“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1
I recently met a student who is a doctor who specializes in palliative care. She is going to the U.S. for a medical conference soon and wanted some help asking and answering questions in English. She had some concerns about her classes with another English teacher, so I made sure to pray so that I could meet her needs during our lessons together. During the lesson, she mentioned that in Japan, it is common for the doctor to withhold information about a patient’s terminal illness. This is all done at the request of the patient or the patient’s family. She, however, would rather be up front and honest with her patients, but in her experience, many of her patients choose not to learn of their condition. She recently learned from another American that in the U.S., patients are always told of their terminal condition and prefer it this way. This baffled her to the point of distraction. We couldn’t focus on the questions she wanted help with for her conference because she spent so much time trying to understand why Americans would want to know if they had a terminal illness. We talked about the patient’s right to know and how patients in the U.S. are actively involved in the decisions concerning their health and treatment and that the only way to make informed decisions with the doctor is to be informed by the doctor. She understood all of this, but her question persisted.
It was about this time that I realized she was looking for a deeper answer, so I brought up the concept of hope. I explained that even though people hear bad news or news that make their situation appear hopeless, they can sometimes find a way to hold on to hope that something will change. She brought up the taboo topic of religion. She was under the impression that everyone in America is a Christian. Obviously I knew that wasn’t true, so we looked up some statistics and learned that about 83% of Americans identify as Christians. She wondered aloud if the reason American’s have hope is because they are Christian. I said the reason Christians have hope is because of faith, so we talked about that a bit. She asked why people would have faith or hope, even though they knew they were going to die in a few months? She gave me an example of one of her patients who opted to learn of his condition and decided to have faith that he would beat his illness. This patient tried many different treatments and medicines, but in the end, he still died. She said his faith in his treatment and medicine failed him. I told her that the difference between that man’s faith and the faith of a Christian is that we put our faith in God, not medicine.
We talked more about hope and faith until we ran out of time. Because I was at work and work has rules, I couldn’t really get into what I wanted to say to her. What I saw in her was God opening a crack for her to gain understanding of who He is. Hope and faith can only be fully understood through the spirit of God. People can have all kinds of hope and faith, but if it is not directed towards the right source, it doesn’t carry much weight.
My prayer for her and many like her is that she continue to ask questions, to seek the truth. I pray that the Lord will place her in the path of others who can answer her questions with godly and spiritually led responses. Additionally, I pray that we all continue to talk to God and to get full on our knowledge of Him so that when we are approached, we dip into that reserve to provide the needed spiritual guidance that others crave.