By Bryan Patrick, Minister of Worship and Creative Arts at First Baptist Church of Laurel, Md.
It is inevitable that we will all walk the road of uncertainty for our own health or that of someone very close to us. While our bodies are intricately designed and built to work hard, they are in fact temporary and will certainly be in need of repair along the way.
Recently, I began walking this road of medical uncertainty when my dad called to say he had been scheduled to see an oncologist. My emotions ranged from shock, to fear, anger, and anxiety. After a sleepless night or two, I realized that I was dangerously close to shutting down.
I knew deep inside that allowing myself to shut down would be the last thing mom and dad needed from me. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks into this season that it occurred to me that I was actually taking some specific steps in order to maintain focus and stand prepared to help my parents.
If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, remember these five steps to take when facing medical uncertainty:
1. Keep moving forward -do not shut down. Mom and Dad have lived out this principle all of my life. As a child I would see them experience times of disappointment, loss, and anxiety but they always woke up the next day, and did their job.
In my recent experience with dad’s news, moving forward meant that I continued to go into the office each morning and kept my young children on their normal routine. I could do nothing other than pray and listen given that I live 700 miles away from my parents. Forward motion in my life kept us
2. Use caution when searching the Internet for answers. Being a well informed patient or caregiver is essential in navigating today’s world of medicine. However -there is good and bad information on the Internet. Often when you begin a search on the web regarding a condition, the worst-case scenarios rise to the top.
Just before my son turned two he spent three days in the hospital. I looked up one the possible diagnoses the ER doctor had tossed out and was horrified at what I read online. In the end, this search did nothing to help our son feel better, nor did it calm my nerves. It only led to more anxiety.
Ask your medical provider for specific websites and other resources that might help you understand the situation in which you find yourself.
3. Turn negative stress into positive energy. If you already have an exercise routine going into a season of uncertainty, then keep doing what you’re already doing. Of course, if you are the one with a medical issue, you should certainly get your doctor’s release to do any exercise during this time. Something as simple as walking 30 minutes each day can recharge your mind.
When this season of uncertainty began with my dad I was three months into a fitness program of exercising a minimum of three days a week. As I continued to exercise I experienced fewer physical symptoms of stress. I was able to think more clearly and had plenty of energy when the day came to help mom and dad post-surgery.
4. Eat well -sleep well. When you stop moving forward and begin to shut down, the first two routines to suffer are your eating and sleeping habits. I have learned exactly how all of these points are interconnected. Doing the first three steps kept me motivated to eat healthy foods and sleep well.
5. Give it over to God. At the very moment I allowed God to take control of this situation and turned the care of my dad’s life over to Him, I found the strength and the will to accomplish the previous four steps. It became a daily routine to hand God any doubts, fears, or anxious thoughts
and became easier each time.
Jesus is our greatest example. Facing his impending death, Jesus said to his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:28 http://bible.us/Matt26.38.NIV84) Jesus continued deeper into the garden by himself and three times he asked God to do something other than send him to the cross to die. However, each time he asked, Jesus ultimately said, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
In this scene, Jesus gives us permission to experience fear and be overcome with sorrow. However, he also reminds us that ultimately our life is not our own. Our course is determined by the One who created us. When you face uncertainty and even death in the way Jesus did, overwhelming sorrow is replaced with an overwhelming peace.
Taking these five steps everyday, one day at a time has helped me maintain focus on God and my dad rather than the uncertainty of this situation. My dad still faces challenges. We praise God that the news we’ve received thus far is hopeful rather than grim. Moving forward, I plan to keep doing what I’m doing and have encouraged my family to do the same in order to maintain focus.
About the Author
Bryan Patrick is the Minister of Worship and Creative Arts at First Baptist Church of Laurel, Maryland. More of his writing on health/wellness, leadership, and ministry can be found at OneStepForwardToday.com.