The Christian physician has a tremendous opportunity and responsibility, not only in bringing physical relief to the sick and suffering but also in spreading the everlasting gospel to a sin-sick humanity.
He deals with all classes of minds—some open, some closed; some religious, some irreligious; some overserious, and some frivolous, to mention but a few of the vast assortment. His time is limited, but his influence by word and example is great. So what attitude should the Christian physician take toward his patients?
First, in order to help a person spiritually it is essential to understand something of his religious philosophy. Does the patient belong to a church, and if so, which one? Is there a religious difference between various members of his family? Does the patient take his religion seriously? Is there an apparent spiritual satisfaction, or is there hunger for a deeper life? Physicians must gather these pertinent facts very cautiously and tactfully, and most important of all, lovingly.
It may take many visits before sufficient data has been accumulated, and enough Christian feeling of rapport has been established, to start active seed sowing. On the other hand, a feeling of kindred spirit may exist almost from the first, and the spiritual work can then make rapid strides.
Before uttering one word of counsel along spiritual lines, the physician must be completely rid of all prejudice toward the patient's beliefs. The physician must not entertain a feeling of self-righteousness—a feeling of having a closer relationship to God. An argumentative attitude is death to spiritual culture.
In the final analysis that which has the greatest part to play in helping patients to grow spiritually is the physician's own spiritual life. It is the physician's tone of voice over the phone, his courteousness under stressing circumstances, his unvarying integrity, his humbleness, his self-forgetfulness, and his Christ-like patience. These are the things which "shout out" to the spiritually hungry patient.
There is no question at all but that people are spiritually sick. People everywhere want peace of mind, lightness of heart, and confidence that a loving and all-powerful intelligent Being is vitally interested in their everyday welfare. They do not care for intellectual religious statements. They want something they can feel, something that will neutralize their fears, their sense of depression, their feeling of frustration.
What can a physician do to help the multitudes of spiritually starved patients? He can become an instrument in the hands of God through which spiritual healing flows. How? The answer is by becoming an Enoch. Who was Enoch? He was the character mentioned in the Old Testament who walked with God.
Walking with God is more than just a figure of speech. It is a literal possibility. It is a rnust if the physician is to reach the high standard set by that great master of all physicians—the glorified Jesus.
Physicians can heal spiritually if they are willing to follow the example of Jesus. Of Him it is said, "He had compassion on the multitudes and healed them of their diseases." Our great need is compassionate love for humanity. Physicians, let us rise up to the high standard set by our matchless example, Jesus Christ the peerless One. Let us love our patients with redemptive love, a love which they can feel, a love which is clean, noble, and uplifting.
It is not easy to love the outwardly unlovely, the selfish neurotic, the spoiled child, the impatient businessman, or the hypocritical patient. But it can be done, and it must be done if the physician is to be used of God. It takes eternal vigilance and everlasting practice to remain in a loving- state of mind under all circumstances. It takes, in addition to all the will power a physician possesses, a cooperation with the ever-present Holy Spirit. It means practically constant communion with the great Teacher—He who said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
Our consciousness of the intimate presence of Jesus must become so real that we actually spend hours visiting with Him about our multitudinous problems. Not only time set apart for this association, but silent visiting must become an integral part of our moment-by-moment thinking.
There are many ways for a physician to increase his compassionate love-radiating power. One simple method is to tell the patient over and over (privately, of course), "Jesus loves you," while taking his case history. Before the history is finished the doctor will feel the presence of the One who said, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." And the patient will have a sense of freedom in telling the most pertinent facts which are necessary in solving the problem at hand. Often the patient will say, "I never told these things to anyone before."
Fear of being ridiculed keeps many people from revealing their inmost feelings or troubled thoughts. But as the patient feels the genuine love of the physician, something is released, and the burdened person unloads with ease.
Whatever the physician reads that makes him more Christ conscious, will increase his spiritual influence. To quote the statements of Jesus before patients has tremendous redemptive power. The physician should find it an easy thing to direct the patient's mind to portions of Scripture for their healing power. Certain Christ-centered books, when loaned or given, increase the patient's spiritual vision—Steps to Christ, Mount of Blessing, Prayer for the Sick, and others of our own publications. I have found one which seems almost universally acceptable, published outside our ranks. It is entitled God Calling, edited by A. J. Russell, and published by Dodd, Meade, and Company.
I would like to go on record with a declaration that by including the spiritual phase in our practice of medicine, not only are physical results more prompt and satisfactory, but the joy of service is increased manyfold.