November 19, 2012

Ministry by the Faint of Heart

I am at my worst in a medical setting. I received smelling salts for dizziness when I toured the maternity ward. Another time, I accidentally bit the hand of a technician when I passed out at the dentist.  I felt quite anxious after seeing a disease outbreak depicted on the in flight movie of a transcontinental flight. On another occasion, I spent time on an opthamologist's office floor, to prevent fainting, after what some people would call a routine visit.  I am learning, with God's help, how to navigate this non life-threatening condition called a vasovagal reaction.

How can a woman with an adverse physical response to almost every medical situation learn how to minister to the sick? Answer: with God's help. This advice applies to other situations where a woman is fainthearted about a ministry task, such as resolving conflict with a church member, sharing the Gospel with a co-worker or taking the lead in a particular ministry.

What does the Bible say about it? The Bible encourages godly behavior, even when it is difficult. In my case, I can't avoid what Jesus says in Matthew 25:40. When I visit the sick or welcome the stranger, I am doing it for Him, which is an important work of ministry.

Am I called to do this? Certain callings are not for everyone, according to Ephesians 4:11. God only calls some to be pastors, for example. However, there are other areas of service, like worship and spreading the Gospel, that everyone can and should contribute to in some way. If I neglect taking some part in caring for the sick because I am not good at it, I am acting the same way as a woman who stops attending worship services because her singing is off-key.

Is there more than one way to participate? When Nehemiah rebuilt the temple, there was something for everyone to do. Contributions, large and small, were needed to get the overall job done. Part of being engaged in the Lord's work is to learn my limits and seek to serve within them. With my vasovagal reaction, I can never be a surgeon, but I can be a driver for someone who had outpatient surgery. I can make meals, send cards and encourage caregivers. I discovered I can visit a hospital patient as long as I leave the room when the phlebotomist comes in.

Does God give strength to do things I didn't sign up for? Yes. When I minister in medical situations, I ask God to give grace to help me, according to Hebrews 4:16. And, He does. Even though I am susceptible to fainting, God's supernatural strength is with me in extraordinary times. He enabled me to stand beside the beds of disfigured, dying people. He held me up while I held a stillborn infant in my arms. He gave me freedom from queasiness while I freely cared for my husband after major surgery. God's grace is the only explanation for why I did not keel over during these times.

I will struggle with this condition all my life. However, limitations like these should not make me give up on the kind of ministry I fear the most. I cling to the promise of Isaiah 40:31. They who wait for the Lord shall walk and not faint.


  1. Sometimes my problems like this are rooted in sin (rather than an involuntary physical response.) I don't want to help with _____ or minister to people who are ____ because I have a bad attitude about it or them. Your points are equally useful for doing the right thing in the midst of a sin struggle.

  2. I can relate to your adverse reactions to medical situations! It made me smile. I did appreciate the advice for those of us that struggle with anything medically related. Thanks!


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