I have had some busy times recently. Some exhausting shifts.  My work in rural Emergistan has left me struggling in single coverage hospitals, day and night, with critical patients, with no physician backup, no ICU beds for admission, no ambulances for transport, no helicopters due to weather and referral hospitals too full to take my patients. One night, with a young patient septic from a kidney stone, I was really at my wit’s end.   (In fact, a nurse anesthetist involved in the case sensed my frustration and paused to pray over me!)

I have had paralyzed patients, patients with heart attacks, a patient who tried to hang himself, infants in respiratory distress, overdoses, psychiatric patients who threatened me, hypoxic COVID patients and all the rest.  Mind you I’m not special here. This is the normal day in and day out of rural emergency medicine.

Sometimes I call my wife in the midst of this and she, ever wise and calm (and well accustomed to the emotional roller-coaster of her generally sane but sometimes crazy husband), has sage advice.

‘Why can’t I get a quiet night? Tell me, why does it always have to be crazy like this?’

‘Well dear, God sent you to be there for the people who needed you. He knew you could take care of them and that’s why.’

It’s always hard to hear such Godly wisdom when what I want is ‘poor baby!’  But coddling wasn’t what I needed. What I needed, and continue to need in times like that, is exactly what Jan said to me.

If I call myself Christian, then I have no business complaining when I have hard days, or complicated situations.  The Christian life has never been a life of ease, unless it is lived on the very margins of the faith, and with no commitment or involvement in the sufferings and struggles of the world.

Jesus said, ‘In this world you will have trouble, but fear not, for I have overcome the world.’

We tend to think in apocalyptic terms when he says trouble.  And indeed, for many throughout history and all over the world, trouble means just that. It means abuse and loss of jobs, it means harassment, violence, imprisonment, torment and sometimes death.

But it also means difficult interactions with other people. It means illness or injury. It means financial struggles, frustration with relationships, difficulty with parenting.  It means loneliness, anxiety and loss.  It means jobs that are difficult and neighbors that drive us crazy. It means struggles even in our churches.  And yes, for those of us in medicine, it means hard shifts and stressful, anxiety-provoking, gut-wrenching, heart-pounding cases.

However, in the midst of that we are carrying around Jesus.  We are taking his love and wisdom, patience and understanding, the gifts he gave to us, the very Holy Spirit, into all of these situations.  And whether we know it or not, this changes lives. It makes a difference.  It causes us to be diligent when we might have been dismissive. It gives us kindness when we might have been brusque. It empowers us to go on when we want nothing more than a nap.  People notice.  They see it in our eyes and hear it in our voices.  I have had these encounters for years and I know.

When we go home and collapse, and wish for easier jobs, it’s understandable.  But we are equipped for struggle and armed for warfare and called to hard situations.  The battle for souls and the battle for the Kingdom of God, in time and in eternity, continues. Every day, every night, every shift, every patient, every trouble.

It’s hard because we are being used in the heat of it.

Jan is right.  I may be exhausted. And maybe I just want a quiet night with a snack and a nap.

But that is not what God needs from me.  I pray I can continue to rise to the occasion and honor the one who sent me into the breach of all that madness and chaos.


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