Recently a middle-aged lady patient came to my clinic. Two family medicine trainee doctors (Heidi and Nazgul*) were with me in the examination room when I interviewed a patient who had been experiencing severe depression for almost 30 years.
We talked about her sleep and appetite. I asked her about her energy levels and whether she ever thought about harming herself. As the interview was winding down, she said to me, “I have no purpose or meaning in my life. I have no hope.”
At that moment, I told her that she'd come to the right place because hope is my specialty.
I explained to her that we would begin some therapies that would help her to see her life in a different way. Medication was a part of this plan, but I also recommended that she speak with one of our psychologists, whom I knew was a believer and would be able to share something of the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.
After the patient left, I talked to the trainee doctors about what they had seen and heard. Heidi mentioned that the patient felt like she would be better off dead than alive. Nazgul noticed that the patient had no hope.
Then I asked Heidi, who was Christian, to read Jeremiah 29:11 out loud: “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
I explained to them, that as family doctors we must consider the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the concerns our patients bring to us.
“But which one is more important?” asked Nazgul, who is a Muslim. I marvelled at her insightful question and said:
“All of them are important because they represent who we are. If you have a chronic physical illness like heart failure or chronic lung disease, you are at risk of depression, because you know that you may never be fully healthy again.
At the same time, if you are depressed, you will also experience headaches, backache, fatigue, and a host of other physical symptoms. And if you believe that the Creator of the universe despises you and has no purpose for you on this earth, then it becomes difficult to feel joy or find a reason to live.”
Sensing interest on the part of these residents, I used the example of this patient to explain what every person needs: meaning, purpose, and hope.
I said to them, “Every one of us serves a god. Maybe it is our parents, maybe it is money, maybe it is the admiration of our friends, but there is something that drives each one of us, whether we know it or not. And we must decide who will be our God.
Then we must decide how we will use our time, our talents, and our treasures to serve God."
By the time I finished saying this, and some other things about how we can live rightly before God, I realised that I had shared with them the gospel message of how our Creator desires to be in relationship with us.
Nazgul looked at me as if she had so many more questions to ask. Heidi was also intrigued by how faith and the practice of medicine can be combined so seamlessly.
And as we stopped our dialogue to receive the next patient, I remembered what God had said to me when I first met Nazgul six weeks ago, “Pay attention to her. She may not know it yet, but she is my daughter!”
Will you please pray for Nazgul today? Pray that God will give me more opportunities to talk about Jesus with her, to model Jesus in all I do, and to inspire her to follow Him.
Right now, a second wave of Covid-19 has hit this Central Asian country in a big way. Hospitals are no longer accepting new patients, and trainee doctors are being recalled to help the exhausted medical staff.
Will you give £15 today to help mission workers like this doctor continue their vital ministries in the midst of the pandemic?
* Names changed for security reasons