And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
January 5th, I found myself in the hospital with severe chest pains. As I always try to do, I looked to see what I could learn from God though this hospital stay. Not wanting to waste this experience, I wanted to share some lessons learned and benefits received. My prayer is that my thoughts might be helpful to you when you are faced with similar situations.
1. Don’t murmur about delays and inefficiencies in the hospital. Instead of focusing on the fact that your nurse isn’t responding, or the man in the next room is snoring, or the IV hose is twisting, or the ice chips ran out, think about the fact that 150 years ago you would probably be dead. And, if not, you would be groaning in unrelieved pain with no morphine to help, and you would have no clue what’s wrong with you, or whether you were dying or not. “Do all things without grumbling” (Philippians 2:14). Paul said that the effect of not murmuring would be that we shine as lights in the midst of a crooked world — including the needy world of medicine (Philippians 2:15).
2. Pray for the patients near you and, if possible — without undue offense — see if your floor mates will let you pray for them, and tell them words of hope in Jesus. You are nowhere by accident. These are divine appointments. You have no idea what the simplest witness to Christ may bring. “You will be brought before kings and governors [and doctors and nurses and patients] for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 21:12–13).
3. Realize that physical pain makes focusing on God’s promises more difficult and demands greater concentrating effort. It’s not just the barrage of sounds that disorient our souls; it’s the pain. We don’t want to be blindsided by this. “You have no idea what the simplest witness to Christ may bring.” At this point, it is so important that you have in your heart some very simple, short biblical truths about God that you can declare to yourself. Long complex reasonings about God’s sovereignty and goodness won’t work in this situation, because the pain is too disorienting. It doesn’t allow the mind to work at full capacity. What is needed is: “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Period. “Christ gave himself for me.” Period. “I will never leave you.” Period. “Nothing is too hard for the Lord.” Period. “Everything works for good.” Period. These are like white stones with your name on them. And you hold them in your hand as you groan and wait.
4. Reach out to a friend or family member to help you. Usually the suddenness of a hospitalization leaves the patient disoriented and unable to think clearly about all the aspects of what’s going on. Questions needed to be asked, and often the mind of the patient is not at full strength. I needed an advocate. My wife was there and full of good questions for the doctors. Doctors cannot think of all the things we might need to know in order to understand what has happened, and to live wisely in the days to come. We need help to ask all the right questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and to give your friend permission to ask everything that comes to mind. “We are members one of another” (Ephesians 4:25).
5. Let the self-revelation of Jesus as the good Physician be sweet to your soul, and preach to yourself that this light momentary affliction is working for you an eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). Christ is all-sufficient for every situation. In the hospital, he is preeminently a Physician. Matthew 4:23 says he was able to heal “every disease and every affliction among the people.” And at the last day, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore” (Revelation 21:4). We should ask him, without hesitation, for healing and for relief. We should trust him with the timing of his answer. But mainly we should realize with joy that, beyond all doubt, he has healed the deepest disease of all who trust him: the damning disease of sin. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31–32).
6. Pray that none of these hospital hours, none of this pain, none of these fears, none of these relationships, none of this life-altering season will be wasted. Satan wants to make your experience in the hospital meaningless and empty and trivial. Don’t let him win this victory.
Pray. Pray as you go. Pray in admissions. Pray on the gurney. Pray in the bed. Pray in the morning and in the middle of the night. Pray without ceasing.
You will probably not be able to formulate long, well-articulated prayers. The mind and body are too embattled. The prayers you need to pray are short outbursts of the heart.
“Help me, Lord, to trust you.” “Have mercy, Lord, I need you. I can hardly think.” “Save me, Lord, from unbelief and sin.” “I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.” “Thank you for your mercy.” “Thank you, Jesus, that you loved me and gave yourself for me.” “Thank you, Father, that there is no condemnation for me in Christ Jesus.” “Use me, Jesus, to magnify your great worth.” “Satisfy me in your steadfast love, no matter what happens here.”
I hope some of my thoughts will be an encouragement to you when you are faced with a hospital stay.