A student nurse was holding back tears yesterday after hearing the stories of my patients.
She asked me, "How do you do it? How do you keep going when all these awful things happen? How do you not get overcome by it?"
I gave her the story that I always give, that we are planting seeds, that we try to give them a glimpse of hope, that if one succeeds then it is worth it. But I stopped. It felt rote and didn't speak to her heart. The story was just a story, words trying to give meaning to situations that felt meaningless. I stopped, paused and turned to look at her, so I could give her my real answer.
This isn't about the bad things. It really isn't. The things that happen are just part of our spiritual journey. The darkness that descends, well, I tolerate it because I am a Christian. I know that there is darkness because I believe the world is broken. I tolerate the intolerable because I want to be a small light in that darkness. I want them to see the glimpse of hope in me.
She breathed, finally, relieved. Her heart heard and was soothed.
This real answer is not far from my mind in the season of Advent. The days are shorter. The physical darkness is more heavy and pronounced. The spiritual darkness seems to weigh more, too, at this time of year.
But I know there is Hope coming. I know that the darkness cannot win. The pain, it really has no value, but it is redeemed as He calls us through it.
While my patients may be in the dark now, I pray that each of them will find the Light.