HOW TO SAVE A LIFE
Have you ever watched a movie or a TV show where a line or scene spoke directly to you or perhaps echoed a message you came across elsewhere? I for sure have these light-bulb moments. The characters and stories on these shows might surely be fictional, but when seen through a different lens, I love how even these secular ideas help drive the message home.
No Diagnosis, No Prognosis
I remember one such instance when watching a popular medical drama show. This episode had a case where a patient was brought into the hospital due to a long term illness. She looked frail and upon checking her medical history, the doctors learned that she had been to multiple treatment centers but the results were always temporary. A few days in and her symptoms would rise to the surface again. Her case was clearly a complicated one and now even this top ranked hospital was struggling to come to a conclusive diagnosis. Finally an external consultant was called in, who much to the surprise of all the resident doctors, recommended that the patient be taken off all medication, steroids and treatment. Her plan was to run a series of tests and accordingly dismiss all those that tested negative. She poignantly advised the patient that this was going to be a risky procedure that would cause substantial pain, but it was the only measure for a potentially successful diagnosis.
As the patient was pulled off her usual treatment, the onlookers could almost sense the agony. The pulsating outcome portrayed by the actor was brutal and graphic. Apart from physical pain with side effects like throwing up blood, weakness and shortness of breath, there was also emotional pain. This woman kept thinking about the well-being of her two adolescent daughters, how this event might eventually turn out and how it would greatly affect the lives of her children one way or another. Doubts of whether the doctors really knew what they were doing, began to seep in, her life was now at the mercy of these hands that she had no choice but to trust.
Every test that dismissed a possible sickness was a reminder of the struggle she would have to endure until the next result. At one point, seeing her condition deteriorate, one of the resident doctor’s himself became apprehensive if this system of treatment was really the best course of action. Sensing his worry, the consultant reassured him with the words, “Suffering is better than dying. We need the diagnosis. Stay the course.“
Finally after days of intensive testing, the doctors reached a conclusion. This patient had a very rare disease which if not treated immediately, would cause her vital organs to shut down. But thanks to her endurance and the medical assistance available, she was now deemed fit to receive a whole new course of treatment which gave her New Hope and the possibility to live a full life again.
Road to Recovery
As we journey through Lent, we are invited into the desert for a time of deep reflection, change of course and the invitation to ‘new diagnoses’. Whether you too are scraping through your ‘Lenten lists’ of things to do or the things you want to give up, or the ardent challenge before you to build a holy virtue, you know exactly how challenging this wilderness can be. Throw in a prolonged pandemic and things get even more complicated.
Like this patient, doesn’t Lent at times also feel like a long term illness rising to the surface? I for sure can relate to the part of finding a common place with visits to treatment centers for quick fixes to all my pains. Instead of checking in with the Expert Consultant, I settle for short-term remedies, I cling to crutches and cures of temporary relief and I choose to let my wounds fester in order to avoid the long painful road of remedy through suffering. I linger, procrastinate and fear over the uncertainty of a future I cannot control. I prefer ironically the ‘dying’ to the ‘suffering’ only to linger in the wilderness like the Israelites, taking longer in my return to healing.
I am learning painfully through heightened fears that if I am truly seeking healing, I need to first diagnose the root of the disease. And so how fitting that the journey to healing during Lent begins on Ash Wednesday with the words, “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (Joel 2:12).
I’ve always found this to be such a beautiful encouraging invitation by the Father. He knows us through and through, all the mess, all the ailments, all the wounds and yet it is He who longs to lavish His love on us. This invitation is not one that guarantees an easy fix.
Yet, we can be assured that through the test of treatments and the heaviness of hardships, the Divine Healer is peeling off our self-made band-aids to reveal but even more so, to heal the wound that lies at the center of our hearts.
Like the final diagnosis for this patient, our suffering is not in vain and our pain does not end with empty gains if the treatment proves unsuccessful. In the gift of the grave, Jesus paves way for our suffering to find both meaning and triumph and for our healing to find its rightful justice before the eternal throne of God, where all will be made new one day. This is our Hope – that even though we suffer, even though dreaded diagnoses may end up in shattered dreams, the Master Healer is still healing, is still redeeming and is still weaving our experiences for the healing of this world.
The desire to persevere even through the pain is renewed because of the Cross of Jesus Christ. It is here that we find solace to every predicament and sanctity as we are assured that our lives are in the hands of Him through whom all is overcome!
“Lent is the time to rediscover the direction of life” – Pope Francis
This Lent, let us offer up our broken hearts to the wonder-working Consultant, the Master Physician, the greatest Healer – the only One with whom we can live life; life in all its abundance even when death looms large.
PS: In case of any side effects, harden not your hearts. Stay the course!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brinelle D’Cruz was raised Catholic but it took moving to a desert (Qatar) to discover the Wellspring of life. There youth ministry and deep friendships made for refreshing streams alongside salivating shawarma spots. With a degree in Architecture, her aesthetic preference is like her choice of words – minimal, which is why she believes God divinely blessed her with a life-time entertainer, her husband Daniel. They make their home in Mumbai. Connect with her on Instagram @bree.mix