It’s time to open again our Healthcare Toolbox, which contains practical tools for following Christ in our daily practice of medicine. With a little adaptation, I think you’ll find that these tools have a far broader application, too.
Today’s tool is the Declaration of Forgiveness, which I came across while reading “Gray Matter” by neurosurgeon Dr. David Levy. The book chronicles his journey from being an agnostic to gradually incorporating faith into his practice, and the amazing results he’s experienced.
By way of background, when Dr. Levy senses that a patient is troubled, or, that his/her complications are inexplicable based upon medical considerations alone, he tries to explore other, non-medical causes. Since our spiritual and physical health impact one another greatly, dealing with these non-medical factors is part of providing excellent clinical care.
After explaining this connection, and clearly asking if they would like to talk about these things, a provider can ask if there are people they need to forgive. If there are, the provider can help them talk to God about it right there. He/she can walk them through significant wrongs that were committed against them, releasing the offender for each one, remembering that God alone is Judge.
After that process, Dr. Levy mentions that troubled relationships are usually a two-way street, and gives his patients a chance to confess their own failings and be forgiven by God.
Sometimes his patients’ symptoms are healed, other times they improve, while sometimes no discernible change takes place. But in nearly every case, his patients experience new hope, improved relationships, and a desire to connect/reconnect with God. It’s simply part of the bigger picture in providing whole-person care.
Obviously, as a neurosurgeon, Dr. Levy’s situation may be different than your own. No doubt, there are particular obstacles that need to be faced, and overcome, wherever you find yourself. But coming alongside patients and helping them set aside bitterness may be a key part of their treatment, and the Declaration of Forgiveness is one practical way to help.