Home > Articles > The Caring Touch > "  
 

/_-large.jpg" width=147 height=200 alt="" border=0 align=left hspace=14 vspace=10>
by Randy Becton

_.html" onmouseover="window.status='View a simpler page format that works well with printers.'; return true" onmouseout="window.status=''; return true" title="Printer-friendly Version">Print This Article   _.html" target="note" onmouseover="window.status='Send this article to a friend.'; return true" onmouseout="window.status=''; return true" onclick="OpenNoteWindow('');" title="Send this article to a friend.">Send it to a Friend  

 

    I know more about physical pain than I wish I did. But perhaps, compared to you, I really don’t know very much at all. For more than twenty-five years, I’ve sought to be an encouragement to people battling cancer. Often, they aren’t feeling very well physically. They may be in emotional distress, physical pain or both. It’s hard for me not to notice, since I’ve been in similar circumstances from time to time. I was diagnosed with cancer at age 29 and again at 37. By the tender mercies of God, I am currently free from any signs of the disease — but physical pain is something I sleep with every night and walk around with every day.

    Am I reluctant to bring up the subject? No, though I’d probably be a wiser man if I kept it mostly to myself... Almost no one means for you to answer them with “yes” when they ask, “are you in physical pain?” It’s not that they don’t care about you — for indeed, they care a great deal for you. They wish you well and would really like to hear you tell them that you’re feeling fine.

    But if things aren’t so good, a small dose of reporting is appreciated, especially in a chronic-pain situation. I think I know one of the reasons. It’s difficult to hear report after report about a problem that can’t be solved. It isn’t that we lack sensitivity, either. We are sensitive, but when we find ourselves in a situation we cannot resolve, we get frustrated. Well, that’s my theory, anyway! And over the past few years, as I have lived with chronic pain, I’ve seen that my loved ones are in pain as they face their own inability to help me.

    A little over nine years ago, I purchased Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland’s book, How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter — for reasons that were perfectly clear to me at the time, but are foggier now. Maybe I was in my “research and writing” frame of mind. Or perhaps I thought, “this book will help me understand my own struggle to come to peace with the reality that I will experience death, and therefore should have a better ‘grip’ on this reality, especially in light of being a believer in Christ.”

    I found the twelfth chapter, “The Lessons Learned,” to be refreshingly honest and insightful. Dr. Nuland, although a surgeon, showed unusual empathy for his patients, and he worked extraordinarily hard to keep the promises he made, to help them keep their dignity and have an “easy death.” By that phrase, he meant to help control their pain and to seek to assure them that they would not “be left to die alone.” This man certainly was speaking a language I could understand.

    I remember reading Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyitch, which describes the painful solitude of a death made lonely by the family’s pretending that it wasn’t happening. Ivan couldn’t burden his family with his knowledge, so he laid on the sofa with his face turned away. He received no real understanding and sharing of his story, because everyone acted as though it wasn’t true. The “lie” was that he was “only sick.” How can we so often conclude that the compassionate way is the way of silence? The physician is sworn to provide the best care — and medically, he does. But socially, spiritually, and humanly, the patient’s “best interests” may not be as well served.

    Ever since I was a young boy, I have told myself that I would have been a doctor, if being a doctor was really as good a way for me to help people as being a minister was. Today I believe that — for me — being a minister was the better choice for helping people. There are different approaches to healing, but for me, Jesus’ sacrificial love has always outranked all the others. When people know you really care about what they are going through, and where “it hurts the most,” they feel loved and understood... at least in my idealized world. In his book, Precepts, Hippocrates wrote, “where love of mankind is, there is also love of the art of medicine.”

“Where love of mankind is, there is also love of the art of medicine.”
    Dr. Nuland has written two other books since he penned How We Die, and he is still a clinical professor of surgery at Yale. A photo of him that I saw in the May issue of a national newsmagazine shows a man much nearer to the end of his active career than I realized. He is 74 years old now, and he concentrates his journalistic skills on the subject of pain. He is a fearless campaigner for those who must fight not only chronic pain, but also the false notion that the emotional aspects of pain can be solved by sheer determination. He is a relatively recent convert to the reality of “spiritual, cultural, and emotional roots associated with pain.” He remembers asking his mother (who had osteoporosis), “where does it hurt you?” and hearing her say, “Ach, where doesn’t it hurt me?”

    At church, while just in elementary school, he was drawn to “Dr.” Luke’s stories about Jesus’ compassion for peoples’ physical problems, and his use of healing power to relieve pain. He was impressed that the Son of God would take the time to deal with the pain of one woman (Luke 10). Dr. Nuland remembers that in medical training, pain was understood as cause/effect, meaning a proper diagnosis paved the way for surgery or medication, and with the body’s amazing power to restore itself, there was little or no discussion of the “great mystery of pain.”

    As a medical resident, Nuland dealt with “degrees” of pain, but the only studies that were discussed pain control were on medications, biofeedback, and surgical solutions. He observed that the role of the caring physician could be large in the healing process.

    To a man of faith, Jesus’ model was fascinating. Nuland believes God is the father of science and faith. What God can do “may be inexplicable but never something impossible.” Maybe Nuland is quoting Jesus, who said, “With God, all things are possible.” (John 7) Sherwin Nuland knows the power of The Great Physician, Jesus Christ.


References: Sources include How We Die, Knopf, 1995, and “Frontiers In Pain”, Newsweek, May 19, 2003.


Are you presently experiencing a new life? God’s word says, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” This new life is a free gift of God through faith Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about this life that only Jesus can give you, sign up for one of our Bible courses. Wherever you are in life, whatever you’ve done, you can begin again. You may also contact Randy Becton at rbecton@heraldoftruth.org if you have questions about becoming a new creation.

 
Share Related
_.html" onmouseover="window.status='View a simpler page format that works well with printers.'; return true" onmouseout="window.status=''; return true" title="Printer-friendly Version">Print This ArticlePrint this Article

_.html" target="note" onmouseover="window.status='Send this article to a friend.'; return true" onmouseout="window.status=''; return true" onclick="OpenNoteWindow('');" title="Send this article to a friend.">Send it to a FriendSend it to a Friend



Heartlight encourages you to share this material with others in church bulletins, personal emails and other non-commercial uses. Please see our Usage Guidelines for more information.
Search

      © 2003, Herald of Truth and Randy Becton, Herald of Truth. Used by permission.

      Title: ""
      Author: Randy Becton
      Publication Date: May 14, 2003


 
Caring Touch
 
 
Hundreds more articles
like this are in the

ARTICLE ARCHIVE
...or search to find an article by keywords:



  Visit our Sponsors

Heartlight only exists because of your support! Click above to visit a sponsor, or donate to join us in our ministry.