Testimonies Trials and temptations

Walk by faith and not by sight

In 2006 I was attending a theoretical physics conference in Madrid, Spain, when I started to experience some very strange, and I admit, very scary symptoms. On the second last day of the conference, after the lunch, served as a 3-course meal with a glass of wine, I started to feel dizzy and quite unwell. So I returned to my hotel and rested, as most people would under those circumstances, and by the morning I felt ok again. Then on the last day after the final lunch I started to feel much worse than the previous day, weak and fatigued, and dizzy with cold sweats. I managed to walk back to my hotel with great effort in taking each step. I remember the great difficulty in even walking up a few steps. I was really worried, especially when one of the servers at the lunch said to me that I looked terrible, that I was ‘white as a ghost’.

Me at the ancient street level along the wall of the Temple mount in Jerusalem.

As I laid there on my bed, in the hotel room, I thought about whether I should go to an emergency hospital in Madrid or try to survive (literally) long enough to get to Israel the next day as this was planned on my itinerary. I decided that I’d rather be in hospital in Israel than Spain. Even though I also had chest pains I believed that that was gastric reflux aggravated by the spicy food at the conference lunch. After the previous night the symptoms had subsided by resting and so I decided to just rest and get to the airport the next day.

At the airport, I recall, as I walked towards the departure gate, the cold sweat was just rolling off me and I did my best not to fall over from dizziness. I was still totally fatigued and it was so hard to pull my suitcase on wheels, but I tried to not look unwell as I wanted to get on that flight. At the gate Israeli security officers personally interview all the passengers individually. My turn came and they wanted to know why I was going to Israel, who I was visiting, where I was staying etc. I was going there to visit a work colleague, Prof Moshe Carmeli, who lived in Beer Sheba and was emeritus professor at Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheba. This I explained to them. They were also interested in my middle name, Gideon, which I had chosen and legally changed, because I admired Gideon of the Bible. They thought that that was unusual for a non-Jew to have a such a name, but I told them as a Christian I admired Gideon and that that was the reason I took the name. I think that helped them not noticed the sweat pouring off me, which might otherwise have been suspicious.

I was also going there to meet up with a group of Messianic Jews and present some Creation talks in Messianic congregations around the nation as well as visit some of the important biblical sites. Lior and his wife met me on landing at Tel Aviv airport and took me to Beer Sheba, to the Carmeli’s home. Later we were to meet up again after my visit for a few days with the Carmeli’s.

I had met both Prof. Carmeli and his wife early in 2004 when he visited me at my university in Western Australia. We had become good friends. It was the Sabbath (Friday evening) when I arrived.  On arrival at the Carmeli’s house, Mrs Carmeli said I looked terrible and I said I felt it. But I decided to share the Shabbat meal with them and to sleep on it. I had hoped I would recover by the next day.

But the next day, Saturday morning, I was worse and Mrs Carmeli insisted she take me to the Emergency Department in Beer Sheba hospital. That is not what one expects to do to start a 10 day visit to Israel but I was very concerned for my life and with some trepidation went in. I presented with chest pains radiating to my left arm, nausea, dizziness, major fatigue, cold sweats, and a general feeling of being unwell. All these are symptoms of myocardial ischemia (resulting from reduced blood flow to the heart muscle) and the doctors quickly gave me GTN (glyceryl trinitrate, a vascular dilator) which seemed to relieve pain in my left side but not the centre of my chest.

They admitted me to the cardiac ward very quickly and started me on an infusion of heparin (a blood thinner). They asked me if I could contact my family, giving me the impression I was in serious danger. My anxiety increased, as I prayed for the Lord’s protection. They kept me in the hospital for 48 hours or more. But as it turned out their ECG scans of my heartbeat and the blood tests for troponins, chemicals released by dying heart muscle, were all negative. There was no indication of any ischemia.

On the last day before being released I did the stress test where you run, or attempt to run, on a treadmill while they monitor your heart rate, blood pressure and ECG scan for abnormalities. One is supposed to get up to 180% of your resting heart rate for the test to be diagnostic, but due to my fatigued condition I could not get to that. Nevertheless they saw nothing untoward from that test. So they concluded that besides gastric reflux causing me some chest pain and possibly what they called muscular-skeletal pain of an unknown origin, they did not know what was wrong with me, but they felt certain it was not heart related and they released me. But said I needed to follow up with a proper stress test once I return to Australia.

Aerial view of Masada (Hebrew מצדה), in the Judaean Desert (Hebrew: מִדְבַּר יְהוּדָה‎, Arabic: صحراء يهودا), with the Dead Sea in the distance.
Aerial view of Masada (Hebrew מצדה), in the Judaean Desert (Hebrew: מִדְבַּר יְהוּדָה‎, Arabic: صحراء يهودا), with the Dead Sea in the distance. Credit: Wikipedia

I was relieved in some ways but also the unknown is hard to deal with. On Monday Mrs Carmeli took me to the bus station to catch a bus down to Masada situated on top of an isolated rock plateau on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. There I met up with Lior and Joanna (with a baby in arms) again. They would guide me around Israel for about 1 week. They knew of my hospital visit and had brought a medical doctor along with them as a fourth person. He was a Finnish doctor from a tour group, which Joanna’s parents organise; tour groups of Finnish Christians who come to visit the Holy Land. I think he was along to keep an eye on me.

But as we climbed up the literally hundreds of steps to the higher levels on the Masada fortress (Masada actually means ‘fortress’ in Hebrew) I recall the cold sweat pouring off me as strained to take another step. I kept telling myself that there is nothing wrong with me, or that it is not my heart, it is not my heart. I really felt like I was living not ‘day by day’ as in the Lord’s prayer but ‘step by step’ as we ascended that mountain. I claimed God’s promises to keep me in all my ways:

Psalm 18:32 It is God that girds me with strength, and makes my way perfect. (KJVER) Psalm 91:11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. (KJVER)

Me at Masada
Me at Masada
Some of the steps I had to climb
Some of the steps I had to climb

As we continued around Israel within a few days I was feeling pretty normal again, but still trusting the Lord, essentially taking it one day at a time, walking by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus’ grace for mind, soul and body is always sufficient. Was that all a spiritual attack by Satan to prevent me from speaking in the five Messianic congregations in Jerusalem and other cities in Israel, which I did eventually address?  Did Satan use a physical weakness I have to try to prevent that? If so, he failed! I returned to Australia and did eventually do the stress test successfully and they found nothing wrong with my heart. So what to make of all that?

Well, now that I think about it, though before that incident, I never had something happen to me that seemed like everything was going wrong with my body, but I do recall times where for no apparent reason, I would get dizzy or nausea, but it would pass. There were other occasions where I was to speak to large groups of believers in churches or at seminars when I felt spiritually attacked.

On one occasion in Singapore, I was to speak to about 2000 believers, half by simultaneous video link, and repeat this 3 more times during that day, to another 2000 each time. The night before I came down with a fever and felt deathly sick, feeling like I was going to die. I held on via prayer, and the fever broke that night, but the next day I was still feeling quite sick but I did not want to cancel such a big event with CMI, which the Singapore team of volunteers had done so much to organise. I just got up there on the first session and asked for prayer, for the congregation to pray with me and God strengthened me sufficiently to continue, but each session I had to face the same battle, 3 more times that day.

It was definitely a spiritual demonic attack but manifested in physical sickness, nausea and a sick feeling, each time. The Madrid/Israel attack with those heart-attack like symptoms was the biggest most dramatic I have ever experienced, to the point I thought I might die. But it was not the last time and these battles have continued.

James 4:14 Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. (KJVER)

Do what God wants you to do now! Don’t put it off for tomorrow! 

By John Gideon Hartnett

Dr John G. Hartnett is an Australian physicist and cosmologist, and a Christian with a biblical creationist worldview. He received a B.Sc. (Hons) and Ph.D. (with distinction) in Physics from The University of Western Australia, W.A., Australia. He was an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA) fellow at the University of Adelaide, with rank of Associate Professor. Now he is retired. He has published more than 200 papers in scientific journals, book chapters and conference proceedings.

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