Hope in the Long Dark Hospital Nights
How you can find hope when cancer and the fear of death overwhelms you.
It was my tenth day in room 2-141, not knowing if I would survive.
During the day the hospital buzzed with enough activity to keep me from thinking about the reality that death was a strong possibility.
But after midnight, when all was quiet and dark, and family visits ceased and nurse visits became seldom, an overwhelming fear and dread would come into my room with the regularity and authority of the doctor who would see me each morning.
It clutched me, seized me, dragging my vanishing hopes into a dark pit.
A prayer in the long dark night
Have you found yourself in a similar situation? Or perhaps the fear of death in the not-too-distant future terrifies you. Even the strongest of us, will all face the long dark night someday.
I don’t know if you believe in God, or if you’ve ever considered calling out to Jesus to help you fight your fear. But I did that night.
In that moment I said, “Jesus if you’re really there, please come into my room and be the doctor of my soul, the master of my fear.”
There were no lightning bolts, no mysterious apparitions, just a building sense of peace and perceptible warmth as though someone were standing beside me.
Sound sleep followed soon, but these words echoed over and over in my mind: “Matthew 26.”
The hope of Matthew 26
Maybe you’ve never read the Bible, but Matthew is the first of four sections which tell about the life of Jesus. Matthew 26 takes us to the night before Christ was crucified. I read it, trying to understand the meaning and reason for what I had I had heard in an inner voice.
The more I read, the more I saw that Christ also faced a long dark night.
That Jesus Christ lived and was crucified is not a made-up story but historical fact. As you face your fear in the long dark of night, or dread the day when you do, consider this.
Jesus, the God-man knew what awaited him the coming day: spikes pounded through his wrists and ankles, gasping for breath on a wooden cross.
He said to the men who had become his followers and friends, “My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Failure of Jesus’s friends
Think about that moment. Here was someone who held resurrection power (the ability to rise from the dead) in his hand—yet at the moment of his greatest fear and dread—he sought encouragement from other people.
Three times that night he sought humans to just be there with him. To help him fight the fear. But three times they fell asleep.
“Could you men not even keep watch with me one hour?” he asked.
The next day, of course, Jesus met his death on the cross. His followers had scattered like frightened sheep, telling the Roman authorities, “I never knew the man.”
The calming presence
If you’ve read this far I know you’re afraid—of what you currently face or what you will face one day. Probably overwhelmed like me. But try to grasp the meaning of Matthew 26—and see the hope that it offers.
The one who went all the way through the agonizing night knows, absolutely identifies with your fear. And here’s the best part: He is willing to come to you right now and be with you in the fight, becoming your warrior against fear.
As God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. … Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
I realize this may sound implausible, difficult, hard to fathom. But has anything else worked? It’s so simple. Just say, “Jesus, come and be with me. Take away my fear.”
When you call on God, and ask for his help, you will find the love of another kind to lift you through your deepest fear.
I survived my hospital stay. But I was changed. I experienced the presence of God so real, so calming, I had to try to help others.
Helping a friend
I had a friend named Mark who had been in the hospital with a life-threatening infection for six weeks. Just days after getting out of the hospital myself, I went to visit him.
I asked him, “When are you most fearful about all this?”
The nights, he said. “At night, the fear just paralyzes me.”
I suggested my lesson of Matthew 26.
“Mark, you’ve been around religion all your life, but have you ever asked Jesus to come and be with you in the night?”
He hadn’t, and I said, “Let’s ask him now.” And we prayed together to ask God for help.
A couple days later Mark called me with a lilt in his voice.
“It’s gone,” he said. “It’s gone. At night when the fear comes I just say ‘Jesus’ over and over and it goes away.”
Praying for hope
I’m nothing special; neither is Mark. But there is a very special comfort and companionship waiting to carry you above your fear in the dark of night—and even in the daytime, too.
Do you want it? Then pray this prayer with me:
“Jesus, you understand my fear. I’ve thought about dying
and death and when I do it’s like ice. I am ready to take a different
path, to ask you to come into my room right now and
be to me—what no one would be to you in your long dark
night. I come to you just as I am, trembling, alone.
Jesus, I come to you. Please come to me. Amen.”
Like Mark, say his name aloud in the night. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”
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Note: We are not doctors and we cannot answer your medical questions. However, we welcome your questions about finding hope and knowing God.