Hospitals, Health and Holiness

Some observations and meditations on a recent hospital stay:

OK, first a quick word of apology. Regular readers of this site know that I almost always have a daily article posted here. It is very rare when a few days go by with nothing new. When that does happen, folks start to worry and think I have died or am in hospital. Sorry about keeping you hanging for a few days, but yes, I actually was in hospital.

In my previous article I had mentioned that I would be going in, so some of you might have seen that. Anyway, I am home now after three days of being out of action. Thanks for your prayers. I seem pretty good now, and it seems the surgery was successful, although a consultation next month will more fully determine if that is fully the case, and if more things need to be done.

As usual, what I experience and go through I tend to think a lot about and pray about, and see what spiritual lessons can be learned. So for what it is worth here are some random reflections on what I have been meditating on over the past few days. Some things are more trivial in nature, while some are more substantial and more spiritual.

-When you are young, you will often hear your parents or other older folks saying things like, “If you got your health, you got everything.” If you were like me, that just went in one ear and out the other. It is only when you get older and/or when you DO start becoming quite unhealthy that you really appreciate what that statement means.

-We really do need to be so very thankful and never take it for granted when things ARE going normally. When we can eat OK and move about OK and basically do whatever we want to do, we too often just forget that life and health are gifts, and we cannot count on always having these great gifts.

-The famous 23rd Psalm has a line one can often appeal to at times like this: “He makes me lie down in green pastures” (v. 1). One way that God gets our attention is when he causes us – one way or another – to slow down, to get out of the routine, and to be in a place where reflection on spiritual matters can come to the fore. When life is normal and busy and full, we can so easily not be spending that quiet time with God that we should be.

-Related to this, it was all very interesting that this passage was a part of my morning Bible reading. 2 Kings 1:2-4 says this:

Now Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay sick; so he sent messengers, telling them, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness.” But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Now therefore thus says the Lord, You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’” So Elijah went.

This king of Israel should have gone to the one true God to get advice, not to the false gods of the pagans. As Elijah said (in v. 6): “Thus says the Lord, Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.”

Many sick people and those in hospital may be turning to their own ‘gods,’ be they of the New Age or of some other religion. They need the living God to deal with. I had a ‘roommate’ in my room – a Chinese woman (yes men and women seem to share hospital wards). She did not speak English, so I could only learn of her situation via hearing the doctors, nurses and translators conversing with her.

I kept her in prayer, but chances are good that if she is religious, it would be an Eastern Religion she holds to. I prayed for her and asked that God would be with her, reveal himself to her, and if it be his will, to bring healing in her life. A few more reflections can be mentioned based on what she was going through.

-As far as I could gather she was 61, and had already been found to have some cancer. We were in the oncology (cancer) ward. Yes, a few months ago I was found to have cancer, but only a small, non-aggressive prostate cancer which they are keeping an eye on. So I am doing relatively OK.

But not everyone is doing so well. As I say, she seems to have already been found to have some cancer, and had been in there a few days before I got in. (We did manage to leave at around the same time, and she was a polite and quiet gal, although she did have family members around often, and she did snore a bit at night!)

However, while there, she had more tests done, and they did find even more cancer, in her stomach and lymph nodes. Oh dear. So she will be going back into hospital soon for surgery. The truth is, you will always find some folks doing much better than you, and some folks doing much worse than you.

-More things can be said about her. On the trivial side of things, I mentioned her snoring. The room I was in was more of a cubicle with a large 3-meter-wide entrance, sealed off only with a thin curtain. So if you are not a great sleeper to begin with, there was plenty of light and noise coming in, all day and all night.

I have always struggled getting a good night’s sleep, and I toss and turn plenty. But with my procedure, I was basically forced to lay flat on my back for 40 hours straight. Argh – the agony and misery! That is so uncomfortable for me, and added to my sleeplessness. When a few surgical things were removed I immediately rolled onto my side and tried to get a bit more shuteye.

But plenty of hospital noises made even that a rather hopeless task. So I had basically two very sleepless nights. Thus last night, back at home, I slept for around 13 hours straight, trying to catch up on sleep. It was great to be back at home in my own bedroom on my own bed, able to lay in any position that felt comfortable.

And as an aside to all this, I pray each night while in bed. Before entering into requests and supplications, I give thanks for various things. One thing I always give thanks for is just that: being in my own bed. I say this because I know full well that there is every likelihood that based on my ministry and the way things are going, someday I may well be thrown into jail for all my ‘subversive’ work.

Of course if and when this happens, I will definitely look back and miss those days with my own bed with my own wife, instead of being locked up with strangers and all the dangers and risks associated with prison life. But I am under no illusions that for many of us daring to proclaim truth in the public arena, the chances of eventual jail terms are very real indeed.

-And some more thoughts on comparative suffering and hardships. As I said, we all are in different places. If you think you got things bad, you will always find some others doing a whole lot worse than you are. In my brief stay in hospital (only 54 hours in total), I came across a number of folks who were doing it far tougher than I was. Simply hearing various bits of moaning and groaning from patients in pain around me was one indication of this.

One nearby woman (remember, I could hear everything going on around me) was in tears because she had a husband at work and no one at home to look after a loved one (a child?). So she had it tough as well. And one old guy was yelling in anger at nursing staff in the middle of the night for various reasons – also helping to keep me wide awake!

-Some of you might recall that I had been requesting prayer that with a busy speaking schedule for this year, that the operation would occur in a quiet period. This month is one such period, so it was great news (and answered prayer) when I was told I could go in this week.

But God works in mysterious ways (if you do indeed believe in God’s providence, and that he at least allows things to happen for the good). Just when I got into hospital and was being prepared for surgery, the main power supply went off! So they were using emergency generators to keep the power on.

Oh dear. The longer it went on, the less chances of any of us getting any surgeries done that afternoon. So they finally started sending folks home. One guy next to me in the surgery waiting room also on a hospital bed all ready to be rolled into theatre told the nurse that this was the second time in a row his operation was cancelled! He said, ‘This is like Afghanistan, not Australia!”

Poor guy, but the power did eventually get fixed, so while those with longer operating times did have to be rescheduled, those of us with shorter operations (mine was just 90 minutes) could go ahead – yeah! So I was rolled in at 3:30, instead of the scheduled 1pm. So all that was an answer to prayer. But as mentioned, others did not fare so well in this regard.

-Again, the theme of ‘normal’ life versus when you are sick or suffering or in hospital keeps pressing on you. Indeed, because we live in a fallen world, the moment we are born the clock starts ticking against us, and we are already on the slow path to our own eventual death. Whether we like it or not, sickness and death await us all.

And some folks have more sickness and ill-health than others. While most of my fellow patients were elderly, there are always some younger people who face so much hardship. Most children and young people go through life fairly well, but some do have terrible things they must endure, including cancer, accidents and so on. That is always so sad.

Having the TV on for a bit I saw scenes of normality: people working or studying or doing sport or laughing and partying or eating and drinking. When you are cut off from so much of that while in a hospital bed, it does make the contrast quite glaring. It should of course make you all that much more grateful for when you are fit and healthy, and free to move about and do normal things.

But ‘normal’ life is really an illusion in so many ways. While eating, sleeping, working, playing, loving, studying, and the like are all good gifts from God, and part of his common grace to all people, the real normal is to live in the light of eternity and spiritual realities. Too many people live as if this life is all there is. They are in for a rude awakening, if not later in life, then certainly when they stand before their Maker.

As a Christian, I of course could pray throughout and keep God in mind as everything was happening – to me and to the others around me. I again became aware of some basic spiritual truths. Just as our normal healthy condition is in a sense all very temporary and can be deceiving, with disease, disaster, sickness and death bound to spring up at any moment, so too in the spiritual life.

We tend to think that when things are going along nicely that we are just fine as we are – quite self-sufficient and in no need of God or prayer or spiritual help. But the truth is, we are all spiritually sick and spiritually dead in sin and selfishness. Our condition is terminal.

Our only help spiritually speaking is to recognise our spiritually diseased, broken and mortal condition, and to turn to Christ as the divine healer, and the one who can make us spiritually whole. That is our most important need in life. Sadly, it is likely that many of my fellow patients did not know the Lord.

They certainly need to. We all must make sure we are right with God in Christ before it is too late. And we must daily give thanks when things are more or less normal: when we have pretty good health and the like. It is no fun at all when bad health is the norm, and/or when we spend lots of time in hospital.

I was so glad to get out when I did. Even that short stay was something I do not relish repeating. (I may celebrate with an Indian takeaway tonight after a rather bland hospital diet!) So please, always give thanks for all the good and all the blessings you do enjoy now, and always keep in mind eternity. Our end in life is to get right with God through Christ, and to become like him.

Holiness is what our end is all about, not mere happiness. God works in various ways to move us in that direction. We all need to be open to what he is trying to do in our lives. As has been said so often before, suffering (of all sorts) can make us bitter or make us better.

How will you respond?

[2356 words]

17 Replies to “Hospitals, Health and Holiness”

  1. Hi Bill, hope you are doing well after your surgery. Speedy recovery and thank you for all your wonderful work with the information. Kind regards Toni

  2. Hi Bill, glad to see you at home, and haven’t lost your gifted writing skills…
    Reminds me of a quote from Larry Crabb’s book “Finding God” it says ” our primary purpose is not to use God to solve problems but to move straight through our problems toward finding God”.

    Cheers & blessings to you and your family

    Eric Hansen

  3. Having spent most of my life working in the nursing profession, it was good to read your article from a non-nursing perspective! And your observations of hospital life are pretty much par for the course in most hospitals. I remember even taking notes during my occasional stays in hospital as a patient. I still recall the time I was first admitted as a patient to a four-bed ward, and finding that public hospitals now have both genders in the one room! That did take a bit of getting used to – especially when the male in the opposite bed was a champion snorer!! Nobody had much sleep that night! Anyway, hopefully you have made a full recovery, and won’t need a repeat performance!!

  4. Hi Bill. So relieved and glad you’re back safely from hospital. I hope and pray that the consultation in a month’s time goes okay. May the Lord protect you from malicious lawsuits and grant you many, many years of health-filled life. God bless, John.

  5. Having been in hospital a lot in my life, all the observations you have made are so apt and familiar. I wish all the best in regaining your health!

  6. Dear Bill,

    Thanks for the ‘reminder’ on NOT taking for granted the health we enjoy when we have it…it really is easy to slip into that mode.

    I too have been where you were, that prostate procedure, the laying on the back, the noise, etc…bless you brother! And dang, my own bed…what can I say.

    Again, thank you for your perspective AND your prayers for all those people in the hospital.

    Ron Adams

  7. Yes I have had my fair share of hospital stays after surgery too including are cancer scare one, well three surgeries actually and as I am are person who tries to make the most of my stay in are ward getting the know the others around me (are great place to witness by the way) I too found the night times to be the worst.

    Only the other day I was forced to sit in the emergency ward with are blood pressure reading between 190 to 203 (which was quite dangerous) I also observed something. Apparently heart conditions are low on the priority list now. In the past when this has happened I was quickly evaluated and put into are bed with oxygen mask with heart tests done. This time however I was asked my age and if I was still working (which I wondered at the time, what has that got to do with my condition) after which I was then told to go down and sit in the waiting room. As always in the past, I expected to be called in for are blood pressure test (which would have taken all of 5 minutes) but not this time. I waited for two hours before I noticed that others who had come in after me were being called up first. My son who was waiting with me asked the nurse why were others who came in much later being called in before me. He was then told that triage patients have priority. My son reminded her that my blood pressure was way to high and all I needed was are quick blood pressure test to confirm that this was the case. Sorry she said, others have priority however you are very close to going through so just wait are little longer.

    Well we waited another hour, and if my blood pressure was as high when I came in, who knows what it was by then as my concern for my health was slowing turning into anger. By this time so many more people were packing the waiting room as it was 5pm and again many others were put before me. Enough was enough so again we both went up and spoke to the nurse and asked why were we being forced to wait for so long with are heart condition which in the past has been considered dangerous. As my son was pressing for answers from this nurse, what she said was very interesting. Apparently when you first check in, the nurse gives you are point evaluation according to how urgent your need is. When we asked what mine was she refused to answer, so there was our answer right there. Apparently are senior person with are heart condition and is not working for a living is put at the bottom of the number score and to add insult to injury we were told that as it was getting busier we would have to wait even longer. So, we had no option but to go home as it was doing more harm for me waiting and being stressed about the whole situation by staying. So I put my live in God’s hands, and I am still here, praise the Lord. Yes times have changed, and things are going to get more difficult for us all, which is all the more reason to put our trust in the Lord and not in man. Are lesson I learnt the hard way. Bill I am attaching the first of are series sent to me by are friend about curing cancer. Before Trump and Covid came on the scene I would have just passed this over, however after watching the first two episodes, I can’t wait to watch the rest. They make so much sense to me in regards to the Pharma Companies, and as someone who has had the cancer scare in the past and survived it I recommend to you that it is well worth watching. I am on my third session now and am eager to learn much more. Hope this helps you too. Love Ingrid–2A9V50tP7aRTGXOcGtF8pbUOSJ9TmrUSzXz6ZoXFB4M7ORW-zf0sNODkS7tKRafBqSmTOq6OB7aNSGMqEsuWQc013rcUz39nRrnYDhr2sMK4NV0cGFbXVg

  8. I don’t think it is till we are 30 or so we start appreciating the small things in life especially health unless we grew up with poor health. You have to see the world as it is to start understanding things. When our young idealism is still swimming in your head and you really notice health and every small thing that makes life great. By 30 or so you probably have lost a grandparent or seen them have some major health scare such that mortality is more in the forefront of your mind. If they could get sick or die what about me?? Death reorients you toward making the most of life.

  9. Glad that you are back, Bill and not like Dictator Dan who is still away till June I think I heard (It was your scripture reading above of Ahaziah 2 Kings1:2-4 that reminded me of Dictator Dan).
    If you would like to know what is good to take to help prevent some cancers check out the mineral Selenium on the internet (our Aussie soils are short of it). Here is one example ‘A review of 69 studies that included over 350,000 people found that having a high blood level of selenium was associated with a lower risk of certain types of cancer, including breast, lung, colon, and prostate cancers (9Trusted Source).’ but don’t take too much of it, do what the bottle says or advice from your practitioner. My husband takes a few drops every day in syrup form as he had some lower bowel cancer polyps back in 2014 and he hasn’t had any more cancer polyps.
    Also for Ingrid above, I got my elderly Mum off blood pressure medication by using Aged Garlic and Fish Oil that are for cardiovascular use. Again check with your GP or Naturopath as Fish Oil is a blood thinner.

  10. Yes – thank God for the “take-for-granted” things. Eyesight, ability to walk, ten fingers, easy breathing, no tooth ache, fresh water, beds and a roof over our heads, toilets that work, plentiful food, times of privacy, blue sky, etc. etc. The list is endless.

  11. Lynette E, please don’t wish too hard for Diktator Dan of Viktoriastan to be “back on deck.” 🙂 It is relatively peaceful not having his daily press conferences and his heavy-handed control of the people of Victoria.

    We still have a lot of problems with the Covid regulations being more onerous on churches than other establishments (like the MCG, shopping centres and so on).

  12. No, I’m not wanting Dictator Dan to come back to Victoria. I’m praying that he won’t be back at all and hoping that you Victorians won’t get someone worse. Glad to hear you have had some peace. I live in NSW where Gladys is doing well keeping the economy going and covid under control.

    One positive for lockdowns and regulations re church is that more people should be studying their Bibles at home, reading Christian books &/or learning by searching the internet for different preachers’ knowledge on various issues etc but being shut in like an animal all day is still not pleasant.

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