The life of a psychiatrist can be odd. Today, seven patients were scheduled. Two late-canceled, two no-showed. That left one who got sick, and two who came. No-shows were rare during the first decade I practiced medicine—probably no more than three or four. But the chaos of summer, and the mores of 2018 combined to create long moments of sitting in the sun and listening to the creek’s meandering, bird songs tumbling from tree tops, and bees zumming, hard at work as I sat quietly. Contemplation came also—more than is typical for a meditating healer.
A lovely woman who sought healing prayer revolved through my mind. She came for prayer, and pray we did, earnestly, fervently, and with deep conviction that God’s will would prevail and healing would happen. I had seen so much spiritual, physical, and emotional healing, including my own, that I forgot to ask God his intentions. I wanted what I wanted, and failed to remember that I was merely a channel of His light.
On the day of a follow-up MRI, she came asking for prayer. This MRI would determine her response to chemotherapy and if she were eligible for further treatment. She was so scared she could hardly sit as we lay hands on her and beseeched God to cast out cancer and fear. We prayed for peace for His will, and for the terror to subside so she could enter that loud cantankerous machine that was to determine her future.
Although I prayed for His will, I didn’t mean it. I thought I did, until she died. And then I questioned. Didn’t her children need her? We pondered the truth of her diagnosis and prognosis as we interceded. “Don’t listen to your doctors. Listen to your God,” I told her, confident that she could outlive their damning prognostic predictions, as I had.
We met for coffee and talked about wigs, cannabinoids, our children, and death. She knew from the beginning that she was dying, after two months of bleeding, while the doctors told her nothing was wrong. And she knew, as her daughter scolded her when she violated her vegan diet that was supposed to cure her. She knew, even as we prayed over her. But I denied.
So when the text came that she had died, I struggled. No matter how many times I extolled the mysteries of healing, and how God always works miracles—sometimes physically, often spiritually, but He always heals—I was stuck. Refusing her death, I questioned the God I loved and worshipped so freely. My simplistic theory, which I didn’t even know I held until the message came, was that if it worked for me, it would work for her. Wasn’t she brilliant and capable? Didn’t she have myriads of friends pleading, and hundreds praying? How could doctors at two leading cancer hospitals work on her case and come up with nothing? Couldn’t God just grant one reprieve in a universe so filled with mourning and lamentation?
But no, He didn’t save her physical life. And then after I questioned God, I blamed myself. Why hadn’t I gone to the hospital to pray? Why hadn’t she asked for me to come? God hadn’t done enough. I hadn’t done enough. And if we had pulled together, we could have lifted this mighty weight and created life. When death came, I discovered that the answers that seemed so evident in theory lacked everything in practice. And so quietly, while on my knees beseeching him, God reminded me that His way was good enough, big enough, sufficient enough, and that questioning only deepened confusion and pain.
“Be still and know that I am your God, even if it doesn’t always make sense,” He whispered in my ear, as I hung above the creek, rocking in the hammock.
This I took as truth, both His and mine.
Message: I took what was God’s job and tried to make it mine. When I heard about her death, I doubted myself, healing prayer, God, and her doctors. It was a terrible time of struggle and denial. A time of beseeching God for understanding, while on my knees in regret, suffering, and confusion. God greeted me with a different message: Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am. Be still and know that I. Be still and know that. Be still and know. Be still. Be. (Psalm 46:10)