“Therefore we do not lose heart, though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes on not on what is seen, but what is seen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
I read these words one night before I went to work, as it is one of my favorite verses. I work in one of the top 3 busiest emergency rooms in the United States as a registered nurse. We see between 400-500 patients in one day with a total of 171,390 patients in 2016. It is an intense environment that is fast paced. No, it is nothing like Grey's Anatomy on television. We see everything and everyone, ranging from someone who has had toe pain for 5 years to someone who is in cardiac arrest to someone who needs to be rushed to surgery to someone who is having a psychiatric emergency. There is never a mainstream night at work. I never know what to expect when I walk through the hospital doors since each night is completely different. While I love where I work and what I do, the environment is not somewhere I would expect to experience one of the greatest “sermons” I have heard with 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 being the key text.
I walked into my patient’s room that night and observed she was laying completely still on the stretcher with a small machine at the end of her bed. Her husband was pacing around her bed with a concerned look on his face, typical of someone who has come into the emergency room. Nothing special stood out to me upon first glance of these two strangers in the room. They were probably in their mid 40’s.
I introduced myself and as I began my assessment. I soon learned my patient suffered from a disease named amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or…. ALS (yes, that disease that went viral across all of your social media). The small machine on her bed was her home ventilator (a machine that breathes for you). She had been diagnosed within the past couple of years and her whole life had completely changed with this diagnosis.
ALS is a disease that progressively effects the brain and spinal cord furthermore paralyzing the body. All of sudden this ice bucket challenge I had seen all over social media had become too real, it was more than just a silly Instagram post, more than a like, thumbs up, or a share, it was this dreadful disease that had destroyed my patient’s life.
As I began to take my patients history I learned she had become paralyzed from the neck down and required a machine to breathe for her. The only movements she could make were to raise her eyebrows and give a smile every now and then. This meant that her husband was her complete and total caregiver, from feeding her, taking her to the bathroom. To any activity of daily living, he was her guy, he was her world and she was his.
While I spoke to the husband I gathered more of their story and how they were married a couple years before she was diagnosed with ALS. He had been with her through all the attempts at regaining strength during physical therapy, at attempts to walk again, but the disease had progressed quickly. He was able to give me every detail about her care, disease process, medications, and any other question I had. He had brought her in because he had seen the tiniest change in her, he just had a feeling something was not right. We ran some tests on her and found out she had a urinary tract infection. While it was something small, it can cause many complications in patients with extensive disease like she had.
As the test results came back, I went to inform the husband of the findings. To my surprise he was knowledgeable of the tests we did, he would finish my sentences as I would explain to him the interpretation of the results. He told me as soon as she was diagnosed he vowed to become knowledgeable of her condition and how to best take care of her, rarely do you find a caregiver so involved in someone’s care as he was.
As I walked in to her room and began to give her some antibiotics for her infection he asked me a simple question that caught me off guard. He asked me, “I don’t mean to intrude, but are you a Christian?”
I answered, “Yes, I am a Christian, are you?”.His response was the beginning to one of the most powerful sermons I have ever experienced, something completely unexpected.
He told me slowly, “Yes, yes we are…you know…our situation doesn’t look too great, but have you read this verse in 2nd Corinthians?”
WHAT, no way!
My spine tingled and the hairs on the back of my neck went up, it was no longer just us in the room. God was there and His presence was known. No longer was my patient's husband speaking to me, it was Him through my patient’s husband. He began to loosely quote 2nd Corinthians 4:16-18 as she smiled. This verse had become so alive now, I could imagine the room filled with angels snapping their fingers and yelling out “amen!”
It is amazing how God aligns the stars for us to understand something at a deeper level. My patient was living this verse out. While she was outwardly wasting away, inwardly she and her husband were being renewed daily. Their momentary troubles were not going to outweigh the glory that awaits them.
Interesting that often at times of outwardly wasting away such as in disease process, is when we are being renewed inside the most.
Many times we fall into habit on what we see daily, especially this past year. Daily we see our world changing and not for the better. We have seen so many travesties this year such as shootings, injustices, suffering of refugees, families torn apart, but we mustn’t forget that what is seen is temporary, what is unseen is ETERNAL. What a beautiful promise to confide in and put our hope in.
Mauricio Negrete is a registered nurse at Parkland Hospital In Dallas, TX. He has worked at summer camps for over 5 years and loves Enspire.