Indeterminate (1 Peter 4:4)

“Are you immunocompromised?”

I was taken aback by the question posed to me by the hospital nurse practitioner. 

“No. I’m in very good health. Why?”

“Well, this is an unexpected result. We need you to return and have your blood drawn again to repeat the test.”

Most of us are familiar with the Tine or Mantoux test for TB, pricking the skin and returning within 72 hours to have the site examined by a medical professional. For years, I opted for a special blood test for my annual TB testing known as the QuantiFERON gold. My blood sample is delivered to the laboratory and the blood’s white blood cells are incubated with proteins from the tuberculosis bacteria. A special analyzer measures a chemical produced by the white cells known as interferon-gamma. A positive test shows an increase in the interferon-gamma and is indicative of a current or recent infection. The advantage of this test is the greatly reduced likelihood of a false negative or false positive, something that can happen with the typical skin tests. However, the test relies upon a competent immune system since white blood cells are needed to produce an immune response. If one is immunocompromised and lacking or having a reduced number of white blood cells, the result may be an indeterminate test. 

As I reflected upon the possible reasons I received an indeterminate test, the answer hit me. Three months earlier, I was on corticosteroids to treat an acute episode of lower back pain. Corticosteroids are an effective and beneficial treatment for many medical conditions because it suppresses the body’s usual immune response to inflammation. However, it also blunts the typical response of the QuantiFERON test and the result was my indeterminate result. 

I immediately called the nurse practitioner and after consultation with infectious disease experts, we agreed that I would return in three months and be retested. By then, the immunosuppressive effects of the corticosteroids would hopefully have dissipated. 

When we benefit from an action or treatment, it may be easy to overlook potential negative interactions. What about our spiritual lives? As a Christian believer, what can we expect when we follow Jesus Christ?

So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols. 

1 Peter 4:1-3 (NLT)

Finished with sin! This is good news! How can faith and belief in Jesus Christ lead to bad results or negative interactions? The Apostle Peter answers this in the next verse. 

Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. 

1 Peter 4:4 (NLT)

God created us to have eternal fellowship with Him. To become a believer in Jesus Christ and declare Him Lord and Savior should be the goal of every living person. However, former friends who follow the ways of the world may disagree and even slander the new believer. It may be difficult to bask in the glory of a new relationship with God when many of our former relationships are strained or gone. Thanks be to God that He does not abandon us or our former friends during this transition. He continues to sanctify us, making us more like Jesus Christ. He continues to knock on the door of every unbelieving and searching heart, offering the same peace that surpasses all understanding. And He will never stop.

The benefits and problems of corticosteroids are temporary and indeterminate. A relationship with God is eternal and extraordinary.

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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