Matters of the Heart

As a cardiac physician, I have used my stethoscope to diagnose many illnesses and then performed many heart surgeries.  Most of my patients get better and go home to their families, but very few are ever healed.  As I work with their physical ailments, I also use my stethoscope as a disciple of Jesus to listen with my spiritual ears to their spiritual hearts.  I have treated many patients with broken physical hearts, and they have taught me a great deal about our spiritual hearts as well.  A story will best illustrate what I mean.

A retired soldier was admitted with a heart attack.  We treated his blocked coronary artery and he did so well that he was ready to go home by the third day. Unfortunately, he returned two days later with a serious complication: he had developed a hole in his heart muscle.  After 12 hours of emergency surgery he was brought back to his room with warnings that he was “unlikely to survive.”  I joined the family in prayer that morning and miraculously he improved and eventually went home.  The man who left was not the same one who had presented to the emergency room six weeks earlier.  He shared with me that he felt “different” about everything; the sun was brighter, his family dearer, his pet dog and his house that much more a comfort.  I loved seeing him and his family; we had a special bond that only prayer can bring.  He was always positive, even from a wheelchair, and he always had an encouraging word for the other patients.  Later, after he died, I was asked to give the eulogy at his funeral and remember using the analogy of the physical hole in his heart that we had repaired and the spiritual hole in his heart that had been miraculously healed at the same time.  My patient had a sudden, divine, and miraculous experience.

Stories like these have taught me that all patients—whether they’ve never known Jesus, grew up with Him, or have been hiding from Him—are all candidates for tune-ups of their spiritual hearts!  Even in the sterile, scientific, fast-paced world of medicine, we need to disciple people to reflect God’s character and ways, so that along with physical care, people’s inner needs can be recognized and cared for.

*John McB. Hodgson, M.D. is past chairman of cardiology for Geisinger Health System in northeastern PA.  He is active in local and international missions work and serves as chairman of the board for Hope Educational Foundation (, focuses on addressing systemic threats to children through education.

Reflection Points: the Character of God in Health, Medicine, and Wholeness

  • Our Designer (Psalm 139:14-16)
  • Our Maker (Psalm 95:6-7)
  • Our Source of Care (Psalm 27:10; 1 Peter 5:6-7)
  • The Giver of Life (Job 33:4)
  • The Physician (Luke 8:43-48)
  • The Healer (Exodus 15:26)
  • Our Counselor (Isaiah 9:6)
  • Our Consoler and Comforter (Psalm 23:4; 94:19; 2 Cor. 1:3-4)
  • Our Physical Trainer (Psalm 18:35; 1 Cor. 9:24-25; 1 Timothy 4:8)