A Spoonful of Courage for the Sick and Suffering, Part 2

Dr. Craig von BuseckBy Dr. Craig von Buseck8 Minutes

CVB: How did these stories come to you? How, how did you find them?

Charles: These are real stories. I’ve tweaked them a little bit and changed the names for confidentiality purposes, but they’re my patients. I’ve seen some of them for 10 or 20 years. They’ve all demonstrated a God honoring attitude in their illness in some or fashion. Some are just the opposite. Some are negative stories that we can learn from other people’s mistakes and live better. They are everyday people that have demonstrated God’s goodness and faithfulness in their circumstances.

CVB: Can you share a couple that stand out?

Charles: One day I was on call in the trauma unit when a college student came in. She had just been admitted to college and she wanted to go to medical school become a doctor. She had a bad closed head injury and there was nothing anybody could do. She was there in the emergency room dying. How do we convey this information to a family who an hour ago had this daughter with all this potential. We went through this process with the family. I came back in the room and they began to pray for her. They were Christians and they had gathered around the bedside in the emergency room. She had tubes coming out everywhere and her blood pressure was dropping and fluids were draining from her head. And they began to pray. I didn’t want to bother them. I just kind of went about my business and all of a sudden the grandma stopped me and said, “Doctor, would you pray with us?”

CVB: Wow.

Charles: I was a little bit reluctant, but I joined the circle and grandma began to cry. I’ll never forget her prayers. She said, “She’s perfect. God, thank you now that she’s perfect as she’s entering into your presence.”

I opened one eye and looked at the girl and she wasn’t perfect in my eyes. She was dying. But for a mom to have that kind of faith to see that, it changed my perspective. God can definitely do the impossible, but sometimes faith is also believing and accepting the inevitable – that this is God’s will. The Bible says we see the unseen and we walk by faith, not by sight.

CVB: You have to speak with patients who are in some of the most frightening medical circumstances. It is scary people say the words cancer or heart disease. Have you had conversations with any of your patients prior to their surgery? Have they talked to you about spirituality?

Charles: There are so many things going through your mind when you have cancer. As a doctor, I’ve learned that giving someone a ton of information sometimes is not good because they’re not going to remember it. They’re dealing with a difference at an existential set of questions like, “What’s going to be the risk,” “What am I going to go through?” “Is this really going to change my life?” What I tell people is to try to go back and focus on the facts of things from a spiritual perspective. You know that God loves us. He’s never going to give up on us. He’s there for us in the longterm and that he has a way of making good come from the worst kind of evil.

CVB: Romans 8:28.

Charles: Yes. Romans 8:28 and also 29 – that He is working in us to change us into the image of His son. Sometimes we can’t explain these things. If they are Christians, I try to remind them of the opportunities that they, that they can have when they suffer. So often we don’t think about that. Suffering is an opportunity to be intimate with God. It’s an invitation to intimacy. As a former chaplain, you know that sometimes it seems like when you come into a room and a person knows the Lord, God’s presence is almost palpable.

CVB: Oh yes, definitely.

Charles: Often it’s the difficult circumstances that bring that on. The Bible says that God is our refuge and strength. He is a very present help in a time of need. He’s a very present help in time of need. He’s always there to draw on, but it seems like we don’t have that sense of need when things are going great. Suffering gives us an opportunity to be intimate. It’s also an opportunity to grow.

It’s also an opportunity though, to be able to influence people. I see it all the time. There are people that may be alienated, or maybe it’s an estranged child, or whatever. They listen and they’re watching how people respond in difficult circumstances.

CVB: That’s right.

Charles: They’re watching all the time, but they’re really watching when we’re going through a health crisis to see if this God that we believe in is real.

CVB: Amen. So when someone finishes this book and closes the last page, what message do you want them to walk away with?

Charles: I want them to focus back on the Lord. It’s so easy to get unfocused and distracted. I want readers to focus upward instead of inward – and then outward. I want them to begin to realize that God may bring this suffering into their life for a certain reason.

We all know the story of Peter on the boat, then walking on the water, and the parallel there to the storms of life that we face. But it’s interesting to recognize that Peter sank because he got distracted. He saw the winds and waves, and Peter lost his faith when he lost his focus. If we can just keep our focus where it needs to be, whatever happens, God will walk us through it and help us.

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