Navigating Faith During Training – Dr Vibooshini Ganeshalingam

Draw in oneness with Christ even through struggles


From Luke’s Journal Jan 2023  |  Vol.28 No.1  |  Evolving Professionals

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Since I became a Christian, I have always felt God’s presence. However, his presence became distant after a few months of becoming a registrar. My days of frustration and tears were many and I could not figure out the reason. Initially, I attributed it to my two moves to different towns and hospitals within a year and leaving my close circle of friends behind. With time and reflection, I realized that it was due to prioritising my training over other things.

At the time, I thought I was doing all the right Christian things. I regularly prayed to God, seeking His guidance and wisdom, regularly attended church and Bible study when work allowed, and actively tried to find fellow Christians around me for fellowship. None of these activities were enough. I did not sit still in God’s presence and listen to how He wanted to guide me through His Word. My Bible reading days were few. On days when I did open my Bible, my head was filled with a checklist of tasks to do. I did not make God my priority. Instead, He got my leftovers.

This piece is my reflection on my struggles in my faith as I embarked on a training program and my takeaway message on how to keep your focus on Christ and how to serve Him in the community. I believe that my struggles are not unique. These struggles are common among Christians in our profession. I would like to emphasize that I still wrestle with sin and am in no better position than any of you. It is written to me as much as by me. I hope that by the end of this article, you will be more aware of how you could slip in your walk with God during training, and pray that you will ponder unhurriedly how you can grow in Christ.

The challenges of training and work that hinder your growth in Christ

To discuss how to navigate faith during training, I need to provide some context and insight into what current trainees may battle against. Below are some of my major challenges. Some are rather difficult to admit to. If you are a fellow trainee or a junior doctor, you will identify with at least some of them, if not all. I urge you to reflect on what hinders your growth.

Peer pressure

 It is hard not to give in to the herd mentality, especially when you feel the walls are closing in and clarity is lacking.

Most of us can relate to the drive to accomplish and be recognized. We want to impress those around us and improve our job profile, and we do this because we look outward at the world we live in and not at the kingdom we are made for. As a resident, it was easier for me to focus on how I am serving God in each role, but I lost this clarity when I became a registrar, maybe because the stakes were higher and the pressure to prove myself felt greater.


I feel like I cannot afford to make mistakes being a doctor. This is not exactly true as some mistakes can be rectified. However, some mistakes could cost someone’s life. So, I find it hard to do my job well and NOT feel the pressure of ‘what ifs’ – “What if I miss something important?”, “What if I made a wrong decision?”. How often have you doubted yourself and worried over a completed task after returning home?

In some instances, perfectionism is demanded, and any failure is seen as unacceptable. This causes additional anxiety, thus leaving less headspace to think about God again!

Time Pressure

Working long hours is inevitable as a medical trainee. The little time that is left is often filled with extracurricular activities, such as camping, gym, research, etc.. We may also sign up for church activities, such as music or youth group, that consume our time. We have to ask ourselves: do they really help deepen our relationship with God? We may feel like we are coasting in our Christian walk even when we are suffocating in our faith. In his book, How does God change us?, Dane Ortlund shared, “If you do not actively root out the weeds, they grow, like our sins”.1 I found myself falling into this trap during my training.

I have started to question the reason for my extracurricular activities and started to unload my plate. As someone who always has their plate full, I found this unloading process very challenging. My goal for next year is that I don’t fill it back up with things that take time away from my spiritual growth. I am placing my trust in God to lead me rather than trying to achieve it through my own strength.

Proving oneself

Personally, this is one of my major weaknesses. I find myself working very hard and seeking validation from my colleagues and bosses. I have spent a reasonable amount of time reflecting on this issue even as it became a relentless pursuit. I realized that this is where I was trying to find my worth. Don’t get me wrong. It is good to work hard and seek feedback for self-improvement. But I valued myself as a person based on what I did rather than placing my worth in being a child of God. If we don’t make Christ our rock, it is easy to get tangled in trying to validate our own worth.


This is one of the biggest reasons for mankind’s fall and I am not immune to it either. I have not met a single Christian yet who does not struggle with pride. This occurs in many forms. Kevin DeYoung in his book, Crazy Busy2, devoted a whole chapter to the manifestations of pride. I found this chapter insightful and well worth a read!

When it comes to training or work, most of us are overachievers. There are times I keep going on full steam because of my pride when I know it would be better to take a break and rejoice in God.

Pleasing others

Can you believe wanting to please others so they like us, can be one of the manifestations of pride? I pride myself (Ha! Note that) on not being a people-pleaser, but I do look to please my supervisors to create a good impression of myself. Can you imagine the burden that would be lifted off my shoulders if I did not care that much? If only I could replace those thoughts with how Jesus loves me despite all my faults and rely on Jesus for my assurance.

Physical and mental exhaustion

Physical and mental exhaustion in our profession is a well-known fact, and I cannot emphasize this enough. At the end of a long day/night, the body simply cannot handle what it has been put through. High cognitive load throughout the day, long hours with little or no breaks, poor sleep when on call, and working excessive days with insufficient time off, constitute the perfect recipe for burnout. It makes us too tired to do even a simple chore, let alone read the Bible and hear what the Holy Spirit is trying to teach us. Time away from God’s word invariably leads to losing focus on God. To grow in Christ, reading the Bible and praying are as vital as breathing. How can we balance our faith and our job expectations?

Physical distance

This is a killer! Moving away multiple times for training takes a toll on innumerable aspects of our life. Where do I even start?

Personally, I value and rely on a fellowship to keep myself grounded in Christ and not be easily influenced by the secular world. Seeking and finding true fellowship is not always easy. Learning to discern people with a Christian veneer from those who thirst for God’s word and want to grow in Christ, is a challenge. Finding a Biblically-grounded church and fitting Christ-centred fellowship into our hectic schedule is hard. How many of us persevere in finding a local church to belong to every time we move? This is further compounded by the transient nature of short placements as we fail to connect with the local community. Years can go by in a series of short placements. We have to ask ourselves, “Who is keeping us accountable in our faith in those years? In the hierarchy of life, where do we place God?”

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Insights I want to share from my journey so far

Message to Trainees

“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, honor God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

This verse humbles me and reminds me how much I fail daily to glorify God. I do not dwell in God’s presence enough to receive and thank him for His endless love. Amid my busyness, I have failed to let God be my moment-by-moment Father.

Are we too busy for God? In view of eternity, do all our extracurriculars matter? If we are too busy for God, the first step is to consider how to make time for God. I am not talking about the leftovers but deliberately setting aside time in the day when our brain is active and functioning. Think carefully about what portion of your day or week goes to meditating on God’s word.

Let me share a gentle reminder with you:

Augustine’s work is quoted in “Uncommon Ground” by Timothy Keller & John Inazu, “As Christians, we are called to contribute to the society we are part of but on the other hand, our home will never be an earthly city, which is marked by lust for domination and power”.3  

How to address the challenges we have


To plan, it is important to be aware of what lies ahead of you in your training. Talk to as many trainees as you can because everyone’s experience is different and shaped by a multitude of factors. Listen to the downside or how hard it was for them at various stages of training. This might be just me, but I usually do not appreciate it when people say, ‘It will be fine’ or ‘You will be alright’. They may intend these to be words of reassurance, but I do not find them helpful. I would rather know the truth including the unpleasant aspects before I venture down the path to better prepare myself. If you know any Christians who have experienced difficulties, talk to them about what worked and what didn’t work during their training program, including their faith and walk with Christ.


Think about how the training is going to affect (or is affecting) you, your family, and your faith. Having a mentor regardless of what stage of faith you are in is invaluable. Discuss your plan with your inner circle and your mentors. Ask them to consider how they could support you and be mindful of red flags to pay attention to. Plan your catch-ups in advance, so you do not have an excuse to cancel meetings.

Engage with your local CMDFA group. Consider attending the start-of-year events to meet your Christian colleagues. Knowing the Christians in your workplace can be helpful in many ways – to debrief, keep you accountable, as support, for evangelism, and so much more.

Know your limits

For those who struggle with pride as I do, being aware of your limits can hurt your ego but be true to yourself. Be wise and discern your desires from necessity. Write down your desires, so that every time you say ‘yes’ to another task, you can decide which of the two categories the task falls under. Unloading yourself can help give time to your faith, well-being, and mental health.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” Matthew 11: 28-29.


“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” Philippians 4:6.

Think about the possible challenging times and your coping mechanisms. Be cognizant of the fact that training will shape you, but you have control over how you want it to shape you. I hope you can submit to the Holy Spirit to make you Christ-like. Your anxiety levels will be higher during training. As Paul Grimmond said, ‘When the noises won’t stop, we should be determined not to give in to the noises, not to let anxiety overwhelm us and stop us from doing important things’.4 Throughout our training, we will have difficult decisions to make. I encourage you to take these decisions to Him in prayer. And ask yourself, “Does it matter if we do not know all the possible outcomes?”, “Does it really matter if it does not pan out the way we want?”, “Are we truly trusting and submitting to God?”. I am not downplaying the depth of anxiety, especially for those who suffer from an anxiety disorder for which professional help might be needed. However, know that by the grace of God, there is genuine hope for progress in this life.


Amid the throes of training and examinations, it is hard to have a clear head all the time. God asks us to cast our burden on Him. It is easy to lose focus on God and instead focus on what is in front of you. Take a step back if this is the case. Take some time to dwell on God’s words. Pray! Jesus woke up in the early hours of the morning to pray. Starting your day with prayers has benefits including ensuring that your priorities are right from the start of your day. I found myself ending my prayer points with, ‘God if it is in your will’, and I hope to arrive at a day when I can make His will mine and not desire anything else.

We do not always understand the threads of His masterpiece. All we can do is trust in Him as God knows us better than we do ourselves. Remember His promise, “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28.

A message to medical students and junior doctors

Entering the workforce or starting work at a hospital can be overwhelming at the start. Remind yourself of your identity as God’s child and Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” Colossians 3:23,

 I often ask myself how often I have thought about God during my work hours. It is easy to get bogged down by your to-do list. Reminding myself of my identity in Christ helps me with my faith, job and relationships with those around me.

You might be considering a particular training program. Talk to those who are training and those that have completed their training in that area. Ask yourself if it is still the path you choose to take after knowing the ins and outs. Are you taking this path with your hope rested in the eternal kingdom or in your worldly success? Have you meditated on God’s words and asked God for His guidance?

Be wise in choosing which hospital to work for. From my limited experience, I have not seen a single ideal hospital. Why would you expect things to be perfect in this fallen world? There are several factors to consider when choosing a hospital, such as the proximity to your home, support network, training chances, etc. If you don’t get to work in a tertiary hospital as an intern, don’t feel that you are missing out. During the intern year, it is more about learning the systems and processes. Being in a regional centre or a smaller hospital does not preclude your training opportunities, at least not for the first year.

Knowing if your colleagues are Christians can be vital in certain circumstances. You could be of great help and a disciple by pointing them towards Christ in their struggles and building each other up. Regular reminders never go to waste!

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A message to consultants / senior medical officers

Quite often junior doctors follow the senior medical officer’s (SMO’)s lead in the workplace. Do you model Christ-centredness at work? Do you know if your juniors are followers of Christ? If so, having an occasional conversation about how they are travelling in their faith may be the encouragement and support that they need. If the junior doctors do not know Christ, take the opportunity to know them personally, begin some conversations, and pray for them.

Richard Chin, in his work, Captivated by Christ wrote,

“We fail to grasp the honor of being created in the image of God, representing his office.”5

I can’t agree with him more. Does God take first place in your life?

A message to the churches

God’s love is abundant, unique, and multidimensional. Not only does He love us vertically (God to you) but He loves us horizontally through His body (i.e. the church).

How well do we let God’s love flow through us? How often do we welcome new members and invite them to be part of our family even if we know it would be for a short duration? Relating specifically to the transient nature of their work, consider how to support them spiritually and emotionally.

Let us follow the lead of Paul’s love to the churches: deep affection rooted in Lord Jesus. Let us take the nature of a servant as Jesus did. Let us not be individualistic but spiritual, as image-bearers of God.

My prayer for you all

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until days of Christ Jesus” Philippians 1: 6.

“Lord Jesus Christ who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” Philippians 3: 21.

Draw in oneness with Christ even through despair and struggles. I hope you can submit to the Holy Spirit to shape you as you dig deeper into his Word. Let us rest in the glory of God and allow Him to do the work in us.

Dr Vibooshini Ganeshalingam
Dr Vibooshini Ganeshalingam is a medical registrar at Queensland Health. She was born into a Hindu family and became a Christian less than a decade ago. She loves Townsville, in particular her church family who point her to Christ.


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  1. Ortlund D. How does God change us?: “Real change for real sinners”. S.l.: CROSSWAY BOOKS; 2021. 
  2. Deyoung K. The Killer P’s- Diagnosis #1You are beset with many manifestations of pride. In: Crazy Busy. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway; 2013. p. 33–41. 
  3. Johnson KD, Keller T, Inazu J. The Theologian. In: Uncommon Ground. Nashville, Tennessee: Nelson Books; 2020. p. 3–17. 
  4. Grimmond P. Responding to anxiety: engaging our minds in fellowship with others. In: When the noise won’t stop. Sydney, New South Wales: Matthias media; 2022. p. 126–31. 
  5. Chin R. Captivated by Christ: Seeing Jesus clearly in the book of Colossians. Waterloo, New South Wales: Matthias Media; 2019.