Scaling those mountains… (when life seems just too hard, but God says “trust me, it’ll be right”…)
by Pamela Condie
Those of you who’ve been reading my blogs over the past couple of years will realise that I’ve been a bit focused on dealing with the challenges that can be thrown at us throughout our life’s journey.
I’ve contemplated the mountains that have seemed unscalable – or at best, would test my endurance. I’ve shared some of my life’s journeys, challenges, mountains, valleys, and I hope you’ve been able to laugh with me at the crazier situations I’ve found myself in. More importantly, I hope I’ve been able to share how trustworthy our God is. His faithfulness is the foundation that has undergirded my entire life’s journey.
Unexpectedly, this year became something of a challenge for me. I’ve been a life-long asthmatic and I found I was really struggling to breathe during summer – blamed it on our humidity. Along with that, I found I was constantly tired – bordering on exhausted much of the time. And, before you start thinking – “Ahah! Covid!” – it wasn’t. On a few occasions I was convinced that would be the answer. But no. Always negative.
Then one day towards the end of March, as I struggled to walk up our staircase, I had a moment of déjà vu. I’d been here before. Just over six years ago, I had to have the aortic valve in my heart replaced via open-heart surgery – at very short notice.
On that occasion, I saw my doctor on the Monday to whinge about my breathlessness and lack of energy and how I couldn’t even climb the stairs. He immediately sent me off to see the cardiologist whom I’d been seeing for some years – ever since the leaky valve had been diagnosed. Long story short – on that occasion, I had an angiogram on the Thursday and was told I wouldn’t be going home till the surgeon had spoken with me!
Eventually this gentleman in theatre scrubs wandered into the waiting room and introduced himself. Apparently, what was originally a slight leak in the valve had escalated quite rapidly and needed to be fixed immediately. He said he had a vacancy on his list for Saturday morning and strongly recommended I take it. So, I did.
After that surgery, I was told I could expect the new valve to keep doing its thing for anywhere between 10—15 years before it would need replacing. Some people even had their replacement valves last for up to 30 years! At that point in time, trust me, I vowed that I would never be having that particular surgery again, so I was hoping it would definitely be a one-off job!
So, when I began struggling to climb a hill last September, I put it down to asthma. Each time I struggled with breathlessness, I blamed asthma.
Then, as I said, I had that déjà vu moment. “No!” I told myself. “No way! It can’t be!” But it was.
An echocardiogram confirmed it. The “new” valve was in its death throes. I was not a happy camper when I saw my cardiologist. He set me up for a series of tests to see if I would be an eligible candidate for what is known as a TAVI procedure (transcatheter aortic valve implantation) where the new valve is inserted through a thin catheter via the groin and inflated inside the aortic cavity. Two full days and nights in hospital having various tests put paid to our hopes that this might be an option. The angiogram and CT scan showed there just wasn’t enough room inside my heart for this procedure to be successful.
The surgeon’s secretary rang to say he wanted to see me asap, and his news was that the only option was open-heart surgery – again. The one thing I’d vowed and declared I wouldn’t go through for a second time. David was with me, and he asked if there was any other option. Our surgeon looked at us both then turned to David and said,
“Yes, mate. She’ll die.”
That was certainly blunt enough.
So, a week later I fronted up for admission for my second go-round with open-heart surgery – and yet another heart valve replacement.
Obviously, I’ve come through and am on the other side (again). It was all successful and now I’m on the road to recovery. And for this I am really praising God.
However, three months ago as this all began to unfold, I felt like I was faced with an insurmountable mountain that I had absolutely no desire to climb. I argued with God, felt quite hardly done by for a few days. Then, as many, many people began to pray for me I began hearing God’s voice saying, “Trust me – it’ll be all right.” Again, I experienced the goodness of our gracious God.
Amazingly, I’ve found the whole process so much easier this time round. Yep, the post-surgery pain was still real (and still is!), but I did not find it as debilitating as it was the first time round. Yep, I still tire rather easily – but that’s part of the territory with this type of surgery, isn’t it? Yep, I’m suffering from anaesthetic brain (which will also pass). But these all pale into insignificance when I reflect on the journey God has taken me on this year. And when I think about younger friends who are battling other serious diseases such as cancer, with regular chemo and radiation sessions, I am truly humbled that I’ve come through this so incredibly well.
I haven’t shared this recent mountain-climbing journey to focus on me personally. Rather, I want my story to point to the goodness and kindness of God. He is totally dependable and so incredibly trustworthy. I am reminded of biblical characters who trusted God to see them through their life’s challenges. People who knew that, even if God chose not to save them physically, they could (and did) trust him to save them eternally. People like Jochebed (mother of Moses), Daniel, Shadrach, Meshack, Abednego, Esther, Ruth – to name but a few – all placed their lives in God’s hands and trusted him, regardless of what the outcome might have been.
Each one made a choice. Each could have chosen the easier, safer, compliant path. But each chose to obey the one, true God. They made tough decisions that changed the lives of those around them, impacted history, and brought honour and glory to God’s name.
When we choose to obey God and climb the mountain he’s placed in our path, we may not know how far-reaching the outcome of that choice may be.
In my final, pre-surgery, visit with my surgeon I said, “You may not be interested in hearing this, but there are lots and lots of people praying for both you and me – right around the world.”
He smiled, leant forward and very quietly replied, “Pam, I’ll take all the help I can get.”
And that’s enough from me this time round. I’ll just leave you with my top favourite verses from Proverbs:Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Prov 3:5-6).
When God says, “Trust me” we know it’ll be right!
Pam’s been involved in Girls’ Brigade as company captain, State Training Co-ordinator, Girls’ Leadership Course Director, and State Commissioner. She was awarded a Medal in the Order of Australia in 1999 for service to youth leadership development in Queensland. She spent 14 years on the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) Australia Board including over 4 years as Board Chair and recently completed an 8 year term on the Board of Queensland Baptists.
She has served as the President of the Women’s Royal Australian Air Force Association (Qld) and is currently a delegate to the Council of ExServicewomen. Pam holds both a Bachelor Degree and a Graduate Diploma of Theology and has recently completed a Doctor of Ministries. She worked as denominational archivist from 1 July 2020 to March 2023.
Pam is married to David. They have three adult children, two of whom are married and have blessed Pam and David with grandchildren (now all young adults).
Pam also served on the State Award Committee of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Queensland for 10 years and worked for the Award as a Project Officer. In 2015 Pam and David went to PNG with MAF where David served as Interim Engineering Maintenance Manager for the PNG programme for nearly 18 months