It’s not easy being seriously ill. Those I encounter at the cancer hospital will concur. As will those with heart failure, mental illness, addictions, long term stays in nursing homes or rehab centers. Or those who self manage chronic, some -days-are-better-than-others, illnessess.
Hospital patients can learn to flourish in trying circumstances, but it’s not easy. Being uprooted from one’s normal daily schedule forces us to tap into resources we’d rather not use. When health crisis hits, faith, family, finances, and future plans get shuffled. Even going home can be traumatic, for lifestyles must be adapted to accommodate limitations.
But perhaps our greatest life lessons are learned here. A normal, rarely uprooted routine can keep us self-satisfied and shallow. We might be lulled into failing to be a good family member, or good neighbor, or friend to the friendless. We might expect, or even demand, that God keep our lives smooth, trouble-free, and distant from suffers.
And then faith becomes a means to manage routine, rather than a means to encounter God deeply.
Once I was privileged to minister to Jane, an educator whose husband as in the final stages of leukemia demise, Jack had tried every medical option available with limited success. by the time I met him, he was comatose and unresponsive. Jane and her mother kept constant vigil over Jack, filling me with wonderful stories of this dying man’s incredible life of public and personal service to troubled adolescents.
At his death, we joined hands around Jack’s now restful body to pray and read the 23rd Psalm together. Gathering her belongings from the bedside, Jane began to relate how hard this battle had been, how consuming the hospitalizations were, how disrupted their lives had become.
Then she revealed her source of stamina as she quoted her favorite scripture: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your path. (Proverbs 3:3-5)
For Jane, the rough journey had been manageable because of the grounding of those words, the deep commitment of her marriage vows, the emotional support of family, friends, and church members back home. It was not a battle she and Jack choose, but it was one they fought together.
May we all, with God’s help, find such grounding when turmoil strikes. May we also be grounding for others who need words of encouragement.
By, Virgil Fry D.Min., BCC