“May we be prisoners of hope in an evidence based world.” – Pastor Jon Middendorf
Last Sunday I got to hear an excellent sermon out of Genesis 15. God comes to the very old, very infertile Abram and Sarai and promises them something they have no shred of proof for…a child. And he offers no real evidence or proof that He can do it. It’s a beautiful passage where God makes a covenant with Abram by walking him through a suzerain treaty: where God essentially says I will risk my life for you. There is no evidence. Only faith.
Pastor Jason operates most of his daily life in this faith based world. He prays for the sick, welcomes the newborn, brings communion to the homebound. He doesn’t need statistics or textbooks to tell him how to do this business, he uses faith. Me, I operate, mostly, in an evidence based world. You see, health care providers rely on evidence to try and make the best decision possible for our patients. Some clinical scenarios have a tremendous amount of medical evidence that back them. For example, we used evidence to determine when to screen for cervical cancer, to know whether or not to give antibiotics prior to performing a surgery or what kind of treatment is best for certain types of cancer. Medical evidence can change; sometimes what we thought was true is shown not to be through rigorous scientific studies. Sometimes two scientific studies will contradict each other. Sometimes there is very little evidence to guide certain clinical situations. As physicians we try to use the best available evidence and our best clinical judgement to guide care.
But there are places in life where there is no evidence. That’s where faith steps in. Sometimes people don’t need evidence…they need hope. You can tell a mother who just experience a miscarriage what the evidence says about her chances of future successful pregnancy but she doesn’t want numbers…she wants hope. When you diagnose someone with cancer you can give them evidence based survival rates but what they want is hope. Faith and hope is when you reach across the exam room and give a hug, a handshake or a tissue.
Where hope and evidence intersect is where medicine really happens. To use the best evidence available to take the care of your patient and then to give them hope that you will do your best. To have faith that what you do each day adds value to your community and the hope that your best efforts will bring health to your patients. To commit to be a prisoner of hope that believes they can make a difference in the world.