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WIMD Pulse - February 2014

Prepare the Way, Remove Every Obstruction
by Dr. Amy M. Givler

“And it shall be said, ‘Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people’s way’” (Isaiah 57:14, ESV).

When patients of mine have sciatica, they are miserable.

But sometimes it’s hard to convince them that their leg pain – or foot pain, or toe pain – actually originates in their back. “My back doesn’t that hurt much, Doc. It’s the leg that’s hurting so bad.”

Sciatica is like that.

Though the nerve is being pinched in the spine, the pain is felt far away. I often send such patients to our hospital’s physical therapist, who both treats the back in the PT department and teaches back exercises for patients to do at home. He tells me his goal is to move the pain closer to its source.

Sometimes, in the midpoint of therapy, the back is hurting much worse than the legs ever did. This may seem like a step backward for patients, but it’s actually a sign of progress. Only when the pain centralizes to its starting place can the injury heal.

Emotional pain is like sciatica. My patients come to me with headaches or heartburn or insomnia, but I try to remember these may be “referred” symptoms. I want to stay alert to what may be the real root of the “pain” they are feeling.

So, as part of my workup for medical problems, I ask about emotions. Is there fear – fear that his boss is threatening to fire him? Or anger – anger that her siblings aren’t helping to care for their aging parents? Or is he feeling overwhelmed, and has chosen to escape his situation with drugs or alcohol rather than face it?

And if I can, over many visits, I try to dig even deeper, asking about children who are rebelling, a husband who is unfaithful, a childhood that was filled with abuse.

Yes, as a family doctor I want my patients to have healed bodies. But most of all, I want them to have healed hearts. And Jesus is the Great Healer of hearts. I want to point people to Him. If the pain they are experiencing is “referred” pain from deeper emotional issues, then I want to uncover the true source of the pain so that deep and lasting healing can occur.

During most of my visits with patients, I make very small headway at pointing people to these deeper issues. Sometimes, I am sad to say, I don’t even try. But, with God enabling me, I want each visit to be another step in my patients’ journey toward health – genuine health. Or, as Isaiah states it, another bit of “building up,” another “obstruction” removed.

Precious God, please open my eyes to the needs of the patients I will be seeing today. I can only see the outside, the obvious things. But you see the heart. Give me the grace to be your mouthpiece, your hands, your feet. In the name of your Son Jesus, the Great Healer. Amen.

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