My intern year was trying. As a first year resident in emergency medicine, I had only known of the specialty for a little over a year. During that time, I endeavored to learn as much as I could about it, and spend as much time as possible in the emergency department. However, the intern year consisted of more time outside the ED than in it. Late that year, I found myself in my second month of trauma surgery. Being on call every third day, not sleeping for 24 hours each call night, and spending the majority of my time running back and forth collecting endless reams of information on patients was getting tiring. It was during this time, when I was standing in the radiology suite awaiting the results of a CT study on a trauma patient, that the senior surgical resident turned to me and said “what is it with you? … why are you so happy?” All I could say was “I know this will end”. My time with the trauma team was a significant learning experience and very difficult, but I knew it was temporary. This was the only thing that kept it from swallowing me whole and destroying me.
This is Holy Week. It is the week when Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and is hailed as king. It is also the week where he teaches and creates havoc in the temple as he clears out money changers and those who would turn the temple into a “…den of thieves”. The week continues with Jesus being handed over to the Romans, his brutal torture and death by crucifixion. It ends with his resurrection, fulfilling prophecy, paying the ultimate price for all of our sins, and reconciling us to God. I cannot help but dwell on the fact that Jesus knows these events before the week begins. He knows the pain and suffering to come. He knows death is drawing near and He tells his disciples. Yet He still takes pity on those who would torture him. He is not unaffected by it, but he is unwavering. Through the trials and tribulations of His passion during this week, Jesus remains focused on God’s purpose and what must take place in order for us all to be saved.
In the shadow of this example, I wonder what life has given you today. In medicine, especially hospital medicine, the battles can seem endless. Constant streams of patients, illnesses, and suffering. Endless numbers of people who are non-compliant. Exhaustive efforts of seeming futility. Numerous addicts, liars, and deceivers. Daily complaints from patients and family because of unmet needs or expectations. So much chronic illness resulting in frequent admissions and re-admissions. The hospital can feel like a revolving door. Add to this the administrative struggles of clinical practice. Nursing shortages, medication shortages, documentation requirements, insurance denials, budgetary shortfalls, and poor communication. As soon as it seems to slow and you take a deep breath, the tide picks up again and it can seem as though we are trapped. There is no escape.
But, this is not the case. This too will certainly pass, but do we live our lives as such? Are we the ones who others look to in the midst of tribulation and ask “what is it with you?” Do others look to us and ask about the source of our joy? Afterall, we believe this existence is only temporary. We believe in a better existence yet to come, but is there any evidence of that when others look at us? As Jesus’ example highlights and the events of this week remind us, the price payed on our behalf was intolerable, payed by one undeserving, and done so purely for the purpose of our salvation. If that example is given by our savior, what should our daily struggles look like? Should we feel trapped? Should we allow ourselves to be pulled in to the mental trap of hopelessness? Surely not. We have a savior. We know the end and we know that victory occurs. All that is asked is faith, and through it our prayers are answered; prayers for sustainment and ability to carry on with our work despite seemingly insurmountable odds. Nothing is impossible with God.
As this week progresses and we near Good Friday and the resurrection, keep the focus on Jesus. Do not be distracted by the current struggles around you. Pray for peace and for rejuvenation. Pray for strength of faith. Pray that we can be the light in the darkness and stay the course. Pray that we will not succumb to fear, anxiety, or exhaustion. This too will pass.