HOW COULD GOD LET THIS HAPPEN? WHEN LOSS OF A POSITION CAUSES SPIRITUAL WOUNDEDNESS
By Sharon T. Hinton
It’s always a shock when a faith community nurse (FCN) or FCN coordinator loses a position. Sometimes the loss is due to financial constraints. Sometimes the loss is due to restructuring, downsizing, or politics. Regardless of the cause, the pain of loss and grief that follows is real.
For most of us, the practice of faith community nursing is a calling. We strive to serve others where God has placed us by combining our nurse profession with our wholistic health beliefs. Being an FCN is not just another job; it is our ministry. The loss of any job can be painful, but the loss of a ministry can shake the core of our very being. Emotions emerge. We may second-guess ourselves or perhaps heap on blame where none is warranted. Sometimes the pain is so intense that basic pillars of our personal faith crack and start to crumble. And then anger and self-righteousness have a chance to flourish. If you have experienced that loss of an FCN position you may be feeling a bit uncomfortable reading this; and if you have not, you may be wondering how you would handle the loss of a position. Let’s explore this situation a bit more in depth through the story of Mary Everynurse, RN, and a beloved mentor from Scripture—Job. Scripture tells us that Job was a good man.
“There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). Job’s work was blessed. He worked hard, took care of others and his family. He was kind and generous. His family, friends, members of his faith community, and everyone in the surrounding area knew and loved him.
“The LORD said to Satan, ’Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.’ Then Satan answered the LORD, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face’” (Job 1:8-11).
God allowed Job to be tested, first by the loss of his property, family, and social standing; then by the loss of his health, friends, marriage, and faith community support. Job suffered profound loss physically, mentally, spiritually, financially, and socially.
Mary Everynurse was a kind, experienced, and talented registered nurse. She embraced the role of an FCN and soon earned the love and respect of the congregation and community she served. God blessed Mary’s efforts. She was well-liked throughout her community. Mary was a powerful advocate for the underserved with appointments to many boards and committees. Her reputation as an intelligent, compassionate and spirit-filled woman blended well with her management and planning skills. Mary’s pastor often sang her praises, and volunteers were always available for Mary’s many programs and projects. Mary’s family was involved in her health ministry, and her husband was often heard praising his wife for her ability to keep their household and her ministry all running well. Mary also sang in the choir and assisted with the church’s many outreach activities provided by her faith community.
And then one day it happened. A new pastor came to Mary’s faith community. The new pastor’s vision did not include health ministry, and Mary’s popularity with the people was viewed as a threat. Suddenly Mary found herself on the defensive. Her programs were brought into question as too expensive or unnecessary. The pastor also questioned her motives and planted seeds of doubt among the church leadership. Very soon, Mary’s FCN position was eliminated. Mary found herself full of self-doubt, fear, and anger. Why had God done this to her? Had she done something wrong? Was the pastor evil? Had she not always tried to follow where God seemed to be leading her? When she attended worship services, parishioners who previously made a point to greet her now avoided speaking to her. When she overheard some gossip in the hall speculating about what Mary had done to be removed from her position, she found she could no longer continue attending church. Mary became depressed and was filled with anger and self-doubt, yet she continued to pray and ask God to help her understand.
“The Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshiped. He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away’ blessed be the name of the LORD’” (Job 1:20-21). Like Job, Mary also received answers from God and it changed her life. Here are few of the things she learned:
Your job is not where your value lies. Use your gifts and talents as an FCN to demonstrate your love of God by serving others, but you are a beloved child of God and that is your value. Who you are and your value in God’s eyes have nothing to do with your ministry.
God’s plan is bigger than yours. No matter how smart, talented, and spiritually perceptive, we are only human and incapable of understanding the “big picture.” God’s plan for the world is not stagnant. You may not understand why something is changing, but no matter how painful and chaotic it seems to you, trust that God is at work and has not abandoned you. The real question is, What do you have to let go of now to move into the future space God has designed just for you?
Your emotions and feelings are only one perception of the situation. Everyone has a unique viewpoint that is both true and false at the same time. Name what you are feeling and examine it. Anger, fear, humiliation, embarrassment, resentment, and all the other emotions churning inside are not inherently bad. Claim your emotions. God will help you use the emotions to help you learn about yourself and grown spiritually. The pain is real. The loss is real. The choice to work through and grow or remain stuck and decay is always yours.
Take the high road. After you have prayed and examined the situation and yourself, talk to someone you respect for the individual’s spiritual maturity. If you are at fault, correct the situation, if you can, and learn from the experience. If you are not at fault, accept what has happened. Perhaps in this situation someone else had a “life test” and the person’s choices had ramifications that affected others including you. You are not responsible for the choices, behaviors, or actions of others. It is not up to you to correct them, punish them, or condemn them. God is the judge and knows all of our hearts. Although often difficult, hold your tongue when tempted to lash out at others. Watch to discover how God is at work on your behalf. All will be revealed.
Pray for those who persecute you. This is not an easy thing to do, but it is an important survival tactic. Praying for the very ones who are causing you pain and suffering changes your perspective and removes their power to crush your spirit. Over time, your prayers for those who have caused your suffering provide a healing balm to your wounds, allowing your emotions to transform from reaction to a chosen action. Remember, praying for those who hurt you does not mean that you condone their choices or behavior. It means that you admit that you don’t know what is going on inside their heads and are willing to let God be in charge of the situation.
Prepare for the next step God has chosen specifically for you. You have lost an FCN ministry that was important to you. It gave you an identity and provided a way for you to serve others, but it was never truly yours. It was always God’s! When you lose a ministry, position, or other significant aspect of your life, it is good to mourn and to examine yourself and the situation. Yet, in the suffering, God is already at work preparing your future. Lamentations 3:31-33 is the encouragement you need to wait patiently: “For the Lord will not reject forever. Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone”. Job suffered and lost in so many ways, yet he remained faithful and waited on God throughout his grief-filled experience.
“And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; . .In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations” (Job 42:10-16) Mary Everynurse suffered too. She lost her ministry and her church. Things were strained with her husband, and she discovered many of her friends were only acquaintances interested in what she could do for them. The questioning of her faith and self-examination strengthened her for the new ministry that she was invited to lead. As Mary moved into her future, she was blessed and touched the lives of people who would never have been reached had she remained in her former position. Mary will always carry the scars of her experience, but instead of hiding them and being fearful that she will be wounded again, she focuses on God’s healing mercies and how her experience can help other FCNs persevere and grow when losses occur. May faith, peace, and understanding be yours!
Reprinted with permission from Sharon Hinton, from Perspectives, Vol.15, No. 1, Spring 2016 pg. 1, 3.
Dr. Sharon T. Hinton is the Faith Community Nurse Project Manager for the Westberg Institute for Faith Community Nursing, a faith community nurse/health advocate educator, coordinator, mentor, and consultant, and the Executive Director of Rural Nurse Resource, Inc.
Dr. Sharon T. Hinton, RN-BC, MSN,DMIN Faith Community Nurse Project Manager