Below is Part 4 in the 2014 Pastoral Care Week (Oct. 19-25) series here at CBFblog.
By Stacy Sergent
People come to the hospital where I serve as a chaplain because they want to be made well. They have become sick or gotten hurt, maybe quite suddenly, or maybe so gradually that they barely noticed for a long time. But now things have gotten serious enough to bring them here for healing. They want the help of doctors, nurses, radiologists, physical therapists, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and others. What many of them come to realize as well is that they have a need for healing that is not only physical. And that’s where my ministry begins.
I am thankful that many healthcare systems today are coming to understand the need to care for the whole person, not just address a physical diagnosis. Chaplains like myself help patients and their families address the important questions of spiritual well-being that so often go hand-in-hand with physical or mental illness and trauma. We are in good company here. After all, Jesus often asked questions of the recipients of his healing miracles.
“Do you want to be made well?”
“Do you believe that I am able to do this for you?”
“Who touched me?”
“What do you want me to do for you?”
Like Jesus, chaplains can ask questions that guide those we serve to think about issues of change and fear, faith and doubt, isolation and community, choice and empowerment, forgiveness and love. All these things can contribute to healing. Even in those cases where physical cure is not possible, spiritual well-being is not an unattainable goal.
I wish I could give the young victim of a motorcycle crash the use of his legs again. I can’t. But I can help him grieve the loss and find hope in new goals for the future.
I wish I could remove the cancer from a woman’s brain. I can’t. But I can affirm her faith that God is and will continue to be with her, and assist her in compiling a book of memories for her grandchildren.
I wish I could bring back the only child of grieving parents. I can’t. But I can cry with them and hear their story and speak her name in a prayer of blessing, acknowledging her as a precious child of God whose time on earth was unfairly short.
I wish I could lift the cloud of depression from a man’s life. I can’t. But I can encourage him in his search for the right medication, and help him look for meaning and choose gratitude in defiance of the darkness.
It is difficult work, and there are times when it feels like what I’m doing is not nearly enough. But as the image for this year’s Pastoral Care Week reminds me, even the smallest actions create ripples affecting everyone we meet. One encounter can have a far-reaching impact, touching the lives of others in ways we could never have imagined. That is part of the miracle of chaplaincy.
Stacy N. Sergent is a CBF-endorsed chaplain in South Carolina. Follow Stacy on Twitter @StacyNSergent and read her blog at www.stacynsergent.com.