Taken from In the Shadow of Death, by Abraham Kuyoer, reprinted in 1994 by Old Paths Publications. Published with permission.

THE physician has in the lives of many an all but too large a place, to which sometimes cleave sad remembrances, yea, which sometimes gave rise to bitter conflict of faith.

And this also Scripture intends, that you should consider, and therefore puts before us ever and again those tragic words from the narrative of the woman who had an issue of blood: “There was a woman, who had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grown worse” (Mark 5:25-26).

Cutting words, and which to this day find their sad application. There are still those in all lands, who, going about with an hidden or incurable disease, have tried now one and again another physician, ever and again hoping that he would heal them, and who every time again were disappointed. They often suffered, much, and underwent all sorts of artificial treatments and subjected themselves to all sorts of rules of life, and swallowed all sorts of medicine. And yet in the end their case was no different from that of this woman: much pay, no betterment, and not infrequently a further decline.

Herein you should not exaggerate. For over against these sad cases there are a thousand others, in which the medical profession succeeded, in bringing about wonderful recoveries. Especially in our times medical science accomplishes great results. And healing of diseases, reports of which are frequently abroad, fill you with amazement.

The fact however remains none the less true, that also the medical science all too frequently proves to be a broken reed. And the bitter complaint and disappointment with respect to many physicians, is by no means always unfounded.

It is true, that the poor, not infrequently, are treated more hastily and carelessly, than the man of money. It cannot be denied that more than one woman died in childbed from an infection, communicated to her by the doctor. It is, alas, so, that many a doctor falls short in a proper investigation of the real character of the disease, and thereby applies a wrong medication. The list of complaints against doctors might be lengthened considerably.

But he who stands right in his faith, raises no objection against medical science, neither does he find fault with God, for allowing medical science to render us such imperfect service.

All relief and recovery, and this is incredibly much, which medical science brings us, is pure grace, that comes to us from the compassion of God.

By our sin we have appointed unto ourselves nothing save sickness and death.

And that which breaks that power of sickness and death for a time, or at least in part, is a free gift of your God, a balsam which he drops into the wound, which you yourself inflicted.

WE must be governed by men, and how loud the complaint about all sorts of mistakes on the part of the Government. By men the Gospel must be ministered unto us, and what suffering Christ’s church has endured through all ages by reason of the heresies and highnesses and slovenlinesses of preachers. So must medical science be applied by men, by sinful men like our rulers and preachers, and is it then to be wondered at, that they also, who practice medicine among us fall short in all sorts of ways, and time and again disappoint you?

Has not God ordained, that of every one hundred men in any calling only very few are excellent, very many mediocre, and not a few beneath the same? Is not this true of all callings and positions? Why then should your doctors be an exception to this rule?

And as regards all sorts of sinful practices with your physicians, surely they are there. But with your mayors, lawyers, preachers, house-mothers and dependents are there no sundry sins of overestimation of self-importance, of careless dealings, of selfish motives and so much more?

And, if so, why then should your physicians make an exception to this general human rule?

We grant you, they are no better, but they are certainly no worse than other people. There can only a few among them be brilliant, and to all sorts of sins they are subject even as you.

And the fact remains which cannot be denied: God has given you medical science as a gift of His compassion, but He lets it be ministered unto you by imperfect and always sinful men.

THUS the snag for the faith consists in this alone, that again and again we separate the Lord our God and His gift, and sometimes place them one over against the other.

With diseases of known and less serious character, it is trust in the doctor alone, and there is no calling upon God. When it assumes more serious aspects, and the art of the physician falls short, refuge is sought in prayer and others are asked to intercede.

And this antithesis God’s child must not maintain.

That was the sin of King Asa, of whom it is written so sharply: Yet in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians (II Chron. 16:12).

And this must not be. This is godless. So doing you slight your Father Who is in heaven.

No, His is every medicament, which He created, and which He allowed man to discover, and His likewise the art and the science, the discretion and the insight, wherewith He has enriched the physician.

Medical science is no human, and far less an evil, demoniacal art, but a means given of God in His compassion to man to fight against sickness and death.

It is therefore a spiritual mistake to think: “I will call no physician and swallow no medicine, but I will pray, and without means God can heal me.” For to keep you in life, God the Lord has no need of food. So you might just as well say: “I will buy no food, and refrain from nourishment. God can keep me in life.” And so He can, but He does not do so, because He Himself has ordained it otherwise, and has said: “In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread.”

And even as God makes bread grow, so He created that multitude of herbs and drugs, which stop all sorts of disease in your body, and it is He, Who in that domain also endows His Aholiabs with knowledge.

Only, woe to you, if you use medical science apart from God, and do not pray that He bless it to your good, and do not give thanks, when He has so blessed it.

And woe likewise to the physician, who instead of ministering this gift of God as a priest of mercy, counts without God, and proudly boasts, that his power and cunningness of his hand has wrought it.

THERFORE let the people, that fear God, be not too impatient with the sometimes brutal unbelief of many doctors. God’s children themselves in this matter have all too often set doctors the pace in unbelief.

Forget not, to our physicians, the temptation to fall away from God, is very great. Their study is almost altogether material. The school, in which they are trained, has no knowledge of God. And, also, a very great power is put into their hand.

And what has the church of Christ, what have believing people done, to cause our doctors to be humble before God?

Is it not almost nothing? Worse yet, by smallness of faith and by unbelief on the part of many a child of God on his sick-bed, many a doctor has lost all reverence for the faith.

This can and shall become different.

Also upon medical science before long the breath of the Christian life shall go forth. Christ and the physician shall not always remain separated.

But even if it comes to this, do not think that therefore sin shall be brought to nought in our doctors, nor that therefore their imperfection shall be ended.

Even then many a physician will make mistakes. Even then carelessness and neglect will occur. Even then many a patient will not be healed of the doctor. And even then many a sick person will die, who, spoken humanly, with better treatment might have been spared.

But though this compels you, in the choice of your physician not to go to work too light-heartedly, yet let this not shake your faith, neither let it embitter you.

For you know, that the gift of God, which you call medical science, cannot be ministered unto you by angels, and that, since it must be ministered to you by men, you find your own human imperfection and sin back again also in your physicians.

But above all, by calling in a doctor, you do not fall beyond the reach of God’s providence.

Whatever the doctor may do, it is His hidden will, that becomes evident, and His counsel that shall stand.

No physician, whoever he be, can take an ell from the length of anyone’s life or add to it.

And therefore do not embitter your heart by such troublous thoughts and poison not your soul.

The Lord reigns, and it is He alone, Who cuts off the thread of our life and the thread of the life of our loved one.