As a new nurse, an experience with an elderly patient taught me the importance of spiritual care in nursing. We bonded through our Christian faith; she shared her ministries and devotions with me as I cared for her. She asked me to pray with her before she slept and when she felt anxious in the middle of the night. I remember most how she recited Psalm 23 to comfort herself from pain and loneliness.
Years later, I was hospitalized twice with COVID-19. During my second admission, I thought it was time for God to take me. I prayed, “Lord, if this is my time, please take me. And if it isn't, then allow me to live the rest of my life serving you.”
I also asked, “God, why me?” This is when memories of my elderly patient came back to me: her unconditional faith in God while suffering from great sickness, how she prayed and sang to God and shared her testimony with her nurses.
Thus, on my hospital bed, I started praying and reading the Psalms. Psalm 13 perfectly explained how I felt:
How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? For ever? How long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved. But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me. (KJV)
God was merciful to me. During my hospitalization, I finally understood the pain and loneliness many patients feel. I continually prayed for patience, strength, and wisdom. It took a couple of months before I realized that God was answering my prayers:
- Through my sickness, I faced uncertainty, not knowing when I would be able to live normally again. But God helped me be more faithful to him.
- Through my sickness, I had to relearn how to walk, breathe, and think. But God taught me patience.
- Through my sickness, I felt physical and mental pain and a darkness I never experienced before. But God gave me strength.
- Through my sickness, I spent more time with God through prayer and his Word. God gave me wisdom.
I found peace in knowing my place with him in eternity. I thanked God for giving me his son, Jesus Christ, and his gift of salvation. I finally understood the comfort my elderly patient found in Psalm 23:3-4:
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (KJV)
The valley has rich soil and water to help plants grow. Down in the valley where God accompanied me, I grew in ways that would have otherwise taken years to attain. He removed distractions and watered me with his unconditional grace. Down in the valley, he showed me his unwavering love and faithfulness.
Through my experiences as a nurse and as a patient, God has given me a bigger purpose. His plans are beyond my comprehension, but I am grateful that God continues to shine his light through me.
Annika Daphne Bilog, BSN, RN, is a critical care nurse pursuing her PhD in nursing at Loma Linda University. She is passionate about fostering mental health and wellness and serves in her church's children outreach and choir ministries.
A version of this article appeared in the January-March 2023 issue of the Journal of Christian Nursing.
An array of resources for nurses’ personal and professional lives is available on the NCF website, including downloadable Bible studies, spiritual care materials, a book list and more.
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