Human beings are spiritual beings who are cruising around in physical bodies which we call earthsuits, since they function much like an astronaut’s spacesuit does when he is walking about on the moon. Our souls need earthsuits to engage with this physical realm that we live in. Death is when God separates our souls from our suits and takes our souls on to eternity (either Heaven or Hell, depending on how we responded to Him in life). Since we’re only going to be here temporarily, God didn’t build our suits to last. As we age, our suits begin to show signs of wear and tear. From the time we are born, our suits experience various malfunctions, and that’s where you come in.
While a pastor focuses on the soul of a person, you are focusing on that soul’s earthsuit. You’re focusing on the part that doesn’t last—does that mean your work is less important? Not at all. Human beings are extremely affected by the state that their earthsuits are in. When we’re sick or sore or in some kind of pain, it greatly distresses our souls.
Consider how upset you’d be by your car suddenly malfunctioning on you in the middle of a busy highway. One minute you’re cruising along thinking of other things, and the next minute the machine is lurching all over the road and you’re having near misses all over the place. Talk about stressful. When a mechanic finds out what’s wrong with your car and fixes it for you, you’re very grateful to the man. Thanks to his efforts, you’re able to drive home in peace. Well, at least that’s how most people would see it. But God sees it quite differently, because as far as He is concerned, that mechanic didn’t fix anything on his own. Everything that mechanic knows about cars was taught to him by God. God is also the One putting strength in his arms to work with various parts. God is the One guiding the mechanic’s mental processes and helping him diagnose what went wrong with your vehicle. So you see, as far as God is concerned, He is the One who fixed your car for you. The human mechanic was just the instrument He chose to work through. It’s the same with pastors. As they counsel parishioners in their offices and deliver sermons Sunday mornings, pastors are merely functioning as channels. If anyone actually benefits from listening to them, the men themselves can’t take any credit. The glory belongs to God, for He alone is the Source of all wisdom and truth, and He is the One enabling souls to be able to receive and understand the insights He is exposing them to.
These same principles apply to you. As a doctor, your focus is on maintaining and fixing the earthsuits of your patients. You might be a general practitioner, or you might focus on a particular specialty. Either way, you want to help people, and that is certainly a positive goal. But to thrive in your calling, you need to realize what the limits of that calling are. It’s by trying to operate beyond the bounds of our calling that we end up burned out, frustrated, and disillusioned. To keep you from ending up there—or to help you out if you’re already there—let’s now discuss some key principles that you need to keep in mind as a doctor who wants to be pleasing to God.
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
God is not just in partial control. He’s in absolute control. This is one of those essential truths that you need to have a grip on in order to thrive in your own walk with God. This is also a fact which will have a profound effect on how you approach medicine. You see, disease isn’t some whoops that happened because the world is a fallen place. We shouldn’t be thinking of the world as “fallen” at all, because as humans, we associate falling with a negative, accidental thing. No one tries to fall when they’re walking down a street or down a set of stairs. Falling is always a whoops to us. When we equate sin with a fall, we end up thinking of sin as a whoops as well. The next thing you know, we’re talking as if Satan overthrew God’s good plan for this Creation and now he’s really calling the shots while God is locked in a closet with His wrists zip tied. This is how many Christians view disease: it’s a bummer that wasn’t supposed to happen. It’s a mistake, a rotten coincidence, a demonic attack. Well, no, it isn’t any of these things. Disease only ever happens because God wants it to happen. As a doctor, it’s vital that you understand this. If you try to write God out of the equation or view Him as the Guy who comes running along behind demons and evil people trying to clean up the messes that they create, you’re going to not only take on way too much stress as a doctor, you’ll also be greatly hampered in your personal walk with God.
Disease is God’s baby from start to finish. He invented it, He controls it, and He decides who gets sick when. As Yahweh once said to Moses:
“I kill, and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is no one who can deliver from My hand.” (Deut. 32:39)
What this means for you is that you’re not going to be curing anyone who God doesn’t want to be cured. It also means that when your treatments are effective, God is the One who you should be giving the glory to. As a human being, you personally depend on God to help you breathe, think, and move. In no way has God handed you the power of life and death over your patients. He doesn’t share that power with anyone.
Notice how in this passage from Deuteronomy, Yahweh is taking credit for both sides of the health coin: both the good and the bad. He isn’t just the Healer, He’s also the One who wounds. He isn’t just the Life Giver, He’s also the Life Destroyer. And while your pride doesn’t love the idea of having to pass on taking the glory when things go right, God is also relieving you of the burden of responsibility when things go wrong. As a human, you are incapable of killing someone else. You can make bad judgment calls, you can miss the signs, you can botch a procedure, you can make the wrong diagnosis, but you do not have the power to separate soul from earthsuit. That is a power that only God has. The point is this: God didn’t call you into this profession to save lives. He’s the One who saves lives. Your job is simply to serve Him well by obeying His convictions.
THE LIMITS OF YOUR RESPONSIBILITY
In the end, God will judge you by one thing: how your soul responded to Him in life. He won’t be talking about how many patients you helped or lost because that’s not how He sees it. He is the One who heals, and He is the One who wounds. You are just a servant, you’re not the one controlling how the world will turn. This “free will” that Christians get so excited about is really a very limited freedom of choice. When God speaks to your soul, you have the option of listening or blowing Him off. You have the option of saying, “Yes, Lord, I want to do as You say,” or “Be quiet and stop bothering me.” It’s your response to God—not your skill as a physician—which you will be judged by. It’s vital to understand this, because misunderstanding how God judges us results in all kinds of paralyzing guilt.
You prescribe a medication which your patient has an allergic reaction to and she dies. Is her death your fault? Of course not, you don’t have the power to kill people. The worst you can do is wish someone was dead and then act maliciously towards them to try and make your wishes come true. So is that what you did? Were you trying to put your patient in a medical crisis? Probably not. Far more likely you had no idea she would react so badly. Of course hindsight is 20/20 and you can beat yourself up for months over making a bad judgment call. But then again, bad judgment implies a misuse of knowledge. Let’s be honest: the science of medicine is immense, and your tired brain can only hold a limited amount of information at once. You’re going to forget things. You’re going to overlook things. It’s called being human. Try to do this calling all by yourself and it’s only a matter of time before you crash and burn into an exhausted depression. When God called you into this field, He never said anything about you having to figure it out by your lone. God is with you in life. He’s with you in the exam rooms, the surgical bay, the morgue, the lab, the counseling rooms, and everywhere else. You are never treating patients on your own. You’re always in the Company of the One who knows everything about everything, so it isn’t a question of you having to be at the top of your game. God doesn’t want a brainiac, He wants a good listener. He wants a soul who is eager to please Him and very receptive to His convictions. God is like your Consulting Physician, and you need to consult with Him on every case. Don’t be trying to wing it, because you didn’t invent disease and you don’t fully understand the problem even when you think you do.
Physical problems are never just physical issues. We humans are spiritual beings who are only temporarily residing in these earthsuits of ours, and God intentionally causes our earthsuits to malfunction in order to help us mature spiritually. So while it might seem obvious to you what the physical cause of your patient’s problems are, what you’re not seeing are the spiritual goals that God is working on.
Don’t even go down the road of thinking all physical ailments are a result of Divine discipline, because that is utterly absurd. Because our souls are so invested in the well-being of our earthsuits, health trials are fabulous ways for God to get our attention and motivate us to develop soul attitudes which are critical to progressing in our relationships with Him. Ever feel frustrated by not being able to figure out why none of your treatments are working? Ever have trouble sleeping at night because you’re taking on the emotional burden of your suffering patient? When God blocks you from finding answers, it’s because He has a bigger agenda. It’s never just about the health problem—that’s merely a tool which God is using to accomplish something else. What do you think the parents of your young patient are doing while you’re racking your brains trying to figure out some kind of cure? They’re stressing, of course, but they’re also thinking about God more than they have in a long time. Health trials are classic ways that God motivates Christians to give those trust and submission muscles an intense workout. Health trials are also a fabulous way of motivating spiritual rebels to return to an attitude of submission. Whether it’s about discipline or further growth, you can be sure there is a spiritual agenda behind every health problem your patients present. And since it’s bigger than the illness, you should expect things to not always go smoothly.
Quick cures are what everyone wants, but they are often not what’s best. Your patients are each on their own individual journeys with God and there are certain lessons they just aren’t going to lean into unless God gives them enough of a push. As a doctor, there are plenty of things you need to learn as well, and while God is using your patient’s misery to challenge his faith, He’s also working with you on learning how to hold people loosely. You see, they aren’t really your patients. Sure, you care about them, and you really want to help them. But you’re like the babysitter, not the parent. A good babysitter takes her role as temporary guardian seriously, but when the parents come home, she understands her job is done and she goes home content to know that her charges are in good hands. As a doctor, you need to learn to have the same attitude with God. When He brings a patient to you, you need to follow His leading and give them the kind of compassionate care that God directs you to give. But when God announces that it’s time to move on, you need to be content to do so. Sometimes patients need to be discharged. Sometimes patients die. Sometimes you’re going to have to say, “I’m sorry but there’s nothing more I can do for you.”
All souls are God’s property, and you’re supposed to be finding rest in knowing that He is taking the best possible care of them at all times. Your job is not to take over the reins, but just to function as a kind of messenger for however long He says. Sometimes all He wants is a brief exchange—a meeting of two strangers. Other times He’ll have you work with someone for a long time and get to know a lot about them. Some patients are going to treat you like dirt, others will be appreciative. There will be some who you get off on the wrong foot with and can’t seem to recover. Others will be sweethearts the whole way through. Some will expect you to be a miracle worker. Others will try to blame you for things that aren’t your fault. The more you care, the easier it will be to get overwhelmed, so you need to keep a grip on who the real Physician is in all of this. They’re God’s patients. He’s the One in charge. And no matter how much of a mess things are, He is handling it.
As a doctor, you’re never going to see the whole picture. God just isn’t willing to share with you all of the details of what He’s doing in another soul’s life. The physical factors you’re focusing on are just one drop in the bucket of all the things God is doing in your patient’s life. But once you understand that it’s not on you to know everything, your lack of understanding ceases to be a threat. You’re not practicing alone—God is right there with you and you can count on Him to lead you.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
The medical profession attracts people who want to help others. When you’re outward focused like this, it can be easy to shove yourself to the bottom of the priority list. And yet what matters in your own life is what’s going on between your soul and God. You weren’t put on this earth to help people, you were put here to pursue a relationship with your own Creator. The development of your own relationship with God must be first in your life, because what’s happening between you and Him defines what everything else is worth. It’s no good saving a thousand lives if you get so caught up in being the hero that you stop talking to God in the privacy of your own mind. It’s no good obsessing and stressing over factors that are not in your control. God is not going to change His plans for any soul because of what you’re doing. He does not take orders from you. If you ignore Him, He’ll undoubtedly still use you to accomplish His will in other lives, but you will end up missing out on the opportunity to know Him better.
As Christians, we need to realize that there are eternal consequences for how we treat God in this life. Salvation is not the crossing of a finish line, it’s our first step in the race. Life is about knowing and pleasing our Maker. If you miss this, you’ve missed everything. A career in medicine is only useful to you in as far as it helps you mature in your own walk with God. God doesn’t need your help to treat people. He didn’t call you into this field because He needed you, He called you into it to further your own education about how much you need Him, and how without Him, you have nothing. So if you’re running yourself into the ground and you can’t even remember the last time you felt like you had enough sleep or ate something that didn’t come out of a microwave or a fast food bag, you need to realize that you’re working beyond the bounds of your calling and ask God to help you get your priorities back into alignment with His. It’s not your job to save anyone. It’s your job to pursue a deeper relationship with your Maker in whatever context He chooses. For you, that context is working as a physician in the medical field. For someone else, it’s working as a pastor in a church. For someone else, it’s working as a soldier in the army. We’re each guided down different paths, and every path is filled with exciting opportunities for spiritual growth. But what we’re doing is never as important as Who is with us.
Knowing God, pleasing God, communing with God—these are the only goals that matter. If He wants to use you to help some people along the way, then great. But at the end of your life, a pleased smile on His face is going to be the only reward you care about, and you don’t want to miss out on experiencing it because you were too busy helping other humans to think about the state of your own soul. God must be first. If you know that He’s not first in your life right now, don’t get stuck in guilt. Be honest about it with Him and ask Him to get you where you need to be. When we’re living in alignment with God, serving Him in any context can be a great joy. God wants your medical career to be a benefit to your soul, not a drain. So ask Him to make you into the kind of doctor that He wants you to be and He will.