I am an Intensive Care Nurse at a community hospital in a northeast suburb of Chicago. My hospital serves an underprivileged area where COVID broke loose in the community and created a battle zone. This coronavirus experience for me, in general, was a deep spiritual battle. I struggled with letting go of the illusion of control over my life and giving way to God’s control. It was so hard to see other people’s plans canceled or significantly altered because of the lock down. The mass anxiety and fear it created was evident in grocery stores. People literally dodged one another out of fear of something we could not see. In a weird way, going to work brought me comfort through consistency—but also a lot of anxiety.
For several weeks I had a tightness in my chest that was equivalent to my cat constantly sitting on my chest. I feared it was COVID, but it turned out to be anxiety. Before the corona numbers really took off, I had a moment when I was so overcome by fear and anxiety that I curled up in a ball under a blanket in the middle of my living room and cried uncontrollably. I cried because I knew how hard this next season was going to be for me and the rest of the world. I was scared that I would be unable to care for my patients to the best of my ability, and I was scared to bring the virus home to my husband. I dreaded not knowing the next time I would be able to set foot into church again. I was scared for my coworkers and the horrific experiences we would have to endure together, as well as the amount of death we might see in the coming weeks. Was I going to have to watch people suffer and die alone? I knew I was going to be a nurse during a very historical time in healthcare, and although I felt tough, I was terrified to go through it.
There was a calm before the storm right when the lockdown began. But on week two, our 17-bed ICU filled up and overflowed onto our step-down unit. Life at work was so different from what I was used to. We abandoned all the types of patients and illnesses we knew to care for COVID patients, a completely unknown territory. Every patient was the same: intubated, proned, medically paralyized and sedated to control their breathing, and in isolation. We were dressed from head to toe in personal protective gear. Yet, we didn’t know if what we were doing was going to work. The doctors were constantly searching the latest research journals for answers. Not one doctor on earth knew exactly how to treat the disease. It was all an educated guess.
A Sovereign Provider
God remains in complete control over an out of control situation. He has sovereignty over this virus. He knows exactly how this virus works and how it affects the body. He provides the means by which we can learn about the virus and the brilliant minds to discover how to treat it. I know I do not need to be afraid because the Lord’s will is perfect and he can be glorified even in this pandemic. Isaiah 4:10 urges me not to fear, because the Lord will strengthen and uphold me.
It was the Lord who provided nurses from other hospitals to come lend a hand. It was the Lord who provided a constant flow of personal protective equipment so my coworkers and I could remain safe while providing care to our patients. It was the Lord who performed miracles right before my eyes when I saw patients defeat the odds, recover, and go home. It was the Lord who sustained the health of me and my coworkers. It was the Lord who provided me with endurance each day to help my patients fight this virus. Philippians 4:19 reassures me that the Lord is providing all that I need and more than I ask for. He will continue to provide as I care for my patients now and in the future.
Weighed down by anxiety
In my anxiety, I woke up every morning feeling depressed to realize that the pandemic was not just a nightmare but still very real and present. My sin was to sit in my anxiety and let worry overcome me. I would find myself deep in my mind, running over the idea of how bad this pandemic was and how every good thing I had to look forward to this year was ruined because of it. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”
I often find myself running to things of this world more quickly than running to God’s Word or prayer. In this situation too, I ran to other outlets like social media and Netflix to check out and try to forget about what was going on in the world. I was not allowing Christ to rule my heart but allowing my own doubts and fears to overwhelm me. I ran from Christ instead of to Him. But, the Lord in His mercy and kindness was very patient with me. He did not let me run too far without reminding me of His presence. Psalm 139:7 says that there is nowhere I can go to escape God’s presence. He is still with me when I step away and attempt to take care of my feelings myself.
A Savior to lean on
God used a sweet friend and sister in Christ to remind me not to give way to fear and anxiety, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). Jesus is working to change my heart and help me set my thoughts on things above and not things of this earth (Colossians 3:2). I know this needs to be my mindset because I am a child of God, and I no longer belong to this earth. So, instead of dwelling on my fears, I began to wake up and ask the Lord to give me endurance, health, and strength every morning. I learned to lean on Christ through my anxiety, finding comfort in His consolation (Psalm 94:19). Christ died for me so that I do not have to take on my anxieties on my own. He has called me to walk in His light instead of the darkness of my own sin and fear (John 8:12).
Running to Christ in faith
Maybe it is the nurse in me, or maybe being a woman, but I always want to fix things and see immediate results from my efforts. But some things are beyond my ability to fix, like this pandemic. The Lord is teaching me to stop relying on my own independence and look to Him. I have learned to pray more, and pray more specifically. I serve a BIG and powerful God who can make things happen. Why do I not run to Him first for things I need? Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
The Lord loves me and wants to give me good things. Moreover, he wants me to depend on Him and not on myself. I have learned through this pandemic to let God take control of my life and not hold onto my fear, anxiety, and control with a tight fist. The Lord has a lot of work to do on my heart still, but I am learning the significance of running to Christ first instead of depending on myself. In faith, I can read my Bible before looking at social media. In faith, I can spend more time praying than I do watching Netflix. In faith, I can take a walk and worship the Lord before letting my mind wander in fear. And, as James 1:2-4 reminds me, God will use my trials to grow me in steadfastness and make me more like Him.
Kelsey Parochelli is a Registered Nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, IL. She is currently a graduate student at Lewis University studying to be a Family Nurse Practitioner. She and her husband Phil met at The Orchard and have been married since 2018. She enjoys collecting succulents, raising monarch butterflies and traveling.