[Guest reflection on health and illness from Scott M., aspiring healthcare professional.]
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” — Mark 2:9–11
This passage came to mind this morning in my elation to something that has happened in my life over the past few days. Recently, on a Friday afternoon, I was doing some laundry when I had a very sudden and unexpected pain in my lumbar spine that was intense enough to bring me to my hands and knees. Here I am, a healthy 24 y.o. male with no history of back problems, grimacing in pain on the floor, unable to move. After several minutes on the floor, I propped myself back up, grabbed onto whatever furniture or hand railing was within grasp, and “walked” to my computer to find some answers. I described the situation to a number of friends pursuing careers in a variety of medical backgrounds, including MD’s, DO’s, physical therapists, nurses, etc. Everyone came to the same conclusion—herniated disk.
As I learned more about the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of a herniated disk from a PT student-friend in New Jersey, I planned out a course of action if the problem persisted. I would try to centralize the symptoms to my back as best as I could over the weekend, and then see my PCP for a referral for a PT first thing on Monday. In the mean time, I had to cancel my plans for the weekend one by one because the pain did not let up at all. I was very seriously concerned about my plans for the upcoming months, which included events like a medical school interview and a Tough Mudder that I had planned for many months in advance. All of these plans now are pending the progress of my recovery.
I lay in bed on Sunday night unable to sleep because of the pain. One wrong move or twist of my body would send a shooting pain through my spine, ensuring that I would stay awake for a while longer. I told myself that I would see my doctor in the morning and begin this long road to recovery. Next thing I know I hear my alarm clock from across the room. I turn to get up, dreading how much my back is going to hurt when I stand up, just as much as it has hurt the past two mornings I got out of bed. But then…nothing. No pain, no stiffness, just effortlessly walking over to turn off my alarm clock. I decided to crawl back into bed, not wanting to push my luck too far. I drifted back to sleep for another hour (another bad habit for me to work on in the future!) before I got up again. But still…nothing. I bent forward and backward, repeating the gambit of exercises that I was straining to do over the weekend, and to my surprise had a normal range of motion with little to no pain at all! I silently prayed in thanksgiving to God for taking this pain away…and also reaching out in supplication that it wouldn’t just be temporary.
After a few seconds of meditating on this experience, the passage at the beginning of this post came to mind. And along with it, a new perspective on the message of the Gospel. “Scott, if you are this overjoyed about healing a back injury and being able to walk again, then how much more should you be overjoyed about your sins being forgiven? Which is easier for Me to do?”
Friends, remember how much joy there is in the gospel, that it has the power to forgive us of our transgressions with our Creator and restore our relationship with Him. There is no greater healing than this. In the medical professions, we are taught how to heal the ailments that people have so that they may live longer, healthier lives. I believe God takes great joy in bringing that kind of healing, and will very often do so in non-supernatural ways. In my case, I don’t think there was any supernatural event that cured my back injury, but that does not mean that God was any less responsible for allowing the healing to take place. As Christian medical professionals, we have the joy of bringing physical healing to those who are hurting. But without the gospel, the end results are the same—separation from God for eternity. You’ve heard of the saying that when one finger is pointed at someone else, there are three pointed back at you? I know this isn’t a novel idea I’m presenting here, and that I am just as guilty of being less bold than I should be about the gospel. But I wanted to share this experience because this passage is now forever linked with a memory, an event in my past with which I can relate. So let me conclude with a few take-home ideas. First, never forget the power of your testimony, for with it you tell the story of how the greatest healing act possible happened in your life. Second, thank God for letting us be a part of the process of sharing the gospel to the unreached. And third, maintain the correct perspective between physical healing and the forgiveness of sins. Which is easier?