It has been a long time since I posted a ‘Devotion for Doctors.’  I hope this is an encouragement to you.

The ER is a hard place to be a Christian.  One of the hardest, according to one of my partners in practice, Dr. Jim Gill.

I think he’s right.  When I go to work, all full of good intentions (and we know what road is paved with those), it only takes a little while for me to slide out of my better self and descend, precipitously, into my lower self.  Of course, as a Christian, it’s more a question of moving from a ‘Christ-like me’ to a ‘me-like me.’

It’s a difficult place for faith, because in some ways it’s an endless reminder of the fallen nature of this world and its people.  In the ER, there is drug and alcohol abuse, violence, deception, cruelty, abandonment, life-threatening and life-ending illness and injury.  It all conspires to make even the most devout ask, ‘is this really the way the world is?’

Those, however, are merely the externals.  It’s difficult to be a Christian in the ER because of…me!  At work I become frustrated, I become angry, I think about who will pay and who will not, I judge too harshly, I speak too sharply, I dream of ways out so that I can one day leave the emergency department for good (and before I need a walker).

The ER is the place where lofty ideology often conflicts with troubling reality, and it’s no less true of faith than of politics.  Our call to love is beset by external and internal factors such as sin and tragedy, as surely as our political will to help others is assaulted by the native manipulation and greed of those who play our hearts for assistance (or our votes for power).

I know that Jesus said, ‘In this world you will have trouble, but fear not, I have overcome the world.’  That means, of course, He has even overcome the ER.  And on some nights, that seems as miraculous as calming the storm or turning 5 Lortab and 2 Xanax into enough for everyone.  No wait, loaves and fishes.  Jaded, see?

I also know that Jesus became frustrated with humanity; with the sins of common folks and with the hypocrisy of religious folk and everyone in between….including his own followers, who were often as bumbling as the worst patient on a full-moon Saturday night.  He became frustrated, but still loved.

So what to do?  It’s hard.  The thing to do, as believers, is press on.  Recognize the difficulty, pray for strength,   but continue the journey in love, knowing that love is far more a verb than a noun.  When we face our patients and colleagues, administrators and inspectors, we may not always be excited.  But we can conduct ourselves with love, with kindness, with peace;  we can help them, even if we disagree with them.  It’s how our Lord behaved, after all.

There is trouble in the world.  We are usually in the thick of it.  But Jesus the Christ blazed the way through, and took all the trouble in the world down with him; he even crucified the wickedness that brings people to ERs, since sin and death were defeated with him.

I suppose that we, in imitation of him, have little excuse but to try and love in the hardest of circumstances, knowing that the people we see, the rules we face and the willfulness and sin remaining inside us will often conflict with even our most loving intentions.

So here’s one thing I do.  On the way to work, I pray:

Lord let no one be seriously injured or ill, or die today.  And give me wisdom, insight, skill and your love as I face my work.  Amen.

And on the way out the door for home:

Lord, let me not have made any serious mistakes in anyone’s care, and let all of our patients be whole and well.  Amen.

Sometimes I go in with the wrong attitude, and sometimes I come home with it.  But its hard to keep it while praying for patients and the co-workers.

But even if the angry me rules, or the frightened me or the frustrated me, I know that the trouble of this world is transient.  And my own failings are things my King will repair in his own good time, as I allow it.

The ER may be a hard place to be a Christian.  But it’s a great place to become a better one.

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