For two years now, I have been the office assistant at a small compounding pharmacy. I’ve learned that the pharmacists I work for have doctorates, which was new information to me. People come in all day long to pick up their medications, but they also seek medical counsel for everything from rashes to pain in their feet to hair loss. One elderly woman lifted up her shirt one day, because she wanted to show me the external bladder device she just got. It’s an interesting world.
Often people will start to rattle off to me their medical questions, while I’m ringing up their medication at the front counter, and I quickly interrupt them and point to the pharmacist. “You don’t want your medical advice from the office assistant,” I tell them.
I eavesdrop a lot in my job, because health is fascinating to me. I’m always curious to know what the ailment is and what the pharmacist might suggest as treatment. It’s a job where I’m constantly learning new information. One of the pharmacists almost always begins by asking the patient, “What have you tried?” That question sticks in my mind.
Sometimes there are a variety of solutions to one problem. Sometimes a combination of treatments is necessary. Sometimes a person needs to stop doing something or add on to what he was already trying or come at the problem from a completely different direction. By hearing what has already been done that has not helped, the pharmacist gets to know the patient in a short time and starts to see what has been lacking in treatment. There’s something fascinating to me about diagnostics, where the person with expertise works to discern the patient’s symptoms, mindset, and actions, in order to see what kind of help he needs.
It was brilliant that when God sent Jesus to save the world, he sent him as a healer. For 10 years I transcribed medical reports, and now I’ve spent two years in a pharmacy, so I have seen how sick people are physically. But I’m also a pastor’s wife and am married to a counselor, so I also see how sick we can be on the inside. We need a healer.
So how about that pharmacy question for the ailments of our hearts and minds: what have you tried?
For your loneliness, what have you tried already?
For your sorrow, what have you tried already?
For your anxiety, what have you tried already?
For your anger, what have you tried already?
What hasn’t worked? Maybe that’s as important a question as finding out what will work.
One of the favorite Bible passages I’ve taught to children Is Jeremiah 10:5, after the LORD has told his people not to learn from the nations around them who craft worthless idols. “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm, nor can they do any good.” They are worthless providers.
I tried to explain Siri to my three-year-old grandson the other day, after asking her to send a text on my iPhone.
“Were you talking to that girl?” he asked.
“Well, it’s not really a girl, it’s a phone,” I said.
“Grandma, phones don’t have eyes or mouths. They can’t talk,” he said.
Same with idols, which are all of the things we try and the places we go that we think will heal our internal brokenness. No eyes to see. No ears to hear. No hands to assist. No arms to carry. Lifeless pieces of wood that can do no good.
“But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King.” (Jeremiah 10:10a) We need a living remedy. We need truth–efficacious answers that heal forever.
I’ve worked at the pharmacy long enough to hear many people say thank you to the pharmacists, who have directed them to new medications and have helped them finally get better after they had tried so many other treatments. I give the same thanks to the Living God, who has healed me from so much that was sick in my heart. He is an accessible and completely competent Physician who never fails in diagnosis and treatment.
For your weary heart and your confused mind and your gaping soul, what have you tried?