Saturday, August 24, 2019

Christian, or Physician?

Throughout life we have a variety of appellations, titles, and roles – some constant, some transient as circumstances change voluntarily or beyond our control. Some, like daughter, sister, wife, or mother, denote family relationships. Others, like student or teacher, coworker, employee or employer, colonel or enlisted recruit, reflect our position in a social hierarchy. Still others involve our ideology, politics, club memberships, interests, or faith.

What’s in a name? My husband may refer to me with pet names of endearment, but I might be offended or at least think it strange if others used these to refer to me. Our church family calls our undershepherd “Pastor,” but it would be odd if his wife called him that in the privacy of their home. When I was practicing neurology, my patients called me “Dr. Barclay,” but I would worry if my son referred to me in that manner!

For about a quarter of a century, I was a practicing physician, and for the past 19 years, I have been a Christian and child of God by calling on the Name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13), Who died on the cross to pay for my sins, was buried, and rose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), so that all who trust Him would have eternal life (John 3:16).

Although I still write regularly for medical websites, I have retired from active practice as a physician. Yet I can never relinquish my status as a born-again Christian (John 3:3-8), for once you are truly saved, you are always saved (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:35-39), and you can’t walk away from the faith. (Not that I would want to, for my desire is to walk closer with Christ each day [Colossians 2:6]).

Yet beginning about 2 months ago, I have felt some of my former role as a physician resurfacing, which sometimes seems to be in conflict with my identity as a Christian. The reason underlying the tension emerging between these roles is that my husband Richard was diagnosed with locally aggressive prostate cancer.

This trial began totally unexpectedly, as my husband is physically very active and apparently in excellent overall health, despite a well-controlled heart valve problem. We were in our family room one morning, enjoying our daily devotions over a cup of coffee. As Richard answered his cell phone, he was shocked to hear his cardiologist’s voice. The doctor explained that he had done some routine blood work at Richard's last visit, and that his screening test for prostate cancer had come back markedly elevated.

“But I have no symptoms,” Richard told the urologist he saw a few days later. Yet the urologist found a mass, and an MRI scan showed a large tumor extending beyond the prostate. Soon we found ourselves at a nearby center of cancer excellence, one at which I had done neurology consults years ago. How different things felt as a wife rather than as a doctor in a position of authority and expertise!

I am thankful that God is using my background as a physician to help expedite Richard’s diagnosis and treatment; to help him understand and navigate the complex options available; and to adhere to recommendations for diet, exercise, treatment, and other interventions intended to improve the overall outcome.

We are particularly grateful for concerned friends connected to the cancer center who have also been invaluable in this regard, and we both firmly believe that God is working all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

There are countless other blessings already received and lessons already learned. We praise God for preparing us for this trial by guiding us through earlier trials; for surrounding us with a loving church family (Galatians 6:2) and prayer warriors (James 5:16); and by teaching us to lean on Him, to cherish every moment we have together (James 4:14), and to be good stewards of the time and opportunities He so graciously affords us (Luke 12:42; 1 Corinthians 4:2).

So why the conflict? As a physician, I had to take charge, make the best possible decisions based on the available evidence, and remain compassionate while distancing myself from emotional involvement that might cloud my judgment. As a wife who dearly loves her husband and can’t imagine being apart from him for even a day, I tremble at the thought of illness compromising that closeness.

But as a Christian, my role is not to ask why this happened or how I can fix it, but to trust in God alone (Isaiah 50:10), and to obey Him (Job 1:21; 2:9-10). Like any other burden in life, I can try to carry it in my own flesh, which is doomed to failure, or I can leave it at the foot of Christ’s cross and resist the temptation to pick it up again (1 Peter 5:7). I need to lean not on my own understanding, but to trust in the Lord with all my heart and acknowledge Him in everything, so that He will direct our path (Proverbs 3:5-6)

I remember so many instances in our own lives, in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and in Scripture, which prove that God is faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 89:8; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 10:13), that His strength is made perfect in our weakness, and that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).

As a physician, I had to trust the evidence and proceed rationally based on the probability of various outcomes, weighing whether a particular treatment would be effective, ineffective, or even harmful. As a Christian, I must trust God and proceed in blind faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) that His ways and thoughts are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:9); that He loves us infinitely (1 John 4:8; Zephaniah 3:17); and that nothing is impossible with Him (Matthew 19:26).

As a wife, I am motivated by love to do whatever I can to help Richard, yet I am hindered by fear that my efforts will be inadequate. And indeed they are, for God’s perfect will shall be done (Luke 22:42), not by enabling our plans, but by empowering us to be vessels through which His Spirit can work with the wisdom, love and power that spring only from Him (2 Timothy 2:20).

Only His perfect love can cast out my fear for my husband’s health, and my (realistic) doubts that in my own strength I can contribute anything positive to the outcome (1 John 4:18). Surely I can do nothing on my own, but if I abide in Him, and He in me, He will allow me to bear much fruit (John 15:5).

One of my many prayers in this trial is that God would use me as an instrument of His love, wisdom and comfort (2 Corinthians 1:4) to help Richard receive miraculous healing that comes only from the Great Physician (Mark 2:17), that we would give Him all the praise (Isaiah 25:1) and all the glory!

© 2019 Laurie Collett


David C Brown said...

No doubt you will both gain the grace needed from day to day in this trial. It is a test to trust in God rather than modern medicine, while God has used modern medicine too. Grace be with you

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you, David, for your comment and encouragement. Praise the Lord that Jesus is the great Physician and can heal supernaturally, and yet He also has modern medicine at His disposal. His will be done by whatever means he chooses.
God bless,

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
what man can not do God can do. When I first had lumps come into my body about thirty odd years ago, because I had experienced miracles and healings from both my father's prayers when I was a child and from the prayer of faith in the Adelaide Revival Centre in Australia - and other healings, I did not go to any doctor because the Holy Spirit showed me through the Word not to go to Egypt (the world) for help, and also showed me 2 Chronicles ch. 16 vs.12 and 13:-
' 12 And Asa, in the thirty and ninth year of his reign, was diseased in his feet until his disease was exceeding great. Yet in his disease he sought not the Lord, but the physicians.
13 And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth year of his reign'

All I can say Laurie is that I have not been to the doctors regarding any issue in my physical body for all these years and I am still on this earth.
I could not tell anyone to go down the same path as me but I know that the Word of God spoken to me through having the mind of Christ since being born again of God's Spirit has kept me 'til this day. I pray for your husband that the gift of healing or miracles from the Father through Jesus' sacrifice will be given to him.
God bless you and your husband with all His promises which are 'Yes' in Jesus, including healing us from all diseases.Psalm 103 v.3 Amen.

Donald Fishgrab said...

Will be praying for both you and Richard.

Keith said...

My favorite title is Child of God, totally obedient and totally reliant upon the promise that all things work to the good of those who are the called, according to his purpose. You, your husband and family are in my prayers for consolation and complete healing. Praise God for all trials, tribulations which will build you up and strengthen you.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
Praise the Lord for His healing! We thank you deeply for your prayers for Richard. Thank you also for sharing your awesome testimony and for your uplifting comment. By His stripes we are healed.
Prayers for your continued health. May God continue to bless you richly.

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks so much, Donald! We deeply appreciate your prayers.

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Keith, may we as God's children rely completely on our Heavenly Father. Thank you so much for your prayers. God is good all the time, even in the trials, which He uses for our good and His glory!
God bless,

Aritha said...

Praying for you both now.

“God's guidance is almost always step-by-step; He does not show us our life's plan all at once. Sometimes our anxiousness to know the will of God comes from a desire to peer over God's shoulder to see what His plan is. What we need to do is learn to trust Him to guide us.” (Jerry Bridges)

Laurie Collett said...

Aritha, I love this quote! It really speaks to my heart. Thanks for sharing it here. May God bless you,

Laurie Collett said...

Aritha, thank you also for your prayers! We greatly appreciate them. God bless.