This was originally given to a group of Christian physicians and their spouses. But ultimately, I think it is relevant to everyone, physician or not.
If God had an ER, I’d be a regular!
They come from every walk of life, every age, race, nationality, financial status, sexuality and gender. All hours of the day, and of the night, they trickle or pour through the doors of the ER.
I have been doing it for 21 years. And I am, by now, seldom surprised. I am not stunned by intimate complaints, I am not shocked by bloody injuries, I am not amazed by ridiculous questions that suggest a complete lack of knowledge of their own bodies.
I am, however, petty. I am sinful and sometimes angry. I am snarky and sarcastic. ‘What did you think would happen?’ I ask. Or this one, at 3 am, who came by EMS for a wart: ‘So tell me, what’s YOUR emergency?’
I am tired; that’s the reason for some of it. And I am unable to change much. The fixed realities of modern medicine are largely unyielding to me, a small fish in a small pond.
But sometimes, I am prideful. ‘I would never do that!’
Sometimes I am greedy. ‘I’ll never make a dime for this.’
Sometimes I am uncaring. ‘She’s going to die; why can’t they accept that?’
And other times I am insensitive. ‘It’s just a fever, I don’t know why that mom is so worried!’
They are so needy! Oh my goodness, their need exhausts me. This is my confession, that I am overwhelmed.
This one needs pain medication and that one needs a work excuse.
He needs discharge papers and she needs a cup of ice.
She needs a referral but can’t afford it. He won’t take his medicine even though he can.
She thinks she might be pregnant but won’t get a test. He wants help for his drinking. But he’s drunk right now, so that doesn’t count.
They were in a minor car wreck and their lawyer said ‘go get checked.’
They were at work when someone vomited, now everyone is vomiting and thinks they have been poisoned.
This one was exposed to an STD. That one wants a Viagra refill.
He thinks his 15 years of back pain needs a specialist now. She thinks she saw a spider on her leg and thinks it might be fatal; she saw it on Discovery channel.
After a night like this recently, I came away with an insight.
‘Lord,’ I said, ‘you must love us a lot because we all act like my patients.’
So let’s pretend, for a little bit, that we are the patients. We are the annoyed, annoying, needy, sick, dying, worried patients.
Question 1: What’s the most ridiculous or annoying thing that anyone has ever brought to you as a physician? What complaints or issues simply make your hair stand on end; make you want to run out and get a welding certificate? What seemed so silly, so obviously unnecessary, that you almost said something you’d regret? (Shop vac and spider)
Now this Question: What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever brought to the Father?
Pause to consider it.
Was it ridiculous to you?
Was it ridiculous….to Him?
Do you think for a second that he laughed, or turned you away?
The children were brought to him so He might put His hands on them and pray. But the disciples rebuked them. Then Jesus said, ‘Leave the children alone, and don’t try to keep hem from coming to me, because the kingdom of heaven is made up of people like this.’ After putting his hands on them, he went on from there. Matthew 19: 13-15
He knows your need. And he does not mind your asking. Even if it’s the ridiculous question of a child; or an adult. In fact, you are expected to ask, to come with your need.
‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with out weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.’ Hebrews 4: 15-16.
Question 2: Has anyone asked you for something, as a patient, that you just didn’t have the energy or will to do? Have they had a complaint you didn’t want to pursue? Have they had a need for a prescription, form, anything that you just didn’t or wouldn’t do? I confess that sometimes I don’t want to write the work excuse. Or check that extra test they ask for; just because I feel I’m being pressured. (I’m not always nice…but then again, none of us are.)
What need have you brought to the Father? Think about it for a minute.
Did he turn you away? Oh, he may not have met it the way you wanted. But did he turn you away?
Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the son. If you ask ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. John 14: 13-14
Do people come to you, as a physician, with questions for which the answer seems absolutely, obviously, painfully simple? Do you wonder why they don’t know the answer? Do you want to ask, ‘Are you kidding me? It’s just…a…fever!’ Does it ever seem like your job is simply reassurance? Do you forget, sometimes, that they didn’t go to medical school?
Do you ever come to the Father with questions that you should already know the answer to? With fears and doubts about His love for you? With uncertainty about your already certain destiny? With doubts that He knows what He’s doing? The same way people ask you, ‘are you sure I’m going to be alright?’ Or ‘how many times have you done this?’ Or, to me, ‘Are you going to have a practice someday?’ Or ‘I couldn’t get into the real doctor, so I came here.’
Pause for a bit to consider the questions you’ve brought to ‘God’s ER’ that you ought to know the answer to, as a believer.
Do you believe, for an instant, that he minds calming your fears; for the hundredth time? Jesus says:
I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5: 13
and Paul says this
Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philipians 4: 6-7
He does not condemn the worrier, but reassures the worrier. So much of the scripture is a reassurance in the midst of a worrisome, terrifying, fearful life. Just the way we find ourselves reassuring patients that things are alright. They don’t always know it and they need for us to tell them.
The Father tells us over and over. And like our patients, we keep coming back with the same fears.
It’s OK, he doesn’t ever say, ‘don’t ask me again.’
Question 4: Do people come to you with questions you have NO idea how to answer? With complaints that seem to be genuine concerns to them, but do not fit any recognizable pattern? ‘The pain goes from my left eye to my right knee, every night at 8 pm, and makes me have dizziness and itching for 30 minutes. What is it?’ Or do they say to you, in your exhaustion and at your wits’ end, ‘I’ve been to Mayo clinic and Cleveland Clinic and I’m here because I can’t stand this pain anymore. Can you help me?’
Snarky, sarcastic me, says: ‘I’m not smart enough to solve your problem this morning at 3 am.’
Consider this: Do you bring situations to God that simply haven’t been solved? Questions that haven’t been answered? Do you bring to him desperate conditions or hopeless scenarios? Do you doubt HIS professionalism? Do you wonder if he has an answer or a solution to your pain?
Pause to consider.
I’d say that there is always an answer. Sometimes, however, it’s not an easy answer. You may have to keep asking and looking and trying.
Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him a midnight and says to him ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread because a friend of mine on a journey has come o me and I don’t have anything to offer him.’ Then he will answer from inside and say ‘don’t bother me!’ The door is already locked and my children and I have gone to bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his friend’s persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11: 5-10
The search, the asking, the seeking itself is working some change in your heart and soul. It is chipping away rough edges. It is heating the iron of your eternal self and shaping it into the perfect being that lies in your future as you become more and more like Him.
Question 5: Do people ever come to you simply because they have nowhere else to go? With questions that make no sense, with stories that are so wildly confabulated that there must be another problem? With bruises they won’t explain? Or with tearful eyes and clutched chest and you say, ‘have you been under any stress?’ And they suddenly sob? Do you ever think, ‘I really don’t have time for this today!’
Do you, yourself, come to the Father with nothing but your own brokenness? With no way to even ask the deep questions? With no knowledge of the answer you want? With a crushing sense that everything is spinning out of control?
Pause to consider a time when you did this.
Do you think that God was wearied by your desperation? Do you think that he puzzled over what you were saying? Do you think he was unmoved by your sorrow?
In the same way the Spirit also joints to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8: 26-27
And this, which always makes me think of the masses, the desperation, the confusion I see and you see; and that He sees, in you and me.
So as He stepped ashore, He saw a huge crowd and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34
The thing is, we are all the same as the patients who vex us. We are all the crazy lady in the ER hallway, the needy person in the room with the call-light, the drunk angry at the world and straining against handcuffs, the one quietly mourning, the one anxious for no good reason, the suicidal, the hurting, the dying.
We’re all those patients. And that’s OK with Jesus. He never leaves the ER anyway, but just waits for us to come to him. And thus he says:
Come unto me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am gentle, and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11: 28-30
Rest, and remember to show compassion. For you have received it. And remember that you are loved and adopted by the God of the universe.
And he’s even in charge of the ER.