Today: Sunday, December 08, 2019

The faith of a doctor    (2/3/2008 1)

It is an amazingly privileged position to be a family doctor. People share the most intimate and personal details with you: hurts, fears, failings, dreams and hopes. And they trust you. It always surprises and humbles me when a new patient registers and wants to trust my advice without knowing me or whether I am any good. But it is very satisfying when another's health improves as result of my input.

It places a great responsibility on being the doctor. The right or the wrong diagnosis, the inspired investigation, a kind word, a phrase that shows that you understand or the hastily said, ill-thought-out misconstrued phrase can make an enormous difference to someone else's well-being and peace of mind.

When I became a doctor it was with the sense that my heavenly Father wanted me in the ‘family business': the healing business. Perhaps my most privileged position is to be the junior partner of the One who heals: “I am the LORD who heals you” (Exodus [OT], chapter 15, verse 26). It is a privilege to be able to jump on his bandwagon and assist in his work.

But sadly, there are also times when this is not so; when I see health deteriorate, or I lose a friend. I have to remind myself then that God is sovereign, individuals have the right to make unwise health choices, and I am imperfect.

I rarely share my Christian beliefs with my patients (unless asked)—I don't think that's right. They come to see me for good health care, not to be 'converted'. But being a Christian does make a difference in my work.

It means that I aim to follow Jesus and honour even the least likeable. It means that I try, as Brother Lawrence did in the monastery kitchens, to 'practice the presence of Jesus', and be aware of his input.

Because not only do I have the joy of seeing Father at work, he is there to advise. Sometimes, even when I am not actively seeking help, I recognise that God's Spirit has popped a thought into my mind that leads to the right action or the right diagnosis. And I have the privilege of being able to pray privately for my patients. Occasionally (although perhaps not often enough!), I pray with them.

You might think, therefore, that I would expect to be a better doctor than my non-Christian colleagues, but it is not so—although it may prevent me from being the mediocre doctor that I would be without God!

All family doctors are in the Father's healing business, whether they recognise it or not. I am sure that the inspired investigation, or the timely hospital referral, can be due to God's unseen intervention even for those who don't know him.

Many family doctors have a certain amount of self-doubt and insecurity, and I'm no different. It's so easy to miss things, or speak without care. Anxiety and times of self-recrimination occur when I feel that I should have done better. At these times, it is a comfort to be able to turn to a loving heavenly Father and find his healing for my own hurts and shortcomings.

Pray: Lord, thank you for all those who are in the healing profession, and for all they do. Strengthen, inspire and guide them. Help us to understand that there are many forms of healing, but that you are the ultimate healer - that you work through medicines and surgery as well as rarer, more miraculous methods. Amen.

Think about: Have there been times in your life when you have been afflicted by sickness in some form? Depending on how serious it was, you'll know how closely linked the state of our bodies is to our state of mind and our emotional state as well. Since God made every part of us, his healing hand extends to the mind, heart and spirit, too. Of course, the ultimate healing will come when we join God in heaven.

Challenge: Begin to pray regularly for people you know who are sick in some way; perhaps a physical illness, or depression. Keep a prayer diary to see what happens. Remember, however, that healing - like any gift - is in the hands of the giver, and is God's to give as, when, and where he wills.

Read our article about God's healing.

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