It’s the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. In 2005 alone, 652,091 Americans died of it. For thousands of others who carry the diagnosis, it may not prove fatal, but it can seriously affect their quality of life. The CDC projects that in 2009, this disease will cost more than 304.6 billion, including health care services, medications, and lost productivity.
This modern day killer is heart disease. Some forms of it are congenital; i.e., you are born with it. Others, however, are caused or influenced by factors such as obesity, physical inactivity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, diet, and tobacco and alcohol use.
As with any specialty, cardiology carries its own specific vocabulary. This includes terms like cardiomyopathy, which is weakening or disease of the heart muscle. It results in an impaired ability to pump blood. This affects the patient’s energy level, stamina, and overall quality of life.
Another common term is atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. This is thickening of the artery walls due to plaque buildup. Atherosclerosis in turn causes coronary heart disease, which is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that carry blood and oxygen to the heart. Blood flow slows down or stops. In some cases, a heart attack occurs.
For six years now in my work as a medical transcriptionist, I’ve listened to some very bright minds in the field as they diagnose and treat the various types of heart disease. Using every ounce of their expertise, these men and women are quite literally fighting for the lives of their patients. Taking into account a host of factors, they must decide what, if any, testing to call for. They must also decide what medications and/or surgical procedures are necessary. Their life’s work is healthy hearts and quality of life.
Of far more serious import, however, is a different kind of heart disease that has affected every man, woman, and child since the beginning of time. It’s congenital. Each one of us is born with it. Simply put, it is spiritual heart disease, and it is caused by sin.
This terrible affliction has caused untold suffering throughout human history. It’s the cause of every war that has ever been fought. All sickness, decay, death, and pain can be traced back to this most virulent of pathogens.
The symptoms are many. They include bitterness, anger, hatred, guilt, pride, despair, jealousy, lust, deception, greed, slander, and selfishness. The anguish that has been unleashed on humanity because of these is incalculable, and the end result is inevitable – death.
In our quiet moments, if we are honest, we know that something is seriously wrong. Wanting to be rid of the weight of our misery and guilt, we tell ourselves we must “do better.” Swear less. Tithe more. Go to church. Somehow, there must be something we can do to atone for our sin.
When our efforts at self-reformation prove futile (and they always do), we turn to other things to fill the void. We try medicate our pain with drugs, alcohol, sex, work, gossip, food, and many other things.
After months and years of trying to fix ourselves and to fill the emptiness to no avail, despair sets in. We are exhausted, worn out from the effort. Even all of our good works don’t seem to make a difference.
Isaiah 64:6 says it best. “All our righteous acts are as filthy rags. We all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind, our sins sweep us away.” And there it is. Our hearts are shriveled and dark.
Like the cardiac patient, we are helpless to treat ourselves. We are wholly unable to remove the blockages within, to replace the diseased valves, or to install a stent that will restore the flow of life. None of these measures would be enough anyway. What we really need is a heart transplant.
The glorious good news is that we can have one. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh,” Ezekiel 36:26 proclaims. All we have to do is to come and lay ourselves before the Great Physician. He alone can save. He alone can heal. He alone can make us whole.
So how is your heart, my friend? Are you suffering from spiritual atherosclerosis, or hardening of the heart, unable to forgive and love others?
Perhaps your diagnosis is spiritual cardiomyopathy, or a weakened heart. You are overwhelmed with fear and despair, crippled by fatigue and anxiety with no strength to face the day.
The ultimate physician, whose passion is healthy hearts and real quality of life, has prescribed a brand new heart for you if you will receive it. Once you accept the gift, you are a new creation. “Old things have passed away. All things have become new,” 2 Cor. 5:17.
Faith for fear. Joy for despair. Strength for weakness. Life for death. That’s the offer.
What are you waiting for?