Lessons From The ER


So it was the final week of my sophomore year in college. My final exams were scattered throughout the week and studying was not an “optional” task. I meticulously planned the way my week would go, allotting the appropriate amount of study time needed for each exam. As I sat down in the library planning my week on Sunday, I had no idea that I would be confined to a hospital bed, IV in arm, the night before my Saturday final. But God knew. As a Christian, I realize that there is nothing that can happen in my life which is outside of God’s control. For, as the scripture says, “all things work together for good ” in the life that truly belongs to Christ. That being said, there were a couple of simple, but grace-filled lessons I learned in my first ever stay at a hospital in probably the most inconvenient time of the year.

Lesson 1: I Am Mortal.

Yes, this seems obvious, and there is no way I would have denied this claim before this incident. But, there is a form of denial that does not consist merely of rational assent. We deny the truths we profess to believe every day by the way we live; or at least I do. For some reason, although I knew I was mortal, this belief did not affect the way I lived in the way that it should. The idea that any hour could be our last ought to have a tremendous effect on how we make decisions, and how we gauge the worth of pursuing a path that is pleasing to God. An awareness that within the next 60 minutes we could be standing before the throne of Yahweh should spark a vigilance and vigor in our fight to stay awake and not slip into the spiritually numbing vices of this world. As I contemplated the possibilities of my prognosis, I felt the weakness and frailty of the body I live in. I felt the pressing weight of my calling to properly steward the time and breath that remain with me.

Lesson 2: The World is Broken

Again, this reality was not foreign to me, but I did not know it previously in the way I do now. Observing the suffering of a hospital can be very disconcerting for some people. It is a place that represents a permanent reminder that suffering and death are constant realities in this world. Every moment of comfort we have is a moment of pain for someone else. And all the while, one cannot help but observe the ways in which sin and wickedness are many times directly tied to human suffering. Realizing these harsh realities helps Christians to develop a more firm and grounded theology since we cannot act as if God has no say in all of this. We are forced to harmonize the horrors of world suffering with our view of a gracious, all-powerful God. Romans 8:20 says that the Lord has “subjected the world to futility” because of sin, but he did this in “hope” that the creation would one day be liberated. The hideous reality of suffering is a gracious reminder that the world is broken in a more fundamental way. It is a world in rebellion to God. The pain of the world points to the truth that something is definitely wrong; this is not the way things should be. In the same way that one feels the pain that signals a health problem, the world is feeling the trauma that signals a spiritual problem. As salt of the earth, we must be aware of this reality, and serve as Christ’s ambassadors to proclaim the hope of spiritual healing and life through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only then can the pain of this world be redeemed.

Lesson 3: The Lord is Abundantly Gracious

And yet, in spite of the immense suffering in this world, there is immense pleasure and goodness to be enjoyed as well. In order to see daily blessings as gracious, one must come to terms with what we all actually deserve. Because of our sin against an infinitely holy and righteous God, we all deserve damnation at this very moment. Any inkling of happiness, relief, peace, satisfaction, or rest is only a sign of God’s grace to undeserving sinners. With this understanding, it is quite easy to see God’s grace within the confines of a hospital. Seeing the varying levels of trauma and discomfort in others, helps one to thankfully acknowledge the many comforts of life we enjoy everyday. The ability to see, talk, walk, and hear are signs of God’s kindness to us who deserve nothing more than the torments of everlasting judgement. And yes, this language may sound harsh or even dramatic, but only because the truth is something which we all, in our sinfulness, would prefer to ignore.

These lessons do not have to be learned or gleaned only from a stay at the hospital of course. My experience there was unique to me, and was a means by which God woke me up a bit after dozing off within the comfortable confines of Yale. Regardless, we can all benefit from reminding ourselves of our mortality, the world’s suffering, and the grace of God in it all.


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