Pain management. I was online looking up some medical stuff and saw this phrase more than once. From the very little that zipped past my eyes, I saw the words “patient-centered” quite often. I know there is a lot more to this than my grossly simplistic and naïve understanding, but those two phrases – pain management and patient-centered – stuck out to me.
When I have something that hurts or is obviously more than what a good nap and a bottle of ibuprofen can handle, I want to get rid of the pain, not manage it. I want a doctor who specializes in getting rid of these pains to do his thing that he’s good at and tell me what I need to do. In other words I want doctor directed diagnosis and treatment that I’m supposed to follow.
Again, I know the current culture marketing means you have to use words like patient-centered, so my analogy breaks down if you dig into it too much, but allow me a little analogous grace for a minute.
A couple weeks ago I got an email from an acquaintance that was several paragraphs long. It was full of phrases like “I love the Lord with an unbridled passion”, “My heart is exploding with jealousy to serve Him”, “At the end of each day I grieve and cry that I haven’t done more for my savior”, “I would without hesitation lay down literally die for my God”. Each sentence ended with one or two exclamation marks and has some words in all CAPS. As this friend reads and reflects on the scriptures, he is in pain.
Here’s the problem I had reading this. He said this has been going on for years and years and years. “Oh, I wish I could go lay down my life for those who do not know the Lord in Africa and Asia, but I am not ready. I am not worthy. I am not clean enough. I am not freed up. I am a raw diamond in the hands of a master craftsman who is cutting different faces to make it shine more and be more valuable. The diamond yells to the jeweler ‘I am ready!’ and the jeweler replies ‘I must cut you more so you are made perfect.’ Oh it hurts to wait…”
My reply to him was simple. You’ll never be perfect, so if you’re so eager and dying to go and do great things for God…go. Stop trying to manage the pain and obey the doctor’s instructions, which are pretty simple. “Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” His problem is that he is using a patient-centered approach to an issue that is really one of obedience.
People have tried to manage their own pain even directly with Jesus. In Luke 9:
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
It is hard to let pain management be simple obedience and releasing control.
We don’t know what happened with these men – did they follow, did they go home then return sometime later, did they turn away after Jesus removed their smoke screens? – but we do know right after this, Jesus sends out 72 to “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10:3) and gives them instructions on what to do, what to look for, how to go about following Him, like a doctor giving precise instructions to a patient.
Left to our own pain management, we would never go. Like my friend, we would think we are never going to be quite ready, quite prepared, but in reality we are simply not quite ready to obey.
The song below was in a musical review “For Heaven’s Sake” circa 1975 by Helen Kromer.