by Karen Winkelman
July 4th usually sparkles and pops, but two summers ago ours fizzled unexpectedly. After visiting a local clinic and the emergency room twice, my husband was wheeled to a hospital bed. Our vacation plans came to a halt.
A 3 a.m. arrival at a hospital 850 miles from home was not on our itinerary. Gathering with his family at a lake was.
After ten days of business travel we had all looked forward to this much needed down time. The cabin and lake feed his soul, and our children love the freedom and relationships of this place. Symptoms of illness began the day before we arrived.
Morning came that first day in the hospital–the darkness overwhelmed me. Loneliness and fear crept in quickly. Hospitals are foreign places to me. My husband generally deals with any official business in our household…how was I going to be his advocate? Was he going to be ok? How long would this detour be?
As he lay in bed with a mystery illness, I rested alone on the little pull-out chair. It didn’t take long to figure out that I was a nobody in this place. The patient receives the attention, as he should; the caregiver figures out how to fend for herself. Those who would normally be there for support were miles away. I felt utterly alone.
And then a small light dawned within me. My habit of daily turning to God’s Word beckoned. Where do I turn, Lord? What should I do? Our church had given us a reading plan and since my brain was foggy, I decided to keep following along. This day we began a new book: Joshua. The sun rose in my heart that morning as I read the following:
Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous.
Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
In those moments I knew the support I needed was from God alone. He had not and would not leave me alone. He was with me in this “wherever you go” place.
Our hospital detour ended up lasting a week as this illness of an unknown origin began to relent. The recovery would be slow and after another week it would fall on me to drive our family the 850 miles home. However, by then my identity in Christ had shifted my outlook on the situation to “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Those were hard and lonely days…but I was never alone.