If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,
but have not love,
I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge and if I have all faith,
so as to remove mountains,
but have not love,
I am nothing.
If I give away all I have,
and if I deliver up my body to be burned,
but have not love,
I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3, ESV
This is the beginning of the Bible’s famous chapter on love. This passage states that it doesn't matter how spiritual or religious we are, how wise or knowledgeable or sacrificial--if we don't love people, our works mean nothing.
Let's bring it home for us nurses:
If I am an expert IV starter and fluently
speak medical jargon,
but don't have love for my patients
God is not impressed.
If I am a master of pathophysiology and have all
medical knowledge and all confidence,
but don't have love for my patients,
in the end I don't even matter.
If I work overtime, strain my back,
and never take a break,
but don't truly have love for my patients,
in the end I gain nothing.
Many of us find it easier to gain knowledge and skill and to work hard than to really care, in our heart of hearts, about the people we are serving. Sometimes, deep down, we might even resent them. But if all our work and learning and service are done without actual love, we have nothing to be proud of before God.
It’s easy to say we need to love, but how do we in pediatrics, home health, critical care, the Army, labor and delivery--actually demonstrate that call? Here’s what I’ve learned and try to practice.
1. You can’t pour out what you aren’t receiving.
We must take time to be alone with God. We need to abide in—to live in--his words and give ourselves margin so we have opportunity to be deliberately in his presence. God is the source of our love, so if we’re running on empty, let’s run back to the well—to God, the source. This well doesn’t run dry.
2. Call for help.
We’ve all had those patients, the ones who test every shred of our patience. The ones who insult, manipulate, demand, and exhaust us. Loving the lovable is one thing, but them? We need to learn to call out to God in these moments, in the midst of these hard interactions.
“Lord, give me your love for this person.” “God, help me to see them as you see them.” “Please give me what I need right now.”
In our very human reactions, let’s not forget to call to God for his rescue and resources in real time.
3. Encourage one another.
Hebrews 10:24 urges us to “consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds” (NIV).
You are not alone. Many nurses have followed Christ into this profession, and yet find themselves struggling with burnout, apathy, and cynicism. Let’s come alongside each other, reminding each other of our great calling, encouraging, supporting, and praying for each other. Consider starting a prayer and support group with other nurses in your area.
We all gravitate toward the idea of love, but a true understanding and practice of love is harder than any of us likes to admit. Thankfully, we aren’t left to our limited resources. The God of all love promises to fill us with his incomparable love; we just need to come to him with open hearts.
“Such hope never disappoints us, because God’s love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” Romans 5:5, AMP
Merrily Fillmore, BSN, RN, CEN, is a wife and mother of three in Washington State. She uses her experiences as an ER nurse to talk about life, death, and faith. You can find more of her writing at www.merrilymuses.com
If you’d like to start a group or linkup with an existing group of nurses for prayer and support, NCF is the ideal place to look! Visit the Nurses page on the NCF website.