God gives us Himself, the Scriptures and people to support us
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From Luke’s Journal Jan 2023 | Vol.28 No.1 | Evolving Professionals
It was midnight and I had just finished a rather horrendous shift as an intern in the Emergency Department.
It was not because it was particularly busy or because any of my patients deteriorated. It was because I was hyperconscious of my own incompetency and repeatedly reminded of it. The consultant was not particularly friendly. Her look of chronic irritation was all the more exacerbated whenever I reported to her about my patients. My frustratingly confusing and roundabout manner and accent probably didn’t help. In my angst, I missed cannulas that should not have been missed. I dropped my equipment on the floor whilst suturing a patient. I forgot key parts of my history-taking. I tried desperately to prevent my racing mind from falling apart.
At the end of the shift, the sky was black, and the roads were empty. As if the day had not been bad enough, I got a flat tyre when I reached home. I wondered if I was suited to medicine, or if I could do anything properly. To cheer myself up, I tried to focus on my hobbies. Even though I love music and writing, I have not achieved much in these areas either. I tried to think about God and the Bible but was only reminded that I have hardly prayed and that my daily Scripture reading had become shorter and more superficial. I thought, sadly, that perhaps I had become the cursed fig tree. I thought of how it bore no fruit and shrivelled up (Matthew 11:20). I also thought about the thornbush that was never supposed to yield grapes (Matthew 7:16).
“I thought, sadly, that perhaps I had become the cursed fig tree. I thought of how it bore no fruit and shrivelled up (Matthew 11:20). I also thought about the thornbush that was never supposed to yield grapes (Matthew 7:16).”
During these moments of doubt, it is hard to recognise that I am not alone in the struggles that threaten to overwhelm me. Once, when I was complaining to God, He reminded me that He has blessed us with three main sources of support. “Have I not given you,” He said, “A roof over your head, food for you to eat every day, and direct access to me through prayer? Have I not given you the testimony of the saints through the Scriptures and surrounded you with many kind and empathetic people?”
It may seem obvious that God is our first source of support. However, we must repeat after the hymn, “Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon […] the old, old story of Jesus and his love”. Like Martha, our work, hectic schedules, studies, and housework rapidly eclipse the sweet light of knowing that God, who created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), provides for us and sees us as being “worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31), and knows the plans for our future (Jeremiah 29:11). For our sake, God became a man, a “man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3) to show us that He understands our deepest struggles. Through the crucifixion, He tore the veil that separated us from Him (Matthew 27:51). Thus, we can accept Jesus’ gentle call, “Come to me […] and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). We can rest in knowing that God is patient with us, like the farmer who patiently tends his barren fig tree (Luke 13:6-9).
Furthermore, God tells us, despite being in the competitive world of medicine, that coming first or reaching a high status is not everything, just as Jacob was chosen over his elder brother, Esau. Knowledge is also not everything, for the scribes adored their scrolls and phylacteries, yet killed the Living Word. Skill is not everything either, for Aaron had exceptional speaking abilities, yet built the golden calf when he was pressured by the Israelites. Neither is wealth, for the lilies outshone Solomon in splendour. Instead, we must boast only in knowing God (Jeremiah 9:24) and be confident that He is our “hiding place” (Psalm 32:7). If only we, like Elisha, could see how the Lord’s fiery chariots outnumber the afflictions that assail us (2 Kings 6:17)!
“We know that like them, our spiritual “ancestors” (Psalm 39:12), we are “foreigners and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13). They were very much like us. Our spiritual “ancestors” experienced their share of temptations and transgressions.”
Another important source of comfort is the testimony of the saints through the Scriptures. We know that like them, our spiritual “ancestors” (Psalm 39:12), we are “foreigners and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13). They were very much like us. Our spiritual “ancestors” experienced their share of temptations and transgressions. For example, Moses was full of fear and timidity when he initially refused God’s command to return to Egypt, David committed adultery and murder, Peter denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. In the Bible, we also see those who despaired when faced with extenuating circumstances, “You deceived me!” Jeremiah angrily burst out against God (Jeremiah 20:7), Elijah “prayed that he might die” (1 Kings 19:4), and “Why is light given to those in misery?” Job weeps with a broken heart (Job 3:20). Yet, God’s mercies repeatedly shone through. Moses led Israel out of Egypt, David became the forefather of Jesus, Peter became the rock on which the Church is founded, Elijah found the reviving spirit of the “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:14), and Job was blessed doubly of what he lost. These are the springs of comfort from which I drink for I know that I am not alone when I make mistakes or feel helpless in times of stress and that God still reserves hope for me, even if “the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:2).
Thirdly, although humans are the cause of much grief and suffering, God often gives us grace in our struggles through the people around us. These people are usually those closest to us, such as our families and friends, but they can also be unexpected individuals who may not even know God. Just as God sent people to Paul after he was imprisoned and shipwrecked, God also sends us strangers who “show us unusual kindness” (Acts 28:2). When we feel as if we have been attacked and have little strength left, God surprises us with the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). What a great delight when we realise that there are others who love God!
“Despite what mainstream media might say about Christians being a minority, there are more than we think.”
Despite what mainstream media might say about Christians being a minority, there are more than we think. Elijah initially thought he was “the only one left” who served God in Israel under wicked Ahab’s rule, but he discovered later that God had reserved “seven thousand in Israel – all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal” (1 Kings 19:18). I was overjoyed when I found out that there was a Bible study group in my medical school. I came to realise that many others were Christian medical professionals. Some have become close friends who understand the unique struggles I encounter as a Christian medical professional.
In fact, not long after my dismal shift, I saw a message inviting Christian medical professionals to write about their struggles for Luke’s Journal. I cannot describe the relief I felt to know that I am not alone in what I am going through.
Finally, in medicine, we love to compare ourselves with others. Frequently, we wonder why others appear to be succeeding while we tarry behind. Yet, as Christ admonished Peter, we must focus on our own journey and respond singularly to His call, “Follow me” (John 21:22). This is because everyone, being descended from Adam, has their own trials, thorns, and sweat (Genesis 3:17-19). We can be grateful that in our struggles God gives us Himself, encouragement from the Scriptures and people to support us in our every day. Let us be assured that “no temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind” (1 Corinthians 10:13), and that God says, “I am with you” (Matthew 28:20). Through His spirit within us, may He also enable us to say to each other, “I am with you.”
Dr Isaac Tang Dr Isaac Tang is currently an intern and aspiring nephrologist at Monash Health. Outside of medicine, he loves theology, creative writing and music composition. He is also passionate about history, in particular, church history and the history of Imperial China. His favourite Christian texts (other than the Bible) include The Temple by George Herbert, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan and Commentary on the Whole Bible by Matthew Henry.