For the last three of weeks, I’ve been talking about a recent visit to a 5th Grade classroom, and the posters I noticed that the teacher had used to decorate her class. One poster was titled: “The Questions You Should Be Answering.”
And the questions were these:
- What are you doing?
- What are you supposed to be doing?
- What’s the difference between those two things?
- What are you going to do about that reality?
Last week, I talked about the second question, What are you supposed to be doing? Especially in light of all the worrisome news confronting the entire world every day. But today, we’ll focus on question number 3: “What’s the difference between what I’m doing, and what I’m supposed to be doing?”
My friend is a Christian physician at one of the most prestigious medical centers in the world. I talk with him every week, as part of an early-morning coaching time we have scheduled. Much of our conversation in the past few weeks has revolved around the chaotic scene he faces every day, with so many desperately ill patients needing treatment, so many critical decisions to be made, the long hours, the short nights, the interrupted sleep.
And a gnawing, nagging question that seems to hang over his life. Maybe it hangs over your life, too?
Am I ‘measuring up?’ Is there a huge gap between what I’m doing — how I’m actually living my life — and what God expects of me, or what I should be doing. Surely, God must have some opinion about me. What’s the difference between what I’m doing … and what I’m supposed to be doing?
As my friend, the Christian doctor and I talked this week, his wondering was not about his practice of medicine, or his professionalism. It was, rather, his frustration with what he called ‘trusting God in the hard place.’ He found himself worrying about the devastation in the Stock Market, the nervousness he was experiencing about what he called the ‘what ifs.’ What if the medical system totally collapses? What if so many healthcare professionals get sick there’s no one to care for patients? So many ‘what if’ questions, and so much disappointment in him because he said he ‘knew he should be trusting God to take care of things,’ but he found a great discrepancy between what he ‘should be’ doing and what he was actually doing with regard to anxiety and worry.
We continued to talk, and he discovered that what he was really wrestling with, as he contemplated his own worry, was his felt need to avoid … pain. As a doctor, he was very familiar with patients who would, perhaps, need some surgical intervention, who would invariably ask, as part of the decision about whether to do the surgery or not: “How much pain is involved?” How would the doctor treat the pain, ameliorate the effects of the pain? Would there be medicine for the pain? My doctor friend said, that upon reflection, the biggest challenge he faced in resting secure in God’s sovereign plan was the unknown of the pain.
As we walk together as a community, there are certainly many unknowns. And acknowledging our aversion and resistance to the very real presence of pain in our circumstances is not something foreign to Jesus. If anyone knows what it’s like to face the fear of pain, Jesus knows. Alone, he prayed. He and His Father having one of those one-of-a-kind Father/Son talks about that cup of pain He was about to be forced to drink from.
During this challenging time, my friend the doctor has decided to re-read the account of Jesus, in the Garden, and how He addressed his fear of pain. You can find one account of the story in Mark 14. A perfect example of doing what only He could do, in obedience and love. An incredible example of how to face … the fear of pain that was sure to come.