I wanted out of medicine.
I recently returned to university, but my mind was elsewhere. After weeks of grieving, it’s a surreal feeling to go back to normality. Classes, lectures, homework. Exams imminent and the need to catch up on weeks of medical topics I’ve missed (though I know God will get me through exams as in previous years).
Still, my spirit protested. I wanted to give up. My heart was absolutely empty of motivation. Despite the flurry of revision-related activity around me at medical school, my own textbooks remained neglected. Sitting in classes, I couldn’t concentrate – exams just weren’t foremost in my mind.
I think this is what death does to you. Changes your perspective so violently that everything in your life is thrown into question: What exactly am I doing here in medicine? Why am I here learning about antibiotics and bacteria and fractures? Is this where you really want me God?
My recent bereavement has shown me life is short and fickle. King Solomon said, “Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labour that he can carry in his hand” (Ecclesiastes 5:15). Knowing this, I asked God – if we take nothing of the physical into the next life, why am I investing hundreds of hours (and no doubt eventually thousands of hours) into pursuing medical knowledge instead of you? Wouldn’t all my hours be better spent pursuing you – my Father, my God?
A Life That’s Worthy
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate medicine. More and more, I am discovering ways to glorify God in medicine. But often, I feel like I’m trudging and grinding my way through the course. Simply put, medicine pales in comparison to the joy I get from spending my days talking to God whilst exploring mountains, from talking to people about God, from reading The Bible, from making music to God, from witnessing God powerfully transforming my own life and the lives of others.
My passion is not fame and fortune, dazzling discoveries or a comfortable home and family. My passion is to live a life like the Apostle Paul, who said: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1). I want to live an extraordinary life! A life that’s a unique story about the beauty, love and glory of God, in which I am merely a character. I want to live a life like those in The Bible, who saw the glory of God in ways that no one else experienced. After Moses, no one else ever saw God appear in a burning bush (Exodus 3:1-5). Apart from Joshua, no one else ever saw God stop the sun from revolving around the Earth (Joshua 10:13). Experiencing God has been my absolute joy. Witnessing firsthand the goodness and glory of the Lord in our lives on earth – isn’t this what King David was living for? (Psalm 27:4). I want every area of my life to be stamped by the testimony of Job, who said, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5).
Wrestling With God
Because of these dreams, I am increasingly dissatisfied with the medical student status quo of striving, stress and study. In the repetitive cycle of hard work amongst mundane lectures, I ask myself – what am I even working towards? The Bible says God’s kingdom is forcefully advancing, but how does medicine fit into that? (Matthew 11:12)
So for two weeks, I really wrestled with God. Struggled, reasoned and searched The Bible. Cried out and questioned.
* * *
And God showed up. Not all at once, but every day or two I would receive something new about God’s ways, purposes and intentions in putting us on a journey. Thank God! For he does what he promises:
and if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom,
and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
In the rest of this post, I have written the questions I have struggled with (in bold) and the realisations that have motivated me to keep going in my journey. I write this as a memorial to myself – writings to encourage me to continue going where God has put me and never give up. My prayer is that they may also encourage you on some level, no matter what study, job or journey you are currently embarked upon!
Questions for God about My Journey
Why did you choose me for medicine? I am by no means the smartest, the most confident, the most effusive, nor the most passionate in this course. I really don’t know how who I am fits into where you’ve put me.
Normal people pursue what they are good at. But this is not how God works. Where God has placed you has absolutely nothing to do with your strengths, skills or attributes. God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chooses the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chooses the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not —to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)
God has called you to a journey where you are weak and out of your comfort zone. Your life isn’t going to be easy. There will be trouble (John 16:33). But every step forward you make leaning on God in utter dependence, in spite of your weakness, is beautiful to God and bears much fruit. (2 Corinthians 12:9, John 15:5) So delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when you are weak, the strength of Christ bursts forth in you (2 Corinthians 12:10).
How is God going to use me as a doctor to further his kingdom?
Just because you are in medicine, doesn’t mean God will use you forever as a doctor (or even at all)! The Apostle Paul was trained as a Pharisee, but he had no idea at the time that God would use him one day as a missionary for Jesus. David was a shepherd, and it must have seemed unbelievable that one day he would be King of Israel. God raised up spiritual leaders from fisherman (Peter, John), men of God from farmers (Gideon, Elisha) and servant writers from doctors (Luke). God’s own Son rose from the humble beginnings of a carpenter. Like these men, God’s plan for you is bigger than your career.
Do not logically deduce how God is going to use you based on how you are being trained, what you are studying, where you are working. We need to trust God even when we don’t know what the outcomes of our journey will be, or how they fit into God’s plan. For:
“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him”
You have no idea how great the plans are for your life. You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14). You have no idea how God plans to use you in the future, irrespective of where you are now.
If God’s calling for us is bigger than our careers, why doesn’t God just cut to the chase and send me to wherever my destiny lies? How does me getting a medical degree fit into the scheme of things?
Society looks at the outcomes of things for meaning. But the outcome of your current journey (eg. study/training/occupation) may have absolutely nothing to do with what God has planned for you and the calling he has for you. However, how he is revealing himself to you, growing you and partnering with you on that journey has everything to do with what he has planned for you.
So instead of looking for meaning from what will come in the future, look to what God is doing in your life right now. Today. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Mt 6:34)
How can I work at this with effort if I might not even end up using these skills as a practicing doctor?
Work not for tutors, teachers, colleagues, or your own pride or aims. But work as one working for God himself – with the intent of pleasing him with your determination and sacrifice, rather than the intent of achieving tangible outcomes. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)
Why have you chosen me for such a long and difficult journey in medicine?
This is who God is – his name is ‘I AM WHO I AM’ (Exodus 3:14). He chooses whoever he desires to choose and he has chosen you, specifically, for a purpose.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last…
So never give up, for he is with you always (Matthew 28:20).
Isn’t there something more important I could be doing for your kingdom?
No matter how ordinary your journey may seem at times, you can still do something of utmost significance to God: worshiping him! Choose to live like Mary, who extravagantly loved Jesus in a way that will be remembered for all of history. No matter where you are, who you are or how little time you have, you have the opportunity every day to extravagantly worship Jesus. What Mary did was behind the scenes in an inconspicuous Jewish house, yet it absolutely moved the heart of the creator of the universe. Do not always focus on doing things. Your relationship with God means far more to him than what you can do for him. (Matthew 7:22-23)
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.
* * *
So all of this has changed my heart. I look back at the past weeks and see how good God is, even in tough times. God knows when the journey is too much for us. He doesn’t force us to keep going in our own strength, but does what it takes to strengthen us! As I wrestled with him on bus rides, in conversations and in prayers morning and night, he spoke to my spirit.
He saw how desperate I was and strengthened me with the understanding I needed to go onwards. God knows when we’ve reached our capacity. He doesn’t force us to go onwards like a slave-driver. Instead, he recognises our despair and strengthens us, saying, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you!” (1 Kings 19:3-8).
So I’ve gotten up. For the next 2 weeks, I walk towards my exams to complete the task God has set for me. I walk onwards through hard times, just as Elijah did in Biblical times: So [Elijah] got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)
And now to hit the books!