I have often heard that a church should look more like a hospital, and that’s the out-of-left-field thought I had at a most unusual moment. It popped into my mind when a nurse inserted the IV needle into my wrist.
I was in the hospital for surgery on my, ahem, pre-menopausal lady parts. (Everything is fine. I am recovered. I am at peace.) But moments before the IV was inserted, I was not at peace. I was in panic.
I had a full-on meltdown that would rival a three-year-old’s flopped-down fit in a Target aisle. Forty-nine-year-old me. In a hospital gown. With my long-suffering husband whispering gentle reassurance to me. Perhaps surprisingly, it wasn’t the procedure, biopsies, or anesthesia that sent me into a tailspin.
I was terrified of the needle. (Turns out, there’s a name for this very real fear: trypanophobia.)
Then something happened. The nurse — her name was Teresa — looked me in the eyes and said simply and calmly, “Have faith.”
Her words weren’t delivered in a way that would make you feel like you’d been preached at, or scolded, or that your fears were being marginalized. It was reassurance that was paradoxically gentle and firm. I knew in that moment that faith was possible.
I breathed deeply, and it became clear to me that the hospital was doing for me what the big-c Church is called to do for all people: to be like Jesus — the same Jesus, who, like Teresa, reminded His followers to have faith.
That day, I saw Jesus in the hospital from the moment I stepped inside.
I saw Jesus in the man who held the elevator open.
I saw Jesus in the receptionist who showed me to my room and asked about our holiday plans.
I saw Jesus in the patience of my husband, who held my trembling hand.
I saw Jesus in the nurse who pressed a lavender essential-oil patch onto my gown to calm me.
I saw Jesus in the anesthesiologist who explained how things would go in the operating room.
And, of course, I saw Jesus in Teresa.
All of this happened beneath a wooden cross nailed to the wall in front of me. Yes, a cross in a hospital. Perhaps you’re aware that the church played a major role in developing what we know today as the hospital. The same is true of the specific hospital where I was cared for, Avera, founded by orders of religious women. There is much to be said of the rich faith traditions undergirding our modern hospital system. It makes sense, given that the early church championed care of the sick.
And, of course, healing was a tenet of Christ’s ministry on earth. He was not only a spiritual healer but a physical one too. Like me, a woman who had been experiencing her own lady-part problems went in search of healing. She knew that if she could simply touch His cloak, she would be healed.
Jesus turned to her with words of compassion. “Take heart, daughter. Your faith has healed you” (Matthew 9:21-22).
As I think about the year ahead, the kind of Church I need — the kind of Church I want to be — is the kind where I am reminded that Jesus holds my suffering in nail-scarred hands.
I want to see Jesus in the rooms of 2022, and I want to be Jesus in the room. I want to bring whatever I can to a hurting world — whether that’s through the opening of a door, asking a kind question, offering a bit of lavender or a hand to hold. I want to bring my presence to those who are hurting.
Candidly, I also need the Church in this way. I too am sometimes saddled with pain and panic. I want to be able to show up in the new year as I am – broken, hurting, panicked, anxious – and find safe places to share my wounds without having them maligned or minimized. I need kind Teresas nearby to gently remind me to “have faith,” who will stay close even when I’m a bawling mess.
And may it all play out under the cross.
Yes, I need a church that’s like a hospital. It’s said that the word hospital originates from the Latin word hospes, meaning guest or stranger. It’s the same root for the word hospitality. The word patient comes from patior, which means to suffer. That means that, by definition, a hospital is a kind place where guests who are suffering can show up and be cared for.
May the Church — and all of us in it — become more and more a place like that.
Dear Lord, I pray for the woman who suffers today. I pray for the woman whose pain has been maligned, misunderstood, or minimized. May You give her safe passage toward people who believe her and guide her in faith. May You give her the courage to reach out and touch Your garment. And Father, we also pray for the Church in 2022. May it be a place that’s more like a hospital, where suffering guests can show up and be cared for. In Jesus’ healing name, Amen.Leave a Comment
Ruth Mills says
Jennifer, this is a great comparison! I work for a pharmacy/medical equipment. As God would have it I’m in the retail area not at home doing insurance claims today. May I be kind & welcoming to the customers (guests) that come in for care just like Jesus!
Very timely. So true. Thank ou.
Jill Borden Nissen says
My mother was hospitalized for several weeks in the month leading up to Thanksgiving. She believed in God, but she didn’t have faith – that he was good, that she was forgiven. After years of sharing my faith with her, she found her own – in the hospital. Thank you for sharing your message, which I will now share with her.
I have suffered with what are called “Invisible Illnesses” for more then half my life. I’ve been the one who no one at the hospital believes and actually had a Dr tell me it was all in my head when I was 16 years old. After 2 years of suffering and waiting I finally got a diagnosis of endometriosis, never went back to that Dr after my post op appt. After 6 years the endo reared its ugly head again. This time however, my Mom (who is my biggest supporter,advocate,friend, and prayer warrior), called a hotline to find a Dr for me. The woman on the other end heard my story and said she sounds just like me, we aren’t supposed to do this but let me give you my Drs number!!! This Dr ended up being (at the time) one of the biggest Endometriosis specialists on the East Coast. Talk about God working in mysterious ways! My very 1st visit he said he believed my endo was definitely back but I was in way too much pain for it just to be endo. After a few questions he said I believe you also have Interstitial Cystitis, I left waiting for surgical dates to remove endo and confirm IC diagnosis, a special diet, and my head spinning. It’s now 16 years after that initial visit and there are so many Drs and nurses that have passed through my life, who have been the Church at the hospital when I needed it!
This article touched my heart so much! I identify with the bleeding woman in the Bible as well and would love to touch Jesus’ cloak and be healed. But He’s allowed me to help others who suffer from IC for the last 9 years! I try my best to be a church for them, to have our online support group be a place they can come to that is safe to say “I’m scared help!” Or “I am in remission!” And we all rejoice with that person!
Thank you for writing this article, I apologize for the lengthy reply, but thank you this really touched my heart!!!!
Yes and Amen. I agree. Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Jennifer.
Brenda M. Russell says
Thank you for sharing your story. I have learned so much this year from two Counselors who are my safe friends. I have a voice and I don’t have to be silent. My approach should be timed correctly with calm emotions and willingness to listen to others who may have a different opinion from my opinion.
I can’t say that’s always easy but I know the Holy Spirit helps me every step of the way. We all need patience and it’s a learned virtue.
We pray for a bright new year with love, kindness and forgiveness. We can focus on compassion and encouragement.
Happy New Year Everyone
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Jennifer I going to say something a we bit different. I had a Hysterectomy 4 years ago. I was not scared. I was put to sleep for it. See I had that many people praying for me. That I couldn’t be scared. I found this saying I think on line. It saif this “Don’t worry about tomorrow God is already there.” I held on to that the day before my operation. I had nothing to worry about. God was telling me in that. I was not to worry about my operation. He was already there. How true that was. I know that the Church is meant to a place of love some are some not. Some people don’t feel that in some Churches they go to that it is sad. Plus people who are not saved. That are needing help. That don’t dress in suits like the men or the ladies in a smart dress skirt or top. In certain Churches. That do and were a berry on your head. For the women. Fell because I can only afford jeans or track bottoms etc. I need the Church to pray for me. I can’t go in there as the people would there look at me for the way I am dressed. I not dressed as smartly as them. Jesus came into the world into the world to show us how to live. Be people that are people of love. The Church some of them shouldn’t be like that. Jesus doesn’t look at the outward appearance of what we are wearing. Jesus looks at our heart. That what all Churches should be like. It sad if some Churches not like that. You can feel all alone. They should be churches that love you no matter what way you dress. I had this also in the church it not nice. Especially if no one talks to you. Your sitting there thinking what am I doing here. You go for a couple of weeks to re a sure it not your imagination. No one is talking to you. The members in that Church are all round the people that have been in that Church for a long time. You say to yourself do they even see me. What am I doing here. You after a while don’t go back. I been there in Churches in like that in the past. When trying to find the right Church. God wants me to be in it not nice. When you are in Hospital. The Doctor’s and Nurses are lovely. They treat everyone the same. No matter what religion they are. That is the way Jesus is he loves us all. No matter what background we come from. We should especially if saved do the same. How come the Hospital when you are in it for what ever reason. Or a family member of yours in it. You and then don’t care what colour of skin the Doctor’s or the Nurses have or their religion. As long as they make you well. But then we can when get out we can be not so nice people not especially the saved as well as the unsaved. Say things that are not nice about the Doctor’s or Nurses. Especially if got different colours of skin than us. That not what Jesus wouldn’t want us to do. He want us to the true Church that he was. Not the big fancy building with nice stane windows. As the true Church is the hand and feet of Jesus. People who are saved. Doing what Jesus did when he was on earth. Caring for people of all walks of life showing them especially if not saved the Love of Jesus no matter what skin colour or religion. Showing you are different. Like the kindness shown in the Doctors and Nurses. They care about all people in their care in Hospital. No matter what skin colour or religion they are. We are to do the same. Especially if saved. How true this is. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little Enniskillen Co.Fermanagh. N.Ireland xx
I love your writing and the way God uses you to bring out thoughts and minds back around. I have always been able to get more out of personal stories where God showed up and it’s sure sounds like he showed up for you. I pray that you are well and that we all continue to have Him use you for his glory❣️
Joyce Lay says
Dawn, your message touched my heart. If God is love than why isn’t the church excepting and loving. Your right it’s not about what your wearing that matters.It should be come as you are. In the Bible stories Jesus always chose the regular ordinary person to accomplish amazing things. In His eyes you are amazing. I am praying you find an accepting church. Try looking online for small groups that are meeting in homes rather than a church. I know of the Lord is working it out for you right know. Look for His answer. Love in Christ. Joyce
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Thank you Joyce for your most beautiful message. I thank you for it so much. It brought a happy tear to my eyes. I was once watching the God Channels on our TV. One time I was watching them. This Church was on it. The message was good. But I looked at all the people and kids that went to it Joyce. The men were in their nice suits. The ladies in their dresses and skirts. The children so smartly dressed too. All kids that were girld and the ladies were wearing a bonnet on their head. Yes the music was nice. I could see most of them on video at the begging of the Church. All that I saw were most of them driving big what I call flashey cars or Jeeps. I said if I was person who in that area. Lived in rented home or had not much money. Or even no nice fancy clothes. Needed help from the Church. Or just a Church to pray over me for something. I know if was me. I wouldn’t want to darken the doors of that Church. As I feel so out of place. With everyone dress so nicely and there flashey cars. If they handed me a bonnet for my head. I wouldn’t like that. I feel they have their own rules you must abide them. I think Churches should be places of love say wear what you want. Be places that you don’t have to dress nicely. Just be yourself. Keep up with Jones as the saying goes. They should be doing what Jesus done. Loving people all walks of life. Not have their favourites and there own rules. Doing what Jesus do being his hands and feet. Caring praying for all people. No matter what back round they come from. Even if come in jean and t-shirt. Or not much money. Saying we are hear for you. We love you in this Church even in your jeans and t-shirt. We love Mr and Mrs who ever they are and if have kids they are well dressed. You are all welcome. Treat all the same. Like Jesus did. Things like this shouldn’t matter. It about showing the Love of Jesus to everyone. Making them feel welcome feel wanted. We as Church are here for you. We want to help you. That to me is the true Church. I said a prayer for your Joyce. I might not get to see you this side of earth. But in Glory omr day I will give you a big hug for what you wrote. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
Ruth Mills says
Dawn we are too quick to judge on outward appearance. I will offer a thought that we are not God & cannot see the heart immediately as Jesus does. We must be willing to take the time to get to know the heart beyond the dress. I might be old school in my thinking but I wear my best skirt & top to worship. Not because it’s the norm or rule of my congregation but because it’s a means to giving God the honor of dressing up for Him. Yes I’m not the only one a bit stylish but I’d be happy to sit next to one in T-shirt & jeans. I will confess your post challenged me. Just tonight as we sat at an ice cream shop a woman came in dressed very provocatively & my mind instantly concluded she was a prostitute. She was in search of a bathroom not ice cream. When she saw the for patrons only sign she quickly left. Our party commented on her dress or lack thereof. Your post made me squirm. Why didn’t I see a woman in need of a bathroom & offer to buy her a snack so she would be a patron & could honorably use the facilities? Or at least comment that she honored the sign & did not barge her way in anyway? Regardless of my dress I need a purer heart just as those I knee jerk judge. As the Spirit challenges me to not be a quick draw judge, I challenge you to not assume the stylishly dressed look down on those not dressed the same. They might but they might not. May we all grow in discernment & kindness because Jesus has loved us first.
Karen Worley says
I sure agree that’s what the church ought to be like, but the idea of hospitals being an example of that left 2 years ago, now they hold back medicine that can help to follow the narrative, sad but true..
Thank you Brenda. Happy New Year to you and your family. God bless you.
Absolutely beautiful. You had me almost in tears. My heart was so full when you started the
“I saw Jesus….” sentences. Thank you for sharing.
Lorilee Mundfrom says
Having just been released from Avera Hospital here in Sioux Falls this really resonates with me! I had a stroke that messed with my brain and memory. The great care I received helped me through and I am now home with my family! I am actually making sense when I speak and write now.
Bonnie Jean says
The church should be more like a hospital. Everyone should be welcome and cared for. And you should be able to wear whatever you want… whatever you have. I go to a church where there are people from all walks of life. Farmers. Teachers. Doctors. Students. Rich. Poor. In Jeans and T shirts. In Fancy clothes sometimes. But everyone gets attention. Everyone is valued. No one is ignored. It is not perfect, but it is for those who are also not perfect. We are all one in Christ. It won’t matter what we are wearing in Heaven. We will be dressed in garments of white as our sins have been washed away. So much to think about in the above comments as well as in Jennifer’s article.
I love this story Jennifer, and all the ways you saw Jesus! One of my favorite parts of your post, too, was what you taught us about the history of our medical care system being rooted in the church, originating from Christ’s care for the sick and those in need of healing. Thanks for sharing!
I want to join this church with you! I completely concur!!!
Beth Williams says
One thing I love about my job as hospital clerical is the chance to be Jesus & shine his light & love to others. I help RNs, CNAs, patients & families with what ever they need. Try to make everyone’s day just a bit better. I pray for co-workers & families. You may see me in the hallway getting food/water, or supplies for patients. May be even cheering on the patients when they walk the halls. A lot of people don’t have anyone or aren’t allowed visitors (Covid). I want to see them smile & work hard toward healing. God really knew what He was doing when He gave me this job two years ago. Sure some days are hard, but it’s worth it in the end when people say thank you for helping. You made our day.
Thanks for telling us about the history of hospitals. That was quite interesting.
Joy Mead says
Absolutely beautiful! I wholeheartedly echo your prayer for the church to be more like a hospital in 2022 and beyond. Thank you for sharing!