Worry, Stress, and Jack Sparrow: How a Pirate Taught Me to Rely on God in the Face of Devastating Illness

Believe it or not, I bring Jack Sparrow with me whenever I take my mom to the hospital (which, unfortunately, happens to be a lot these days). And no, I don’t mean I watch Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean on an iPad while we wait to see the doc. I mean I take Captain Jack Sparrow to the hospital. Now, before you get my white jacket and padded cell ready, let me explain.

The other day, I was watching a video of Johnny Depp visiting a children’s hospital. Of course, since Johnny Depp is almost as eccentric and whimsical as the character he plays, he couldn’t visit the children in anything other than full pirate costume. In fact, simply dressing for the part wasn’t enough for this occasion. No, he was in full Jack Sparrow mode, swaggering through the halls of the hospital as if the Black Pearl had just magically docked in the parking garage. It was weird, but completely hysterical. After all, it’s not every day you hear a colonial era pirate asking, “If there are other people in the picture, then why is it called a selfie?”

As the children began to thaw and to forget about their balding heads (and, more importantly, the reasons for their baldness), that moment really did become something magical. For those precious few minutes, things really weren’t so bad for those kids and reality suddenly wasn’t so stark. After all, nothing ever seems quite impossible when a mayhem-breathing pirate is around.

And then, I had a thought that startled even me: “I hope Jack Sparrow is able to help them as much as he’s helped me.”

Wait, what?

You see, until that moment, I hadn’t realized that I’d been taking Jack Sparrow to the hospital. But suddenly, as I watched that video of the children, I recognized that this was exactly what I’d been invisibly doing in the back of my mind.

But why would I take a pirate to the hospital? Simply put, I need frequent reminders that there are some things that I can do, and some things that I can’t do.

One of the many horrifying yet amusing things about Jack Sparrow is that he doesn’t worry over little things like, well, morality most of the time. To him, there really are only two things that matter: what you can do and what you can’t do (check out the movie clip at the bottom of the page to see what I mean). Well, he is a pirate after all, and if you’re regularly going to “plunder your little black guts out” as he once put it, you need some way to be able to sleep at night, right?

Little did I know that his philosophy would also help me stay sane as I supported my mom through seemingly endless surgeries, and that it would also help me to rely on God when things got to be overwhelming.

I learned to look at the endless tangle of medical appointments, medications, test results, and surgeries through the eyes of Jack Sparrow. As we seemed to live in hospital waiting rooms and hallways, the world slowly reorganized and re-meshed into those two categories. Inaudibly, I could hear Jack’s voice reminding me to focus on what I could do. Then, as I learned to recognize what I couldn’t do, I learned to go to God in prayer like I had never gone to him before.

There was so much that I couldn’t do, but the more I read the Bible, the more I became convinced that God really cared. He really was standing by to help both my mom and me:

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)

“Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” John 14:14 (NLT)

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT)

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” Matthew 7:9-11 (NLT)

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b (NLT)

Today, as I restlessly sit and wait while they scan my mom with whatever alphabet soup-named machine they’ve lined up next, I focus on what I can do… Make sure she stays hydrated. Keep track of when she’s due for more meds. Keep an eye on the clock and plan out when we’ll get something to eat to settle her stomach.

Then, as my mind anxiously flits through all the rest of it, I hear Jack’s voice reminding me to let go of what I can’t do. I can’t do anything about the test results. I can’t control the diagnosis. I can’t determine where we’ll go from here, but I can give it to God. I can pray, and let the God who loves both me and my mom handle everything I can’t.

Today, I always take two people with me to the hospital (that is, outside of my mom). Call me crazy, but I never have to wait in that cold waiting room with the ridged plastic seats alone. God is always with me, but so is a slightly deranged pirate. Jack’s the voice in my head that reminds me to let go of what I can’t do and to place it instead in God’s loving hands.

Thank you for reading. If this article spoke to you, consider sharing it with a friend who’s struggling. We all need friends to support us and lift us up.

For more encouraging words to help you through this season in your life, you can check out some of my related blog articles:

My Savior in Chains: Hope during Times of Uncertainty

Jesus Was Tired Too: Encouragement for Caregivers

Thank you again for reading, and God bless you on your journey.

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5 thoughts on “Worry, Stress, and Jack Sparrow: How a Pirate Taught Me to Rely on God in the Face of Devastating Illness

  1. Love this! I will certainly be taking Jack Sparrow with me from hence forward. He can join Dori from finding Nemo. Somehow “Just keep swimming.” and determining “what I can’t and can do” go very well together. Thanks for adding to my motivational characters. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dori is one of my motivational characters too! And then of course there’s Nemo himself as he goes to save all the fish trapped in the fishing net, “Dad, I can do this!.” What wonderful loveable reminders that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. 🙂 Thank you, too, for being one of those reminders. God bless you and your family. Praying for you!

      Liked by 1 person

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