Grandpa is going in for his procedure this week,” my mother shared quietly as we sat together on the couch. My elderly grandfather was going in for a second carotid artery stent, a relatively routine procedure but one his surgical team took seriously. “We need to pray it goes smoothly,” she finished. Any cardiovascular procedure is concerning , but especially so for someone in fragile health.
A few days later Papa was out of surgery and recovering well. The doctor just wanted to keep him a little longer for observation. When I called him, his cheerful voice betrayed the fact that he’d just undergone a significant operation. He was looking forward to going home.
The next morning I woke up to a frantic text from my mom. My grandpa had taken a turn for the worse. His heart rate was out of control, dangerously high, then alarmingly low. The surgical team had taken him off an important medication without looking at his medical records, resulting in erratic blood pressure and heart rate. When they realized their error, the nurses quickly adjusted his medications and stabilized him.
The Center for Disease Control states that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with one person dying every 34 seconds from cardiovascular complications.* Fortunately, my grandpa wasn’t one of those statistics. The issue is so significant that February was set aside as American Heart Month—28 days of bringing awareness to and educating the American people on the dangers of cardiovascular disease.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely a Seventh-day Adventist—one of the longest-living people groups on earth. It may surprise you that even Adventists are at significant risk. We may exercise regularly, abstain from tobacco and alcohol, practice Sabbath rest, and enjoy a plant-based, whole-food diet, but we are still fighting an insidious disease that threatens to rob us of health and life. In spiritual terms, we are talking about the disease of sin.
Jesus warned us of our spiritual heart-sickness, that “out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matt. 15:19, NIV). Every problem on our dying planet issues from sin-sick hearts lashing out at others with the malicious poison of selfishness. Every war, every abused child, every act of immorality.
We need more than a simple routine procedure, such as the stent my grandpa received. We need a full heart transplant. God offers it freely to those who desire it. Ezekiel 36:26 promises that when the sin-hardened heart is removed, a new heart (with new thoughts, new emotions, new character and habits) is put in its place.
Yes, February is American Heart Month. But it would do us well to remember every day that we have two choices: live with an unrenewed heart, which is deceptive in its wickedness and incurable even with the best doctors (see Jer. 17:9), or receive a new heart, effusive with the joy and peace that comes only from above.
It’s time for our checkup. Thankfully, the Doctor is in.