The Bible’s View of Suffering

March 27, 2017

262017sufferingHuman suffering is a universal problem. As nurses, we see plenty of it. We know there are no easy answers, so how do we address the problem of suffering?

People often treat Scripture like a manual, looking for a single clear response that explains the presence of evil and suffering. Brian Han Gregg thinks we should take a different approach. He explores twelve themes related to the issue of human suffering in his book, What Does the Bible Say About Suffering? by InterVarsity Press.

Here is an excerpt:

“A survey of the various biblical approaches to suffering makes it clear that the biblical authors seek to do more than help us understand the why of suffering. In fact, in many instances answering the question Why? seems to be of secondary concern to the biblical authors.

Rather, the focus seems to lie on God’s various responses to suffering. What is God doing through suffering? What is God doing to address suffering? What is God doing to defeat suffering? If these are the points of emphasis in the Bible, we would be wise to pay attention to them.

The reality is the Bible doesn’t tell us everything we might wish to know about suffering, but it doesn’t set us adrift either. The Bible simply keeps God front and center. God knows about suffering. God cares about suffering. God is at work against suffering. God reigns over suffering. God suffers. God will one day declare final victory over suffering.”

The problem of suffering is painful, complex, and mysterious. This book does not have any simple answers, but it may lead you to discover a different path on the journey through it.

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Become an NCF member and receive a 30% discount on all books from InterVarsity Press. Members also received the Journal of Christian Nursing which is loaded with biblically-based articles for nurses, including “Entering into Suffering: Becoming a Transformed and Transforming Healer” from JCN, Jan-March 2017 (1.5 credits).

Encouraging Nursing Students

March 24, 2017

3242017encourageWhen new students join the NCF chapter on their campus, they often ask, “What is NCF?” There are three words that capture the mission and vision of NCF on campus. NCF is a place where students and faculty can be encouraged, equipped, and empowered.

In this first blog post, we will focus on what it means that NCF is a place where students and faculty can be encouraged. Stressed-out students need over-all encouragement. But NCF also has the unique mission of encouraging spiritual growth. To accomplish this mission, many NCF chapters make Bible study the centerpiece of their meetings.

But NCF is not your ordinary Bible study. NCF is a community that encourages spiritual growth in the context of nursing school. This is why NCF publishes a variety of Bible studies that look at how our faith impacts nursing. In our newest series, Trusting God in Nursing School, we invite students to consider what the Bible says about anxiety, academic competition, and suffering. Ultimately, we want students and faculty to increasingly place their faith and hope in Jesus Christ.

Join us in praying for our 100+ NCF student chapters as they seek to encourage spiritual growth in the context of nursing school!

–Tim Lin, Student Ministries Director

Growing a Compassionate Heart

March 24, 2017

God calls us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8), but what does this look like for marginalized people in health care? Nurses and students gathered in Minnesota to explore how to represent Jesus Christ with a growing heart of compassion for the underserved in their communities.

The NCF group in the Twin Cities hosted 35 nurses and students for a soup supper and informative discussion led by Leya Didur, Twin Cities Urban Program Director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. The NCF seminar provided 1 CE credit.

Leya shared her vision for her work training students in cross-cultural urban experiences: “Throughout the Bible, from beginning to end, it is impossible not to see the theme of God calling his people to be concerned and care for the marginalized. Ultimately God wants to see all his children thrive and, as Christ’s followers, we can be active participants to bring about that thriving.”

Table groups first discussed the question, “What patients are marginalized in your work?” Then they explored barriers to providing quality care for marginalized individuals or communities.

A core component of the seminar looked at how Jesus had compassion on the people he met. Leya provided questions to ask when reading stories about Jesus engaging with people at the margins.

* How is this person marginalized in their community?

* What barriers does Jesus have to overcome or address to care for this person?

* How does Jesus provide compassionate holistic care for this person?

* How do others respond in this story?

The challenging question for nurses is how to grow in compassion and make an intentional effort to change. “It is critical to be honest with your starting point and the barriers you have,” Leya reminded the participants.

“We talked about the importance of receiving the love of Jesus for ourselves and taking care of ourselves,” said Mary Thompson, former director of Nurses Christian Fellowship. “This is at the heart of growing in compassion for others.”

Finally, Leya challenged nurses and nursing students to develop a plan for practical ways to grow in compassion and understanding for marginalized people. She suggested watching movies or reading books from a different perspective, or visiting a church of a different ethnicity or culture. The key factor is developing authentic relationships with others and loving them in Christ.

Mary Thompson is grateful to God for NCF ministry in the Twin Cities, MN, and for this new partnership with Leya as InterVarsity staff. “Through Leya’s excellent presentation, we are encouraged by the opportunities before us as followers of Jesus—in healthcare and in the community.”

As these nurses and students return to their daily lives, they take with them this reminder about the God they serve in nursing, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8). It’s a good word.

What About Moral Distress?

March 23, 2017

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Moral distress is huge in healthcare. We encounter moral distress when we believe that an action is right but, because of real or perceived constraints, we either cannot, or do not, take the action. Has this happened to you?

Moral distress has long been associated with negative consequences for both people and systems, leading to burnout and job dissatisfaction, or increased staff turnover and poor patient outcomes. Yet there have been few solutions proposed.

I am struck by the underlying spiritual aspects of moral distress. Spiritual, as in that search for what is right action, what helps us to do right, and how we deal with the distress of not doing right.

As Christians, God calls us to do the right thing. In the Bible, God delineates what is right. Being in right relationship with God, called righteousness, leads to doing right.

At the risk of oversimplifying complicated situations that are morally distressing, Scripture teaches that being in right relationship with God and seeking him will help us know the right thing to do, how to do it, and give moral courage. This isn’t about being dogmatic; it is about the small steps involved in taking right actions in everyday and crisis situations.

Countless times in my work as a nurse and now as the NCF Director, I have been grateful for time spent in Bible study and prayer that helped me learn what God teaches about right thinking and action and drew me close to Jesus.

As I encounter moral decisions, I ask myself, Does Scripture shed light here? When I need to speak up or advocate, I ask the Holy Spirit what to do, and for courage to do the right thing and speak right words (instead of walking away or reacting negatively). When I do the wrong thing, I ask forgiveness from God and colleagues. I don’t do the right thing every time, but God continues to teach me.

I am aware that complicated systems and relationships interfere with being able to do the right thing. I know figuring out the right thing to do is not always clear. But as Christian nurses, we have a Source to go to for wisdom and moral courage.

The issue of moral distress is near to my heart. For four years, I worked on a collaborative project with the American Journal of Nursing, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and School of Nursing, and representatives from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and the American Nurses Association. I encourage you to read our “Executive Summary: Transforming Moral Distress into Moral Resilience in Nursing,” in Journal of Christian Nursing, April-June, 2017. The full report is free at AJN’s Moral Distress Supplement.

As Christian nurses, it is vital to examine these practices. Find out how you can address moral distress and foster moral resilience through individual and organizational strategies.

Kathy Schoonover-Shoffner, PhD, RN
NCF National Director
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Christian Nursing

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Read Kathy’s full editorial, What About Moral Distress?, in Journal of Christian Nursing, Apr/June 2017. Become a member of NCF and receive Journal of Christian Nursing as a member benefit throughout the year.

Entering into Suffering

March 20, 2017

Early on the morning of my surgery, I was hurried to a cold, sterile x-ray suite. I needed one final diagnostic test just before a life-changing mastectomy. I was fearful, unsure of what lay in my future. All I wanted in that moment was a warm and caring connection, a gesture of support. But what happened only deepened my suffering. My technician did not even offer her name or an explanation of the test. Nor did she offer pain medication for this unanticipated painful procedure.

This devastating experience with a caregiver was, sadly, only one of a number of encounters during cancer treatment that left me feeling depersonalized. More than this, I found that health professionals often did not acknowledge the suffering that my family and I were experiencing. Too often, we felt isolated in our pain and anxiety. Fortunately, many caregivers and friends did understand suffering’s toll and offered us compassionate presence during our darkest days. They gave us hope that we could cope and that I could experience healing.

As a nurse and nurse educator, I have witnessed suffering on many levels with patients and their families, as well as with students struggling in a demanding nursing program. Yet, not until I encountered my own suffering with breast cancer—magnified by additional painful issues in my family—did I clearly understand the hidden nature of suffering and its demands on a person’s life, as well as on the family.

These personal revelations of the nature and power of suffering opened my eyes to the enormous need for greater understanding and acknowledgment of its presence in our lives. Walking my own suffering journey revealed to me the urgency of sharing this experience with other professionals and professionals-in-training who could benefit from these compelling lessons.

God challenged me to take steps to apply these personal lessons in my role as a nurse educator.

As a result, I developed an interview project to help students understand suffering more fully. Using this project, in turn, led to a teaching/learning model that informs education on the nature of suffering. The teaching tool and the corresponding model are well supported, first, by research in the field of caregiving and, second, by a research study completed by our author team of three interprofessional educators. The study evaluated learning outcomes following the implementation of the interview project with nursing students.

Learning how to respond to suffering is a significant challenge for healthcare providers. Our article, “Entering into Suffering,” summarizes the interview tool and also presents a Gospel story that is biblically based.

We share this Pedagogy of Suffering Model in the hope that it can teach, inform, and inspire nurses and other health professionals as Christian healers.

–by Barbara Brabend, with Rebecca Gaudino and Anissa Rogers

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Read the full article, “Entering into Suffering: Becoming a Transformed and Transforming Healer,” free from Journal of Christian Nursing, Jan-Mar 2017. This article provides 1.5 CE contact hours. Become a member of NCF and receive Journal of Christian Nursing as a member benefit throughout the year.

Spiritual Care Resources

February 24, 2017

2132017spiritualcarecardHow do you care for the spiritual needs of your patients? Knowing how to assess a person’s spiritual health and provide spiritual care interventions is part of caring for the whole person.

Care of the spirit, a hallmark of good nursing, is a high priority for Christian nurses. What is known about spirituality and spiritual care? How do we go about offering spiritual care?

Begin with a careful assessment using these questions:

  • Do you consider yourself to be spiritual or religious?
  • What importance does faith have in your life?
  • Are you part of a faith community?
  • What spiritual activities are important to you?
  • What sustains you and keep you going?
  • How would you like me to support your faith or address your needs?

Always remember to focus on the patient’s needs, not your own. Respect the patient’s views and support the person’s decision. Ask God to guide your care of patients and be attentive to his presence.

Find more resources on spiritual care, including a handy pocket-size spiritual care card that includes basic assessment questions and spiritual care interventions.

See the special JCN Collection of articles on Spirituality and Spiritual Care. These are free for NCF members and JCN subscribers or available for purchase. Learn from the Journal of Christian Nursing what researchers, patients, and other experts say makes for good spiritual care.

What NCF loves

February 14, 2017

ncf_logo_square_complete_transparentTake a close look at our NCF logo and you’ll see what we care about most. See the four hearts? They symbolize :

  • Love for God
  • Love for God’s Word
  • Love for God’s people of every ethnicity and culture
  • Love for God’s purposes in the world

These four loves are covered by the cross of Christ. The tips of the cross point outward, expressing the outward mission of NCF to reflect the love of God in our lives as a response to his love, grace and truth. We humbly respond to God’s invitation to be a part of his healing work among the nations.

Every NCF member receives a logo pin that shows support for our common purpose of representing Christ’s love in our nursing practice. If you are not member, join the NCF professional network of Christian nurses that supports you—and your faith!

Become a member of NCF today. Let’s share the love!

From the Heart

February 14, 2017

2132017jcnheartWhat is the most tender moment you’ve experienced as a nurse, or a time you sensed God’s loving embrace in a hard situation?

We’ve collected short stories of nursing care and compassion that communicate the heart of great nursing and God’s care. Be inspired with our “From the Heart” Topical Collection of articles from Journal of Christian Nursing.

JOIN NCF and receive free access to all of these stories and articles from JCN.

Let the stories of other Christian nurses warm your heart!

Why Suffering?

February 13, 2017

2132017sufferingAs nurses, we regularly encounter suffering. We also suffer. Suffering is a part of life, and we all ask, Why?

I’ve asked a lot of why questions. Why could I never get pregnant? Why did my brother die at an early age? Why did Hurricane Matthew kill so many and wipe out more of Haiti’s infrastructure? Why did a friend get cancer? Why can’t we alleviate a patient’s severe pain?

There are no answers to these questions. And no answer will change fact that suffering happens, and it is awful.

It seems the more valid question is: How do we cope with suffering? The Bible teaches principles that help me deal with suffering:

  • God is faithful through suffering and accomplishes bigger, even better, things than we can imagine. The most poignant example of this is Jesus who suffered to bring about the redemption of the world.
  • We can learn through suffering. Suffering focuses our attention on God like nothing else; it molds our faith and character in profound ways. Suffering can accomplish God’s purposes in our lives as we cry out to him and learn to trust and follow him.
  • Pain and suffering will end when God accomplishes the final redemption of the world. We will see for ourselves that “death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor 15:54).

Even if I never understand what God is doing in suffering, I’ve learned he is worthy of my trust.

As you face hard things, bring your pain and questions to God. Dig deeper into his Word and prayer. Trust God and learn to hold on to his strength and unfailing love.

I encourage you to improve your nursing practice and learn how to respond to suffering by reading our feature article, “Entering into Suffering: Becoming a Transformed and Transforming Healer,” in Journal of Christian Nursing, Jan/Mar 2017 (1.5 CE credits offered). This article hits home for nurses.

A suffering world awaits us.

Kathy Schoonover-Shoffner, PhD, RN
NCF National Director
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Christian Nursing

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Read Kathy’s full editorial in Journal of Christian Nursing, Jan/Mar 2017, p. 6. Become a member of NCF and receive Journal of Christian Nursing as a member benefit throughout the year.

Impacting Students and Educators

January 24, 2017

1242017nsgschoolRecently I had the joy of “meeting” Jodi virtually. As part of our efforts to equip and encourage NCF student leaders and faculty advisors, we are hosting monthly leadership training webinars. Jodi came to our scheduled online call and said she had restarted the dormant NCF chapter at her nursing school in Texas. In the first semester, almost 20 students from her cohort were involved in NCF meetings.

Since the school has both regular and accelerated programs, Jodi’s vision is to reach all eight cohorts and all 800 students in the program! She is identifying potential Bible study leaders in the other cohorts. Can you imagine the impact new NCF Bible study groups could have on nursing students and faculty?

As we start a new semester, I am thankful for our student leaders and faculty advisors. They, like Jodi, are sacrificially giving of their time and energy to bring the Kingdom of God to every nursing class, every cohort, and every clinical group.

Will you please pray for student leaders and faculty advisors who deeply desire God to restore and refresh them for his service?tim

Timothy Lin, MA, is the NCF Student Ministries Director and a senior area director in Kansas with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Give to nursing student ministry.