Lessons from the Epicenter
By: Christian Medical & Dental Associations®
May 21, 2020
by Emily Scire
Last weekend I had the opportunity to join InterMed NYC, a network of Christian physicians and trainees in the tri-state area, to check in with CMDA students and residents and learn about the needs of their community. What was quickly apparent was that while their experiences of the pandemic varied, they were all still dealing with the same uncertainties and anxieties many of us have experienced at this time. They spoke of the challenges of learning from home; of not being able to work and relax with friends or family; of being asked to step up to a new position outside of their specialties; of seeing death in their communities and in the hospital; of grieving lost graduations and celebrations; of having to take on the emotional burden of patients; and of feeling isolated. And in the background of all of these experiences was the fear of seeing a loved one become ill or of not having the PPE to protect oneself.
Two truths of coping with this new “normal” emerged during the conversation: (1) the importance of continuing to process and 2) the importance of asking God to help us see His purposes in this time. By having this check in with Dr. David Kim, one of InterMed NYC’s leaders, they were already beginning to process these last months at home and on the wards. The vulnerability that is required at such times is both courageous and necessary for our well-being. In medicine, we talk about being stoic and not showing our emotions to patients or colleagues. And yet, numbness, which can feel like a protection for us, can be so toxic to the soul. Are we not called to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, ESV)? In our conversations, physicians mentioned crying and seeing colleagues cry during shifts in the face of tragedy and overwhelming circumstances. We agreed this is actually part of being a healer, by empathizing with others’ sorrows and acknowledging our own. We were given our emotions to lead us to reach out to God and others, and we reflected that all aspects of one’s health, be they physical, mental, emotional, relational or spiritual, affect one another. We all have to find someone to share our burdens with during this time, to keep us honest about our health and to encourage and direct us with the grace that is needed.
In processing the chaos, our NYC brothers and sisters also reflected on what God is showing them. Many thoughts were shared—the value of relationships, and time with loved ones; the need for humility, for even in the U.S. there are still diseases we cannot cure, and even as doctors we can fall ill; the value of small things, that everyone has a role to play in supporting one another. A recurring theme was that we may have a hard time when things feel out of control, but God is sovereign, and He is still working in and through people and circumstances to guide and strengthen. Many try to deal with the uncertainty by controlling what they can in their lives, and politicians equally try to convince us they have things handled. And yet, we can thank God that we can turn to Him and offer our problems to Him, for we know that “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving,” we can let our “requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard (our) hearts and (our) minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, ESV). In this way, we can be delivered from the fear that binds us to our present circumstances, and to grasp the opportunities to serve where God places us, be it in the hospital or at home.
Finally, the group reflected on learning to rest in one’s identity, rather than one’s works, at a time when much work is being disrupted. I’ve experienced this myself, struggling to appreciate sleep and time with family when I would have originally been using this time to finish important clinical rotations. As Dr. Kim explained, “It is not about what we do, it is about who we are and what we are becoming.” We all can ask ourselves right now, who does God want me to be? We know that “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV). We have been created by God for good works, even works during this challenging time. And so, we can find our certainty, and our rest, in Him and His plans.
Ultimately, through my time with InterMed NYC, I am reminded that we have never been in control of our lives, pandemic or no pandemic, nor is there ever true security in finding our identity and value in what we can accomplish. Let this year’s lessons lead us to trust more fully in God and His path for our lives and our identity in Christ as we return to normal routines and face any challenges the future may hold.
Emily Scire is a 3rd year Medical Student, U. of Pennsylvania, CMDA Northeast Student Representative.