We say, then, to anyone who is under trial, give Him time to steep the soul in His eternal truth. Go into the open air, look up into the depths of the sky, or out upon the wideness of the sea, or on the strength of the hills that is His also; or, if bound in the body, go forth in the spirit; spirit is not bound. Give Him time and, as surely as dawn follows night, there will break upon the heart a sense of certainty that cannot be shaken.
The sights, sounds and experiences of the previous days brought a sense of melancholy as I journeyed from the hospital to the prayer meeting late that afternoon. Emergency Rooms, Intensive Care Units and Surgery waiting areas are filled with people who are worried and dismayed. Tears are not uncommon at all. Sirens announcing the arrival of another ambulance are frequent. Several life flight helicopters took off and landed in plain view while we wait outside of the ICU. The frailty and brevity of life is ever before your eyes. Words from the book of James become illuminated with especial relevance:
You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
I ran into a dear friend of mine in the family lounge. Too much time had passed since we were last together. An annual summer get-together didn’t happen this year. She and her husband have been some of our favorite dinner and traveling companions for more than two decades. Her father came in on a helicopter in the night for emergency surgery. She made the 67-mile journey between hospitals alone in her car. Her father was recovering in the ICU, just a few doors down from my mother’s room. Not too many hours later we were hugging and shedding a few tears of our own when she shared the news of her father’s passing.
There was the time when six police cars were parked around the Emergency Department while we passed the hours waiting. Memory took me back and reminded me of a tragedy there four years ago in October, when a local sheriff's deputy was shot and killed there by the man he was guarding. These things can be difficult to process in the midst of it all.
The spirit of melancholy that overshadowed the journey to the prayer meeting had noticeably lifted on my return trip to the hospital that evening. At the meeting, my friends shared praise reports who have navigated rough waters this summer. It reminded me of God's love and mercy. My heart filled with hope listening to friends utter prayers for my mom as we faced the uncertainty of the days ahead.
Our unshakeable certainty that we belong to God changes everything. It makes our difficulties not just tolerable, but makes thriving in the midst of them possible too.
I took the elevator to the sixth floor and found my mom cozy and resting in bed. The pain was being managed for the moment, and she just wanted to hold my hand. As I looked out over the city at sunset that evening, there was this wonderfully overwhelming sense that God was there. Everything looked lovely from the aerial view, just six stories up. The words of James Russell Lowell danced through my head ... God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.
Careless seems the great Avenger; history's pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness 'twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.
From “The Present Crisis”