Sometimes I Forget Who The Better Doctor (really) Is

Beat. Beat. Beat.

I’m somewhat of a hypochondriac, and when I get nervous, I take my pulse. I don’t always completely trust this pacemaker I have inside me, a metal box ensuring my heart beats when it is supposed to. Kind of like I don’t always trust this great God that made me and has already numbered my days according to His perfect plan. I prefer to trust God with a back up plan, like having an ambulance within dialing range or a doctor that is highly qualified and speaks my language.

When I moved overseas, I thought a lot about counting the cost of leaving family and friends. I didn’t think so much about leaving my doctor. But this has proved to be one of the things I really miss about life in my home country. I like the security of feeling like I can get an accurate diagnosis and quality care when I go to the doctor. But it also the part of my story that God has used the most to bring me back to my knees when my trust in self, or a medical system, has replaced trust in my heavenly Father.

Sometimes it has been dramatic, like the time I was SOS’d out on a plane to Hong Kong with a misdiagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy. Or the time I woke in the night with a fluttery feeling in my heart that resulted in getting on a plane that very night bound for America and surgery.

There have been many less dramatic stories that nonetheless involved lots of cultural stress–navigating local hospitals where you stand in lines, only to stand in more lines, only to discover that was the wrong line. And when you finally do see a doctor, you find yourself in a room with half of your clothes off along with 10 other patients and several doctors.  Privacy is not a high value where I live.  Neither is listening to the patient’s opinions and feelings.

Not to mention the countless pieces of advice I have been offered by those in my host culture that see health problems in a rather different light.  “Wear more clothes, don’t let the wind hit your back, don’t run the air conditioner or drink ice water, don’t let your children wear so few layers, eat spicy food to cure diarrhea.” All of these and more have been thoughtfully offered as the root of any health issue I might have at the moment.

Through it all, the underlying question of my metaphorical heart is–do I really trust the God who made me and brought me to this place?  Or do I trust a system I had gotten used to as my security.  He has shown me time and again that He will take care of me. And He has. As much as I might sometimes wish otherwise, I am thankfully still under God’s knife as He does surgery of my heart.

I trust, but I let myself wonder “what if”? What if He doesn’t come through this time? What about my kids? What if something happens to them?  What if this health issue means we have to leave this country? However as I look back at my last fifteen years in this country, I am thankful. Thankful for opportunities through my health struggles and the less than ideal hospitals and doctors I have encountered–to trust. Not a medical system or a great doctor. But the one who created me and called me here.  And I as reach to take my pulse the next time, I am reminded that with each beat there is a testimony of his faithfulness to me through my health. And that no matter where I am in the world, it is “He that first made me still keeps me alive” —Sandra McCracken.

How has God used the medical system in your country in your life?

4 Comments

  1. Jenilee July 23, 2015

    Since I just experienced my first round of doctors/tests/bloodwork in another country… well, I can say I absolutely resonate with this post. Taking care of feminine issues in a country that “doesn’t value privacy” is quite an experience. Especially to leave knowing that nothing was accurately examined and the tests are more than likely incorrect anyway. Trusting Him… our medical security is a major part of learning to trust Him in this overseas living. Great post

  2. Monica F July 23, 2015

    I love this post for so many reasons.  As a nurse, I thought I would be the one caring for others overseas, but when my ‘career’ began 15 years ago and it started out with a scary bout of malaria, I was soon the patient.  Being away from a ‘reliable’ health system was one of my biggest fears, and the Lord really got my attention about who and where my trust was in after suffering from various tropical diseases, and then nursing my kids through their own illnesses in remote places.  Having lived in East Asia most recently, I’ve learned to navigate the healthcare system, and have even had the opportunities to train and teach local healthcare givers- there are some really compassionate and knowledgeable people out there!  Having been the patient and the healthcare giver over the years, has definitely been a learning/growing experience, and I have come to really appreciate what does exist even if it’s something scary or strange to me.  It’s not easy, but He is faithful!

  3. MaDonna July 23, 2015

    Thanks Leah for sharing! My first pregnancy was high risk as my son tried to meet us at week 32 and my second child (daughter) was also high risk as she seemed to be too small. God was involved and had me at the right place at the right time in both cases. Before my daughter was diagnosed, we had a few scares of lung infections – but again, God was there and got us to where we needed to be each time. You’d think after these somewhat near life experiences I’d trust Him more – and I did right after, but what I’m finding is that I’m no better than the Israelites from the Bible that I’m rolled my eyes at. I go right back to the “what if” worries and forget Who brought us out of those places before. So, thanks for your reminder today to let go and trust God with my kids, my husband, and myself. He’s got it all figured out…and knows what is best.

  4. Elizabeth July 24, 2015

    Leah, I just so related to this post but haven’t had time to comment on it till now. I used to take my pulse too! Except I didn’t have a medically sound reason. No surgery, no pacemaker. Rather, I took my pulse to make sure I was still alive. Because the ability to breathe and move my fingers to my neck weren’t evidence enough of life?? By the time I realized why I did that and could verbalize it, I could see the humor in it.

    And it was mostly health reasons that made me not want to come to the field in the first place. I’m a recovering hypochondriac [read: I’m a hypochondriac, but it’s not out of control anymore]. Living here still plays tricks on my mind sometimes, and I have to consciously choose not to follow the rabbit trail my fears are digging. I’ve got more practice at it now, and someone to keep me accountable (my husband), so it doesn’t take over my daily life the way it used to. Having older kids also helps in that regard. Babies are just so fragile. A fever, a cough, the dread CROUP, and I would go straight to pneumonia and death.

    I read a book designed to help kids with OCD to identify the “brain junk” and then throw it away. For me following the advice in the OCD book has been a working out of the truths of Hebrews 5:14 (which says the mature have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil) and Titus 2:12 (which talks about the grace of God that teaches us to say “no”). For me, I had to practice distinguishing the good from the evil (unhelpful) thought patterns, and the it is the grace of God that helps me in learning to say no to those irrational thought patterns. And it all came about from a children’s book on OCD 🙂

    Another thing that helped hugely was a quote in a book the Cindy Morgan wrote, “Barefoot on Barbed Wire,” which was all about fighting fear. I “randomly” picked it up at the library when I was pregnant with my 3rd child (when the fears were the most out of control they’d ever been). “Fear can have so many faces. We can never really escape from the things that cause us to be afraid. For everyone we secure ourselves against, there will be another waiting to take its place. The world is not under our control. So it all comes down to learning to trust God.” Really convicted me that it wasn’t really about my specific fears and trying to talk myself down from them and over-researching on the internet and reminding myself of the science. No, it was actually something broken inside me. It wasn’t risk factors from the outside. The OCD strategies helped enormously in fighting my fear on a practical level, but I also needed this heart-level truth as well.

    Anyway, just really related to a lot of what you were saying in this post 🙂

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