine University Press, and yahoo.com.
Having discovered a serious heart condition almost too late, Lori Ann writes to encourage others to find joy in the divine detours of life. Read more from her at https://linktr.ee/LoriAnnWood.