The hospital room is dark, but the lights from the machines are as brightly lit as nightlights. My son is asleep in his hospital bed, tethered to the equipment that drips liquid into his veins and monitors his heart.
Down the hall, nurses work at computers. They tread softly past doors. A gloomy sadness falls over me like dark clouds coming before a rain storm. They enter our room in the dark hours of the night, quiet figures in the shadows, checking my son’s vitals. They are not here to cheer me up or make me feel better. They’re here to do their job, to alleviate pain, but not to offer company.
I take a break and walk the halls, sneaking peeks into other patients’ rooms. I see tired parents and bed-ridden children, staring absentmindedly at the TV or sleeping. Most are like me, one parent staying with a sick child so the other parent can keep the family functioning at home. We did not choose to be here, but this is what we must do for our children.
I meet a young mother doing laundry near the parent’s lounge. She is alone, and I sense, as lonely as I am. As parents, we know what it’s like to be part of the sick child club, and so one of the first questions we ask is, “Why is your child here?” followed by, “How long have you been here?” Our lives, once ruled by the frequency of diaper changes and playdates, is now ruled by medical terms we’ve been forced to learn and counting down the hours until we can leave.
“So why are you here?” I ask. She glances up at me as she folds tiny baby garments that look like they’d fit a doll.
“Oh, my baby is in the NICU,” she says. “He’s been here for three months.”
“Three months?” I say. She is one of the marathoners.
“Yeah, that’s why I’m doing laundry here,” she replies. I hear the false cheer in her voice, the strain of too much isolation, the longing for home.
I understand that kind of pain. The hospital had become a second home for our family since my son was diagnosed with a genetic disease at nine months old. I never expected to feel so lonely in the hospital with my child, where I was surrounded by people but isolated from my community of support, too far from home to find any sense of normal or to feel God’s presence.
What I wanted in the darkness of our hospital room was a familiar face. I wanted home. I craved God’s comforting presence. But I didn’t want to be stuck in this place, another night sleeping on a hard couch.
Therein lies the problem with loneliness. It’s not the absence of people; it’s the absence of familiar people — the ones who love you as you are, the community of friends who provide a secure base of stability and comfort when you’re in distress.
But loneliness can also be the absence of connection with God, of tuning into His presence and being reminded that He does not leave us when we feel most alone. Sometimes in the midst of beeping medical machines, it was hard for me to remember that God was here too.
In Psalm 25:16-17, the Psalmist says, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.”
When we are lonely, that is when we ask Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who supplies our needs, to relieve us of our troubles. Our hearts long for Him, but until we turn to Him and tap deeply into that life-giving relationship and His unconditional love, then we are left searching for poor substitutes.
In our need, we search for alternatives to fill the holes in our hearts. We wander hospital halls looking for something that reminds us of home, when what we need is to grasp hold of the relief God offers when we’re struggling with isolation. Like the Psalmist, we can cry out to God in our loneliness. His heart is always our home, no matter where we are.
Even in the midst of a hospital room, we can find God waiting there for us — waiting in the night, holding us through the long darkness.
We can cry out to God in our loneliness. -@SaraRWard: Click To Tweet