Posts tagged ‘purpose’

Faith and Science

And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart…  Ezekiel 11:19

I had a friend in college who became an atheist my freshman year. He was a junior chemistry major desiring to be admitted to medical school. He was taking a challenging course called “P Chem” (Physical Chemistry). But he became more concerned with the metaphysical world as he wrote a 400 page paper for himself on the existence of God that quarter. He would come to my dorm room in the evening and we would discuss the issues of God’s existence into the early morning hours. And though I defended my belief in God, he had an influence on me as I too doubted the very existence of God 5 years later. 

The reason I rejected God is that I wanted to be intellectually honest. I struggled with the idea of being objective and how I could know the truth. I saw science as objectively seeking truth and I didn’t know what to do with faith. So I lived without faith in God for most of my time in medical school and my entire OBGYN residency training. I was so busy that it didn’t make much of a difference in how I lived, or at least I didn’t think so. Not, at least, until I graduated from residency and became a staff physician at the hospital in Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines.

During this time I realized the practice of medicine was not simply the application of science in the lives of human beings. There were nurses, technicians, and other doctors with whom I needed to interact on a personal basis. How I treated them actually affected how we were able to treat the patient and her medical condition. I found that compassion, love, forgiveness, respect, listening, caring, and empathizing were necessary components in the healing process. But these were components of healing that came from faith, not science. This is when I began my journey to understand the role of faith in my life. This is when I realized that such necessary components resided in my heart.

The problem was that I had developed a stony heart. I could make a nurse cry in a heartbeat and feel completely justified in doing so in the name of science. After all, anyone who did not do exactly as I ordered was getting in the way of the healing principles of science. But when the heart of the “healer” is hardened, the “healer” tends to wound the hearts of those around him causing more damage than his application of scientific principles can repair. 

Science makes the world a better place. Science saves lives. Science enhances our existence on this earth and helps us understand how things work. But it is faith that brings love, compassion, justice, and peace into our world and into our lives. Science may make life easier to live, but it is faith that makes life worth living. In Subic Bay I discovered that I could not prove the existence of God. But He proved His existence to me by changing my heart, which is where faith resides.

I still struggle with the remnants of a stony heart. There are too many days when I want my own way and my heart begins to harden. But I can feel it and see it in my interactions with others. And when I give my heart to Him, He always softens it through His Word, through the words of others, through circumstances of life, and through a growing self-awareness that comes as I focus on Him. I have found the heart to be ground zero in the battle for life and healing. I exhort you to put your faith in God. Allow Him to soften it.  But I must warn you that such faith will change your heart and change your life. 

Who Are You?

Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.   John 13: 3-5

The thing that astonishes me about Jesus is that His exalted position and unlimited power motivated Him to serve. And He didn’t just serve in an ordinary capacity, but in the lowliest of positions to do what no one else would do. So He was born in a stable as an infant rather than appear in a palace as a king. He built things for others as a carpenter rather than having things built for Him as a land owner. He went to places defiled by lepers and prostitutes to touch them and become one with them rather than places of honor to be separate from them. He died alone on a cross to save all of humanity rather than a bed surrounded by friends to save His dignity. And when He walked into that upper room to share a final meal with His disciples and knew He was God in flesh, His response was to serve rather than be served.

The path to peace, joy, purpose, and health in this life is not found in gratifying myself in places of comfort and positions of power, but in loving others in places of need and positions of service. When I developed recurrent cardiac symptoms, my initial response was one of denial. But I have discovered that any journey to health is a journey to self-awareness. Before we can help others, we must know who we are and what we have to offer.  We see this principle illustrated in the life of Jesus in John 13. It is because Jesus was self-aware that He served others. It is because Jesus knew that He was God that He knew what He had to do. 

Today I am more aware than ever before that I am a child of God defined by His love and grace in my life, not by the failed bypass grafts or small arteries in my heart. Though I continue to seek the best path forward to treat my cardiac condition, I realize true healing only comes as I humble myself to God’s will for my life and His presence in my heart. It’s okay that I can’t ride my bike as fast, run as much, or swim like I once could. Those things are fun and good. But they are not the things I must do to find peace and joy in life. Rather, as a child of God, I simply need to humble myself to the will of God and be the hands and feet of Jesus to those around me. Once I know who I am, I know what I need to do. 

So it’s true. My cardiac condition does not define who I am. God does. Once I embraced this fact, I realized that He has my heart in His hands. I now know that my health challenge does not limit what God wants to accomplish in and through me. In fact, I know that my heart condition is a blessing as I allow it to inform me about my mortality in this life and the assurance of immortality in the next. The amazing thing about my own health challenge is that my heart has become more open to God’s heart resulting in more peace than ever before. Perhaps this is what Paul meant when he said,  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

If you’re looking for peace and purpose in life, perhaps you have not yet discovered your true identity. What would it look like to see yourself as a child of God? How would that change who you are and what you would do?

Nothing Else Matters

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.  Proverbs 19:21

I have taught and preached the link between physical and spiritual health for years. But in the last three weeks as I have taken the time to consider the alternative therapies to my recurrent heart disease, I have experienced the intimate connection between the physical and spiritual realms. I have found that peace comes from God’s grace and love in my life. It comes when I submit to His will and understand His purpose in my life. Once I submit completely to His will and purpose, nothing else matters. Stress becomes manageable. Even health issues become secondary. 

The result of such an approach has given me the desire to make dietary changes that along with God’s stress reducing peace has eliminated my chest pain. I have been stressed from time to time about my future. I have stressed about things like income, the ability to work, maintenance of a certain standard of living, church growth, expectations I place upon myself for job performance, and much more. And when I stress about any of these things, I have experienced an increase in chest pain. Through this process I have discovered that God’s way is best and that living His purpose in my life ultimately brings peace even if my heart disease worsens. What I discovered is that I am afraid of what the heart disease could prevent me from doing, which of course consists of MY plans. However, when I stop making my own plans and adopt God’s purpose, then I can accept any setback or triumph, any cure or disease, any win or loss because I know the end of the story. I know God is in control. I know His purpose will prevail.

Perhaps for the first time in my life, I can say what the three Hebrews said to King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3:17-18 before they were tossed into the fiery furnace: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” 

Because I know that God’s purpose will prevail, I am optimistic about my condition because my optimism is not dependent upon my plans or my heart disease. My optimism is based on His purpose. Come what may, I desire God’s will in my life. When I submit to Him, I know that I will prevail because God always prevails. What a comfort this knowledge brings to me. Nothing else matters.

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