“Your symptoms don’t sound like just a cold. I think you have Covid 19.” I found myself saying this for the third time yesterday morning before 10 am. I am a family nurse practitioner working in a busy family and urgent care clinic. My patient was a 35-year-old delightful lady who had children with asthma, an elderly parent at home, and had recently been exposed to a family who had tested positive for the Corona Virus. She complained of fever and cough for several days and had lost her sense of smell and taste. As I told her what she already knew she began to cry. She looked like she felt poorly but she really looked great clinically. “I don’t want to die. I don’t want my children or mother to get sick. I don’t want this.”
This same scenario happens countless times every day in my practice and in many others. Patients are vulnerable and so are we as the healthcare team. We share the fears together. We share the pain together. We pray for healing and protection together. We ask “Why?” together. I personally know patients who have died from Covid 19. I have colleagues, old friends, who have died from it after taking care of sick patients. It hurts so much. This virus is scary.
These days I think so much of Joseph of Genesis, the dreamer. When I feel things are getting so tough, I reflect on Joseph’s life. After all he survived becoming enslaved at the hands of his brothers (rather than being killed by them), imprisonment under false pretenses, and championed survival and even prosperity during a terrible famine. Throughout all his trials, God creates unique pathways and opportunities that use Joseph’s God given gifts and talents to advance him and ultimately save his family and ultimately the Israelites. At the end of his saga he announces to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” [Genesis 50:20].
The story from the Old Testament has been portrayed in multiple films and formats. My favorite is from Veggie Tales. As Joseph, Larry the Cucumber, dances around and never lets his situation dampen his affect. While funny and cute, this is not very realistic. While Joseph trusted God wholeheartedly, I am sure he cried. He cried out to God, “Why?” He lamented and even complained. Further, I think it is okay for us to cry out as well.
When I was growing up, I worked a lot with my Dad doing various masonry jobs. He was a full- time paramedic on the ambulance service and worked shifts 24 hours on and 24 hours off. Like most county workers he worked odd jobs to make additional money. His family trade was laying bricks, blocks, and stones. On his days off we worked hard together on those jobs. It was hot and so tiring. What a difficult job! Quite often we helped others in my community. On one particular day we were helping one of my friend’s families with a garage foundation. While Dad and I were suffering in the heat, I noticed my friend inside playing video games. I remembering asking Dad “Why? Why are we out here burning up and doing this job for our friends and they weren’t even helping. It just isn’t fair.” I remember his reminder to me that we were suffering in the heat together, and that he and I actually would get the job done well even without extra help. Dad had a wonderful way of making me feel important in the process and recognizing the value of our time together, even if we were suffering in the heat. I cannot say that time was always fun, but it sure was a great memory.
I find this time very difficult. I find myself lamenting and asking God “Why?” quite often these days. I encourage my patients who are suffering to keep communicating with God all the time through prayer, that wonderful continual conversation with our loving Master, Friend, and Advocate. I think my patient had great reasons to worry and think it so unfair to have Covid 19. She risked her children and mother getting sick and being terribly at risk for doing poorly. She would be missing work and had no sick time saved. Her family would suffer economically as well. She cried. We prayed. We both felt a wonderful answer as well. We felt comfort recognizing that God was with us and would hold us both in the palm of his hands. I heard God respond similar to my Dad and remind me that we were suffering together, and that we will survive because we are together. Someday we may even reflect on how we survived and experienced God’s comfort during these difficult times.
During these days may we all keep praying. Truly God is transforming lives now during this pandemic. May we continue to see His miracles and ways that He brings goodness despite the troubles we face. May we continue to be His people that He uses to transform the world relationship by relationship, life by life, and our stories shared in the future.
Tom Santa is a Certified Lay Minister in the NCCUMC and Your District Lay Leader. firstname.lastname@example.org