This article is authored by Megan Gross, whose article published in the previous issue of the RH was inadvertently (apologies) attributed to Megan Fox. Megan and her husband Ty, the great-nephew of the late RCUS minister Lloyd Gross, are members of Emmanuel Reformed Fellowship, Pella, IA.
God as the Great Physician is a comforting picture, binding up our wounds and healing our diseases, but like many images in the Bible, our own experiences sometimes limit our understanding and appreciation of their full meaning. What many of us picture is the role of the kindly family doctor. He gently checks on our health, offers advice, and prescribes medicines. Or perhaps we see him as the emergency room doctor, the one to call on only in a crisis.
In the last ten years since our daughter was born, we’ve had those views radically altered. Our Evie was born with multiple birth defects that eventually led to a diagnosis of CHARGE syndrome (a rare genetic syndrome that can affect nearly every possible system in the body in any possible way!!) and receiving a tracheotomy and a surgically implanted feeding tube before com-ing home from the NICU at two months old. From there, we had years of simply trying to discover health issues faster than they could kill her. That sounds rather dramatic, but unfortunately is no exaggeration. We are incredibly grateful that her various is-sues took turns trying to take her life and did so slowly enough that we could find them and fix them in time. We pray that they continue to be so considerate.
But over these years, we interacted with countless doctors in various fields in multiple cities in different states. And God gave us a deeper view into His role as our Physician.
It is our natural sinful tendency to see our souls as generally healthy, even in the reformed world. We know that we used to be dead, but surely now, born again, we are plump and pink and healthy newborns! We might have that sinful nature causing a few problems, but nothing too big, nothing that a quick trip to our Doctor’s office and a prescription won’t cure!
So when our Doctor comes at us with a knife, we’re scared, we’re confused, we’re angry. How DARE He! Why would He hurt us like that?
But we’re not healthy babies. Our souls are filled with the birth defects of sin.
And they’re working to kill us.
Good doctors know when to perform surgery, when the only way to save a patient is to cut into them, removing damage and stitching everything up again. They know it will cause pain, maybe even more pain than the original problem caused, but they also know that without drastic measures, their patient will die.
We’ve stood in a room with doctors over and over as they told us they would need to cut into our daughter again. And the reac-tion we gave them is, I’m ashamed to say, much better than the re-action we have given to our Great Surgeon when He has wheeled us down to surgery. With our daughter, we can see the damage. We know she’ll die or have her life severely limited without the necessary surgeries. But with ourselves…we kick and scream and accuse. Why would God DO this to us? Aren’t we His children? Why would He cause us pain like this?
Our reaction is closer to that of our daughter’s in her younger years. She couldn’t understand what was going on, why we would hand her off to strangers again or why she would wake up in pain. Why would we DO this? Isn’t she our child? Aren’t we supposed to protect her? Why would we cause her pain like this?
She didn’t know she’d die without it.
We’re slowly learning that our souls are just as damaged. They’re in just as much need of a knife and stitches. But it’s our own blindness and arrogance and immaturity that tells us we would be okay without it. We want the gentle doctor, the one we see only once in a while, the one we rarely need.
We also don’t want to see that our lives will be so much harder if we leave the damage. For Evie’s first four years, she was tiny. VERY tiny. We fought for every ounce of weight on her small frame. We thought her stunted growth was just due to her syndrome, but when a hidden defect in her small intestine took its turn trying to claim her life, the doctors went in and removed it. We thought we were solving one single problem, but after surgery, her growth took off. She gained weight and grew taller and caught up to her peers in size (and now has passed many up!!). Watching her struggle through the pain and misery leading up to the surgery felt pointless. What was God doing? WHY would He do this to her? It wasn’t until later that we realized that this bowel defect had been the main source of her growth issues. How often do we see God’s actions as pointless and cruel, only to realize later that He cut out exactly what was needed to allow us to grow and thrive in our Christian walk?
But often, it’s not that simple. It’s not a single surgery that cures all our troubles. Instead, it’s a process. Evie’s airway was kind of a wreck when she was born. She got her trach which made her safe, but then it was a journey of years and years (one we’re still on!) to fix all the various issues. We would do a surgery, let her recover, and then it would reveal another problem we hadn’t been able to see before. Every fix seemed to just show us more things to fix! It was hard to feel optimistic in those years, hard to feel God had a plan that truly was for our good. But of course, He DID (and DOES) have a plan, and ever so slowly, we’ve made improvements on her airway to where now it is in really good shape! God’s work on our spiritual lives often feels closer to those experiences, where every sin uncovered leaves more sins bare in our hearts.
We can see God as our Great Surgeon now, see the wisdom and skill with which He wields a scalpel to heal us. Our new struggle is to see God in OUR place, the weeping parent who wishes the surgery wasn’t necessary, but is grateful it can save our child. Our relationships with the various surgeons who have saved our child are interesting ones. There is a deep appreciation and trust with them. But we never trust them to not HURT our daughter. On the contrary, we expect it. We even pay them for it! But we have confidence that the hurt they cause will better Evie’s life, that it will allow her to thrive on the path God has for her.
These experiences have also helped us as we look at others in their own suffering. Too often, we think we know why God has performed a surgery on a fellow believer. We think we can safely judge someone’s guilt by the type of surgery performed. But it’s rarely that simple. If all we know is that someone had a heart surgery, how are we to know if it was because of a birth defect, because they trusted the wrong advice, because they didn’t care for their body well, or because someone stabbed them with a knife?! God knows the reasons why He needed to perform that surgery, but we will never have the full picture this side of glory.
Once this view seeps in, it dramatically changes how you see your walk with God.
I pray we can someday trust God fully, even without every detail of WHY He does what He does. We have His qualifications, after all, and they are far superior to any of the fallen humans with whom we have entrusted our daughter. He hasn’t just studied our souls and what they most need to become whole and healthy and reflecting Christ, He created them. He knows perfectly where best to cut and which techniques will be most effective. And we hold firmly to the truth that He will never sever any part of us that will not lead to our healing.
He is our Great Physician, our Great Surgeon, our Great Healer, and our souls desperately need his care and skill. I pray someday, we may have the grace to handle the surgeries of our soul as our daughter does now at age ten. There is trust that comforts her fears and there is anticipation for what the surgery is designed to do. She knows there will be pain, but she holds firm to hope, a childlike faith that we should strive for as we trust our Father and Physician.
Emmanuel Reformed Fellowship, Pella, IA