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Unseen Hope (Part 1): A Missionary’s Journey as a Long-Haul COVID Patient

Even in the midst of failing health, one can rest in the hope of Christ.
I can remember it as if it was just yesterday.

I had spent the day in the mountains with family just enjoying the beauty of it all, and as I laid my head onto my pillow I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride.

It had been an incredibly long four months of recovery after a freak motorcycle accident that left me with a crushed foot. However, I had walked that day with no cane and was going to sleep for the first time without a pillow under my foot. I was so humbled by the grace of the Lord to guide my healing and so proud of the hard work I had put in to get to that point. I was looking forward to beginning to regain myself again!

Then I woke up the next morning, October 29, 2020, with a high fever, body aches, and the horrid realization that I wouldn’t be walking anywhere let alone getting out of bed.

Just four short days later, I received what we had deduced, I was COVID-positive. Me, my husband, and our four children had contracted COVID while masked and social distancing at our village church.

I was frustrated that I was going to be down with something yet again, but I was confident in the knowledge that in only a few days, two weeks tops, I would be back to feeling fine and focusing on my foot again.

Here we are, four months later, however, and as I sit here writing this, I am covered in three blankets, propped up in bed where I spend most of my days now. I have been sick since that date and am officially now a COVID long-haul disease patient. My family and I were forced to leave Romania due to my declining medical state mid-December, and although in my mind I was planning on being in the US only six weeks, we have been here since. I have lost the ability to do most anything by myself, and on my best days, I am on the couch all day instead of bed.

Every morning I awake not knowing what the day will hold as far as my health is concerned. I am experiencing what many have dubbed the “grab bag” of symptoms. Imagine putting your hand into a grab bag and pulling out a hand full of things. Then the next morning doing the same, over and over for months, never really knowing what your days will hold based on what you pull out that day. The symptoms I am experiencing range from severe to light on any number of combinations of these: cough, fever, muscle pain, joint pain, back pain, headaches, insomnia, confusion, brain fog, amnesia, hallucinations, nausea, black outs and change in appetite. I am on oxygen at home, as my oxygen stats have still not stabilized and my heart rate is constantly erratic which causes tremors in my muscles, usually in my arms.

I have been medically tested every way possible, all results show nothing wrong. I have taken multiple medications, with no real help. I have been told by doctors that this is “normal” for long-haul COVID and should expect to feel like this for “a while”. After having done research, I am finding that, although this medical response makes no sense, it is the norm for COVID long-haul disease. Equally inexplicably, the disease has caused my body to begin attacking itself, and as of now, my caretakers say there is nothing that can be done—despite our normal expectation that most sicknesses can be fought with a pill, rest, or hydration.

So, then what do you do? When you can’t rely on anything that was once reliable, when wisdom meets its end, when you’ve taken every step you know how—what then?

You hope.

In 2 Corinthians 4, we find the perfect promise for moments like this:

“Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (vv. 16-18)

My body is unable to do things it could only months ago, and my mind is fickle and cannot remember the simplest of things or process new information—but the Lord is unchanging! His promises cannot change.

So, I focus on the unseen. Yes, I wait with great expectancy to wake up and be renewed physically to the former state of my body, but until that day, I hope.

I hate the circumstance, I loathe the sinful state of sickness, I weep in lament at the state of our lives before the return of Christ. I cry out in truth before the Father, who is more than able to take my honest pleas and complaints. But I also continue to trust. I continue to fight to focus on the unseen and allow the seen to fall away at the glory of his face.

When you find yourself, or those around you, in a season of affliction, remind yourself and them of the incomparable eternal weight of glory that is to come. Weep together, but weep with hope—knowing that he can renew you day by day.

About the Author

Michelle Harlea serves in Romania with her husband Cristian and their four children doing church planting and evangelism. Support their ministry.

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