Believing God in the Darkness
In January of 2022, I had the unexpected misfortune of catching Covid. I believe I caught it from one of my sons, who did not know he had it. Before that spring was over, my wife, all of my sons, two of my daughters-in-law, and several of my grandchildren had it. Nobody knew what strain they had (there were three possible at the time) because testing was not that specific. We just knew that we had it and that it was very unpleasant.
My wife dealt with it for about a week. She had fever, a minor cough and a few body aches. My middle son and his wife dealt with very minor symptoms as well. Both my oldest and youngest son had a more severe infection, each dealing with a intense cough, headaches and a painful sore throat. Theirs lasted for several weeks but they were able to wait it out at home and eventually recover. The others had much milder cases.
My situation however, was different. I had no body aches or headaches and no fever. I did have a minor cough but that was not an issue. At the time the hospitals were full and those who went to the hospital did so only because they had to. The acceptable course of treatment was to put those who did not readily respond to treatment on a ventilator and many of those patients never came home from the hospital.
I tested positive for the virus on a Wednesday afternoon. The nurse told me to go home, drink plenty of liquids, stay as active as I could and keep track of my temperature and my oxygen level. I determined that I would recover at home as many others did. By Monday morning I was having severe trouble breathing. I believe at the time my oxygen level was consistently in the mid 80’s. My family took me to the hospital and I spent 13 days getting rid of the congestion in my lungs and battling to get my oxygen level back into the 90’s.
My treatment included steroid shots and a continuous saturation of oxygen. The oxygen treatment was by far the most difficult. The normal level of oxygen given to a patient in the hospital is up to four liters given through a nasal canula. What I received was 40 liters through a nozzle fitted into my nostrils and strapped to my head. It was pressurized and pumped into my lungs. It sounded like a freight train was roaring through my head. I could not hear what anyone said, I could not speak to anyone, and I could not sleep. Night was the worst, because it was then, in the darkness that I felt so alone.
I endured that treatment for eight days, 24 hours a day. It went on constantly for 192 hours without a break. After about eight hours of it I was sure I would rather die than face what was ahead, and I thought that may actually be what was going to happen. But I didn’t die! I survived and God used the event to teach me several important lessons.
- Quoting a memorized bible verse is a poor substitute for living an internalized bible truth. When the crisis came I needed more that words to provide the strength, comfort and peace necessary to endure the treatment while keeping my sanity. It is not enough to recite the words “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.” (Isaiah 26:3) We better know what those words mean and how they apply in our time of trouble. I learned that peace is not an imposed emotional calmness that comes over us during a time of suffering that keeps us from having to deal with the pain or discomfort we are enduring. It is rather the strength necessary to endure the suffering without despair. I made it through 8 days of treatment because God gave me the strength.
- We cannot physically see, hear or feel the Lord when we are seeking that peace. It would be wonderful if the Lord would show us his face when we pray to him in the midst of a crisis. I would have been greatly encouraged if the Lord had responded to one of my prayers by telling me (in an audible voice) that he would “never leave me nor forsake me.” (Hebrews 13:5). Some people say that God came and held their hand through their time of trouble. Of course that doesn’t happen physically. Yet God does show us his presence, speak to our hearts, and comfort us with his embrace, but we access those blessings through the portal of faith. We know he is there because we believe!
- I learned that God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness. The apostle Paul went through a difficult time of testing, from which he sought a way to escape. (2 Cor. 12:7-10) The Lord made it clear that the thorn, which was the source of his suffering, was not going away. When Paul accepted God’s response, his joy returned, his effectiveness for God was enhanced, and his life brought glory to the Savior. The mistake we often make when we read this account is to exalt Paul as if he were some kind of super Christian. But the purpose of the story is not to demonstrate Paul’s measure of spirituality, it is to communicate the measure of God’s grace toward us.
- The greatest lesson I learned is that God’s way is always best. I did not enjoy the time I spent dealing with a disease that could have taken me to heaven, and I would not want to go through it again. But I am thankful that it happened because it is through these experiences that we learn the most about our God and what he is trying to do in our lives. Paul expressed his desire to know God in a very intimate way in Philippians 3:10; “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death.” I have often read that verse and thought I would like to know God better, but I wasn’t anxious to share in his sufferings. I am thankful that The Lord does not require us to endure what he endured on our behalf. That’s not what the statement means. What it does mean is the greatest way to get to know the Lord is to meet him in the darkness of the night when you are all alone, and you have nowhere else to turn. That’s when you begin to learn the magnitude of God’s love for you. It is there that you begin to understand what it meant for our Savior to be forsaken by his God. And it is in the solitude of that moment that the greatest opportunity for fellowship with the sovereign God of the universe occurs.
That’s when your faith becomes real and God’s grace becomes most abundant.