“Daktari,1 I really wish I could pray, but I just can’t!” my patient exclaimed in frustration. I was intrigued and stopped typing my medical notes to hear more.
Holy Spirit, I sense your cue now. Please give me just the right words that my patient needs to hear.
Having grown up in a Christian home, my father (who happened to be a physician like myself) always reminded me to look for a hook in my patients’ conversation that I could latch onto to introduce them to Christ. Being more laid-back and reserved than he was, I always found this to be a daunting task. Sharing Christ out of the blue with a total stranger? What would I say? What would they think of me? Would I end up being embarrassed? What if I fumbled my words? Would if they thought less of me?
On this day, however, I felt unusual boldness and a sense of urgency to share a word of healing with my patient Monica.2 She was an elderly woman and had been referred because of complications due to HIV infection. Being severely immunosuppressed, she suffered from several diseases that other doctors had failed to treat for many years. She went on to recount her history of separation from her unfaithful husband and her subsequent sinful past with other men more than a decade ago.
I turned to respond to her spiritual need, which was even more glaringly obvious than her physical one.
“I understand that you cannot pray. However, if you were to attempt to pray, what would you like to say?” I gently prodded, hoping to gain more insight into her situation. Monica burst into tears. “I would beg Him for forgiveness. I have messed up my life. I just want to be whole again. I want to be a better person,” she cried as her daughter handed her some tissue paper.
I was reminded of the story of Jesus bringing healing to the paralytic by declaring that his sins were forgiven. He knew that healing of the soul was necessary for the paralytic’s full recovery. “Monica, I assure you that God has heard the cry of your heart, and He is faithful and just to forgive you right now!” I turned to her as I shared with her some verses on the assurance of forgiveness (e.g., 1 John 1:9). “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!” (Ps. 32:1).3
Monica’s countenance lit up as her tears dried, and one of the widest smiles I have ever seen brightened her face. The heavy burden of guilt in her heart had been lifted and had been replaced with peace from above. Indeed, Christ specializes in exchanging our heavy burdens with light, easy packages of rest (Matt. 11:28, 29). It then dawned on me why the Lord had our paths cross that afternoon. Not only did He want to exchange His daughter’s guilt with His peace, He also wanted to replace my fear of witnessing with His boldness and the right words to say just at the time I would need them (cf. Luke 12:12). He specializes in divine exchanges.