Recognizing God’s presence in pain

Sr. Lillian Gehlen, OP
Dominican Sister of Peace
Wichita, KS USA

Many memories flooded my mine of experiencing epidemics of the past which throughout life helped me experience and recognize God’s presence in pain and healing during the pandemic. As a child polio closed our church for one month. I saw the sadness of relatives and friends afflicted with the disease. I realized strength that comes from people trusting God to heal and comfort. Life moved on as people trusted God to continue the healing process for those afflicted with permanent disabilities and comforting the grieving families who had lost precious loved ones.

In the developing world, cholera and meningitis epidemics taught me the difficult lessons facing illness, death, and recovery. God seemed far away from grass huts used as isolation wards and it took faith to know He cared. Belief in God was so strong that one’s faith could not be shaken only increased with the combined faith of those giving care and those receiving care. It was evident that both healing and faith are tremendous gifts of God. I knew God was present giving strength to families who lost loved ones and at the same time gifting others with healing and happiness.

Hepatitis and Lasa fever took the lives of patients, doctors, and nurses. Lives of service ended abruptly for many family members and dedicated compassionate professionals. The same is true of the pandemic. God has immense love and incalculable plans that only He can design. Acceptance of these plans teaches one values of love and service that are most important in life. Epidemics are not as massive as pandemics however the lessons are very deeply linked.

The past was a great teacher in my response to the COVID19 pandemic. The whole world experiencing what less fortunate countries experience on a smaller scale so very frequently. The inevitable isolation that comes with contagious disease is always present. The great advances in technology are not the answer. Even when I cannot comprehend the terrible nature of the disease God is here; saying I am in charge. God graced people to be each other’s keeper by assisting one another in great and small ways.

This grace was a bright light shining through the darkness of despair and conveying hope. I missed being on the front lines of the nursing profession. The pandemic taught me to be pro-life by wearing a mask and encouraging others to wear a mask and sewing some for those in need. Under a mask, one can say thank you and offer a word of blessing. The ordinary becomes extraordinary during times of stress due to the unfamiliar and offers hope to the lonely and afraid.

The world can be at the same time edgy and more silent, accepting the encounters of the unfamiliar and unknown. In an epidemic or pandemic pain, suffering and death are real. Suffering brings healing, growth and the recognition and acceptance of God’s providential plan carefully designed for each individual. Each person will be called to accept the transformational changes learned during the pandemic as they adjust to a different sometimes strange post-pandemic world. Time for healing will be of extreme importance; as well as learning to live in a changing world. Yes, God is present blessing each day with much-needed wisdom for the future.

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