The Hardest Thing About Medicine

     If you ever wonder about a patient’s prognosis, you can make use of the “Niceness” test. Is your patient a really sweet lady with a breast lump who has young kids and volunteers in her free time? It probably is a malignant cancer. Is your patient a selfish jerk who has made poor decisions resulting in a decline of his health? He’ll probably be fine for awhile. It seems like more often than not, the nicer your patient is, the poorer his or her outcome will be.
     Obviously I’m being facetious, but there’s an element of truth in that jest that hits a little too close to home. You don’t have to go to medical school to be hit with the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” You’ll just get it a lot during your training. Sure residency is physically challenging with the ungodly work hours, but I actually think the hardest thing about being a doctor is the emotional toll of seeing suffering firsthand day after day.
     And if you believe in God, nothing shakes your faith more than struggling personally with suffering. Sadly, many have walked away from their faith because they are not able to reconcile the idea of a loving God with the existence of evil. It’s hard to tell someone that God loves them when they just found out they had cancer, or when their loved one passed away. But God does love us, and His existence actually gives meaning to suffering. If God doesn’t exist, the reality is that suffering still does, and hardships that come would then just be a matter of bad luck. [1]
     I don’t know why some people get better, but some people die from their illness. I don’t know why kids are born with disabilities, or why some don’t make it at all. But I do know that if God did not exist, that all the suffering I see from day to day is the result of random chance, then I wouldn’t want to be a doctor.
     The promise of the resurrection is that there is more to this life than random chance and bad luck. There is a God who is sovereign over all evil and even uses it ultimately for the good of those who love Him. There is a God who entered into our suffering in order to restore our relationship with Him so that one day we can enjoy life as it was intended, without tears, pain, shame, sin, and death. Happy Easter everyone!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5


[1] For a great treatment of the problem of evil, see this article by Stand to Reason.

 

Advertisements

Why God is Not Against Vaccines

I’ve been seeing a lot of news about vaccines lately in the social media headlines so I figured I would throw in my however much these thoughts are worth. A frustrating situation is when patients refuse medical treatment because they believe in God. But wait, I believe in God too, and I don’t remember the Bible ever saying we shouldn’t use medicine. The reasoning, I think, goes something like this: God is the all-powerful healer who holds our lives in His hands, and so if it’s His will that I get sick, then I’ll just get sick because if it’s His will to heal me, He can, and He will if I have enough faith in Him (and if I take medications, this would mean I don’t have enough faith).

While I do agree that God is the all-powerful healer who hold our lives in His hands who allows sickness in this world as a result of sin, and that if He wanted to, He could miraculously heal anyone of any disease, I do believe that medicine and faith are not mutually exclusive. God can do miracles, but usually God works through natural processes and the creative abilities and intellect that He has given to human beings, His image bearers. Those who would trust exclusively on God for medical needs probably would have no problem going down to the local store to buy food, or the mall to buy clothes. Even though God is fully capable of supernaturally providing food and clothing (manna for the Israelites and coverings for Adam and Even), He has chosen to meet those needs through people who He has given the knowledge and ability to harvest food and make clothing.

In the same way, God has given people the capacity to understand the workings of the human body, and the ability to do research to come up with ways in which to combat sickness. Yes, Jesus came and healed a lot of people of disease. But there were tons more who were not healed, because healing wasn’t the main purpose of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus came not to simply relieve physical suffering, but to usher in the kingdom of God. Jesus’ miraculous healings not only authenticated His claims to be the Messiah sent by God, but also pointed to the future reality of God’s kingdom that is without sickness, sin, or death. And so medicine is a means in which to bring creation back closer to how it was intended before sin entered the world.

In the Bible you don’t read anywhere a prohibition to use medicine. Paul even tells his fellow laborer in Christ Timothy to “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Timothy 5:23), and not just pray for healing. The Gospel writer Luke, a traveling companion of Paul, was a doctor, and we don’t see Paul telling Luke to quit his job. Are there misuses of medicine? Of course, as there are misuses of everything else that is good because we live in a world of sin. We certainly can trust in what our hands can provide rather than God, but that can happen not just with healing, but with anything else (e.g., provision of food and future security). It’s a daily discipline to come before God in dependence even as we are active in using our gifts that God has given us for our provision.

All this is to say, the development of vaccines is an example of the grace of God given to us to combat the corruption of the natural order due to sin. Vaccines and antibiotics are probably two of the greatest medical discoveries in terms of lives saved and illness prevented. Are there side effects to vaccines? Sure. Is autism one of them? I can’t imagine the fear a parent would have hearing about the reports of children manifesting autism after routine vaccinations. I want to acknowledge those fears, but the vast bulk of scientific evidence would say no. 

Christ came to deal with sin in this world. And that means not just taking away the penalty of our sins against God by dying on the cross, but also ushering in a kingdom (that will come in full when He returns) that is how things were intended to be: no more tears, no more sickness, and no more death. In the meantime, let us use everything that God has given us to stay healthy so that we are best equipped to carry out the kingdom work.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He willdwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-5