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COVID-19 and Being at Wits’ End

volume 19, number 14, March 26, 2020

“They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, and were at wits’ end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses.” -Psalm 107:27,28

Perhaps you have already heard about Dr. Julian Urban, a thirty-eight year old medical doctor working at a hospital in Lombardy, Italy. What follows is a report he recently gave concerning his treatment of COVID-19 patients. 

Never in my darkest nightmares did I imagine that I would see and experience what has been going on in Italy in our hospital the past three weeks. The nightmare flows, and the river gets bigger and bigger. At first, a few patients came, then dozens, and then hundreds. Now, we are no longer doctors, but sorters who decide who should live and who should be sent home to die, though all these patients paid Italian health taxes throughout their lives.

Until two weeks ago, my colleagues and I were atheists. It was normal because we are doctors. We learned that science excludes the presence of God. I laughed at my parents going to church. 

Nine days ago, a 75 year old pastor was admitted into the hospital. He was a kind man. He had serious breathing problems. He had a Bible with him and impressed us by how he read it to the dying as he held their hand. We doctors were all tired, discouraged, psychologically and physically finished. When we had time, we listened to him. 

We have reached our limits. We can do no more. People are dying every day. We are exhausted. We have two colleagues who have died, and others that have been infected. We realized that we needed to start asking God for help. We do this when we have a few minutes. When we talk to each other, we cannot believe that, though we were once fierce atheists, we are now daily in search of peace, asking the Lord to help us continue so that we can take care of the sick. 

Yesterday, the 75 year old pastor died. Despite having had more than 120 deaths here in 3 weeks, we were destroyed. He had managed, despite his condition and our difficulties, to bring PEACE that we no longer had hoped to find. The pastor went to the Lord, and soon we will follow him if matters continue like this. 

I haven’t been home for 6 days. I don’t know when I ate last. I realize my worthlessness on this earth. I want to use my last breath to help others. I am happy to have returned to God while I am surrounded by the suffering and death of my fellow men. 

Please pray for Italy.     

Psalm 107, a Psalm written by King David about one thousand years before Christ was born, proclaims the goodness of God in His deliverance of His people in their many and varied distresses and tribulations. Knowing a little about the poetical structure of this Psalm can be helpful. The introduction is in verses 1-3, and from there David gives four metaphors describing the condition of every man, woman, and child living at any time in our world. In verses 4-9 David describes people who are wandering in the wilderness. In verses 10-16 he writes of those who are suffering as prisoners in a dungeon. In verses 17-22 he tells of those wasting away on a bed of sickness. In verses 23-32 he speaks of those encountering stormy seas. Finally, in verses 33-42 he proclaims God’s care for His people, and he concludes his Psalm in verse 43 by saying a wise man will surely heed the words just uttered, seriously contemplating the lovingkindness of the Lord. 

In verses 23-32 David writes of the high hopes and excitement of those who have entered a ship and are going on an ocean voyage. Soon, however, the calm seas are transformed into a raging, turbulent ocean which terrifies and threatens destruction for all the passengers. These experienced sailors, who have weathered many storms before, have exhausted all their “tricks of the trade” to keep them afloat. David vividly describes them as staggering on the deck of the ship like a drunken man. They are at wits’ end.

It is at that point, however, that they did what every person must do. They did the only thing that anyone should or could do. They cried to the Lord in their trouble. What does this mean? What does it mean “to cry to the Lord?” To get to this place, one must be, as the Psalmist is describing those in the horror of a storm at sea, at wits’ end, verse 27. To be at wits’ end means you have tried everything. You are at a loss of knowing what to do. You have exhausted all possibilities. You have been drawing on your experience, your training, your self-control, your self-discipline, your hard work, the very best doctors, and nothing has worked. You have run out of options. There is nothing else for you to do, but cry out to the Lord, something, of course, you should have done when the first notice of the storm in your life became apparent. In other words, you must come to understand that you do not have the remedy. 

This, my friends, is where Dr. Urban is at this present time in Lombardy, Italy, and it appears that God has met him very powerfully and perhaps savingly.  

My friends, in light of the present distress of COVID-19 may we pray, asking God to use this pestilence of judgment to drive millions of people to their wits’ end, that they will realize all their hard work, planning, self-confidence, professional abilities, and experience are no match for any time God decides to walk through town in judgment. Pray that people will do the only thing that has proven to work over the history of this world—cry out to the Lord in their trouble.

And the beautiful, most glorious truth is that when we do find ourselves at wits’ end, when we do cry out to Him for help, like a two year old crying out to mama in the middle of the night, having been awakened by a bad dream, He will come to us and comfort us. How so? He comes in the presence of our Comforter, the Holy Spirit. He comes by means of Christ’s intercession at the right hand of the Father. And He comes to the unbeliever who finally sees that he is at wits’ end, not merely physically, emotionally, or mentally, but also spiritually. He comes to see his lost condition and the judgment he deserves. However he also comes to see the blessed Savior, Christ Jesus our Lord, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony born at the proper time. 

See this COVID-19 event as a God-given opportunity to pray for believer and unbeliever alike, to minister to the Christian, and to evangelize the lost. 

3 thoughts on “COVID-19 and Being at Wits’ End

Add yours

  1. Thank you for your biblical and honest article on Covid-19.

    I have lost my job at 62 because of Covid-19, I have cried out to the Lord.


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