I recently came across the following article entitled, ?PERSPECTIVE: A Walk with Him,? which was published in the Christian Ophthalmology Society newsletter dated July 1998 which resonates with me today:
?For me, the past four years at the University of SC School of Medicine has been a well spring of learning not just in terms of medical knowledge, but also with insights into God?s character and lessons about life. I have specifically been learning the art of resting, the value of waiting, and the necessity of walking closely with Christ. Because of my perfectionist tendencies, my toughest struggle has been to rest in the Lord. After having done my best to prepare, a point is reached that I must give it totally over to His care.
Whether it was a big exam, rounds with Dr. Intimidation, or residency interviews, God?s chief objective was always to cultivate in me a heart of complete reliance on Him. Isaiah 26:3 is one of my all time favorites: ?You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.? I have found His presence and grace to be sufficient for my every need, and that He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that I ask or think. I am earning the value of waiting on God?s perfect timing. Often I have found myself dissatisfied with my current circumstances and wanting to get ahead of God.
Medical school and residency are not just worthless stepping stones to a fulfilling medical practice. While it is my desire to blitz from point A to point B in the most efficient manner, God has a purpose in the intervening journey. He is teaching me that indeed the purpose can be found during the trial and not just after it is over. He wants me to welcome every difficult person and frustrating experience as His instrument to further shape my character into the image of His Dear Son. Someone once wisely advised me, ?Savor these moments, for you will never pass this way again.? God?s desire is for me to use this day for His glory no matter how insignificant this time of transition might seem.
God has been impressing me with the importance of daily making an eternal difference in the lives of others. The fields are truly white with harvest. During these last four years, He has reminded me that He is still at work in the lives of people, and has been faithful to bring into my life classmates, patients, residents, and attendings who are awakening to their need for His love and salvation. I have also discovered the frustration of attempting to do God?s work my way.
Another word of wisdom speaks to the necessity of cultivating a daily love relationship with the Lord Jesus in developing an effective personal ministry: ?Don?t over-work, over-flow.? Genuine compassion for people is not a product of human effort, but a by-product that flows when time is spent with its Source.? Jonathan Tsai,MD
Reading this article recently was like opening a buried time capsule or thumbing through an old newspaper. It was written nearly 20 years ago by a young man who had just finished medical school and was looking ahead to residency. He had aspirations to become an ophthalmologist and a family man, but had no idea what God had in store for him ahead. Those words spoke of the faithfulness of God in providing security, encouragement, rest, purpose, and eternal significance in a sea of anxiety and uncertainty.
Three words come to mind as I read this old article: Remember, Repent, and Rest.
Remember. Life has been moving at such a frenetic pace today that I have easily forgotten what things were like 20 years ago. I have forgotten what it was like to be single and longing to be married. I have forgotten what it was like to watch friends with their children and wanting children of my own to love, care for, and enjoy. I have forgotten what it felt like to struggle in confidence when learning intraocular surgery for the first time during residency training. I have forgotten what it meant to be broken and desperate for the Lord to intervene in particular circumstances and looking to Him to satisfy my needs in my solitude. I have forgotten the delight of spending hours feasting upon His Word and laying before His face in my closet in prayer. I have forgotten what it meant to be burdened for those around me who did not know Christ and intentional about sharing my faith in word and in deed.
Reading that article helped me to remember all that God has done for me. He has brought me through residency training and has given me 15 years of practice with a wonderful job, through which He supplies abundantly for my needs. He has given me a godly, sweet, beautiful wife who loves me and is faithful to me. He has entrusted to our care nine precious children (and one on the way due May 15, 2018) who like arrows are being nurtured and prepared for launching from our home one day for His glory. He has given us a calling to make disciples and meaningful ministry opportunities?both within and outside of our family through interactions with patients, residents, medical students, and our local church body. He has indeed blessed me far beyond what I could have ever asked or even imagined and certainly with more than I deserve. Praise God for His abundant gifts! He calls me to remember Who He is and what He has done.
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1-5)
10 “And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you–with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant–and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you– 15 for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God– lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 6:10-15)
Repent. This is the second word that came to mind as I read that article. Because I easily forget what God has done for me, I just as easily become ungrateful and discontent in my present circumstances. My viewpoint gets so distorted that the very gifts God has given me (like my work and my children) become burdensome to the point that I complain about them?just like manna and quail were to the children of Israel (Exodus 16, Numbers 11). God tenderly exposes my sin of ungratefulness and calls me to repentance.
God also uncovers my sin of trying to live independently of Him. Now that I have readily at my fingertips the conveniences of modern technology (internet search engines, online retailers with 2 day shipping, GPS, online banking, social media, and do-it-yourself videos), I easily lapse into self-sustaining autopilot mode with little regard for God in my daily life. This self-dependence becomes manifest when I choose to truncate my time with Him daily at the demands of the other seemingly more pressing needs and when I run first to something or someone else instead of to Him in prayer when a crisis arises. I must repent of my attempts to navigate life by trusting in myself rather than in God. Underlying this self-reliance is a lack of faith in God to provide for me.
Reviewing my struggles then and now reveals the same tendencies but in different contexts. Previously I would wonder, ?How will my performance on this next test or next rotation affect my residency application?? Now I am asking questions like: ?Will my patients have excellent surgical outcomes and will they rate me favorably on patient satisfaction surveys?? or ?Have I given my wife all the support she needs as her husband and taught my children well enough as their father so that they might be physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially, and especially spiritually prepared when they leave our home?? All these questions revolve around the idea of pursuing my identity, success, and significance through my performance. God does indeed want me to be diligent in my studies, excellent in my patient care, and faithful in my role as shepherd in the home, but my identity is not wrapped up in these things and my worth doesn?t come from success in these areas. My identity comes from the finished work of Christ on the cross for me and the fact that He has chosen to set His love upon me through no merit of my own.
Every sin I struggle with has its roots in idolatry. My heart is a constant idol factory in need for continual repentance. Dr. Tim Keller writes in his book, Counterfeit Gods: ?What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.?
Idols are numerous and varied but they all have in common the displacement of worship due to the One True God alone. An idol is anything or anyone I am trusting in to bring fulfillment and purpose that only God can bring. My quest for comfort, control, pleasure, power, position, and the furthering of my reputation are idols. As discussed earlier, success at work or in the family can also become an idol. Wealth, status, and possessions can become idols. I recognize idols because these are the things about which my heart delights and my mind day dreams. These are the things I willingly devote my time, energy, and monetary resources to acquire. These are the things that I cannot let go of easily?things that provoke anger or despair?when they are threatened or suddenly taken from me. My preoccupation with self rather than God?s will for my life and the needs of others is idolatrous. When something happens to me that I do not like, I fight it and expend great effort to control the situation in the hopes of forcing a different outcome rather than yielding to God?s Sovereign control and patiently waiting for Him to work in and through my circumstances. Through these adverse circumstances, He is seeking to refine my character and bringing Himself glory as my One and Only Savior. God loves me too much to let me continue in idolatry. Idols can never satisfy like the True God can.
Dr. Keller continues in Counterfeit Gods: ?The idol of success cannot be just expelled, it must be replaced. The human heart?s desire for a particular valuable object may be conquered, but its need to have some such object is unconquerable. How can we break our heart?s fixation on doing ?some great thing? in order to heal ourselves of our sense of inadequacy, in order to give our lives meaning? Only when we see what Jesus, our great Suffering Servant, has done for us will we finally understand why God?s salvation does not require us to do ?some great thing.? We don?t have to do it, because Jesus has. That?s why we can ?just wash.? Jesus did it all for us, and he loves us?that is how we know our existence is justified. When we believe in what he accomplished for us with our minds, and when we are moved by what he did for us in our hearts, it begins to kill off the addiction, the need for success at all costs.?
Praise God that He gives us none other than Himself?the Real Thing?when we repent of our idolatry to false gods.
8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9 He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. 10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:8-11)
Rest. This is the third word that comes to mind. In a world of incessant needs and constant demands for performance and productivity, there is little time for rest. I would much rather do something than rest. My mind would rather perseverate on and worry about something than rest.
Rest is a gift from the Lord woven into the fabric of creation. God rested on the seventh day after He created the world. He calls us to Sabbath rest as well. He engineered our bodies to require regular rest. Weariness and fatigue eventually take their toll, but rest is restorative and drastically improves our outlook and capability.
In the spiritual realm, resting is a prerequisite for our salvation. When we follow Christ, we trust Him by faith, surrendering and resting in His finished work for our salvation. We brought nothing to the table but we rest on His merit alone to satisfy our debt of sin and to save us. When Christ rescued us, we were His enemies running the other way, dead in our sins, and oblivious of our need for Him. When he found us, we were seeking to earn His favor through our performance and self-righteousness. God clothes us in the righteousness of Christ and lavishes on us the riches of His grace (Ephesians 2:4-7) and His unending favor that allows us to rest. With our position secure in Christ, we are free to serve Him out of delight and love rather than out of duty and fear. Our significance and worth are secure in our identity as His children and do not have to be sought in the realm of our performance in the workplace or in the home.
One area in which I must learn to rest is the care of my family. I often worry about whether our children will have what they need from us as parents and how they will turn out. I want them to be well mannered, well educated, financially independent, self-sustaining, and gainfully employed with healthy marriages and families of their own someday. I want them to come to love God deeply and follow Him all their days with right theology and Christ-honoring behavior. I want them to escape the hardships in life like waywardness, pain, sickness, loss, broken relationships, financial need, etc. Resting means entrusting God with the ones we hold most precious and recognizing that actually He is the One to whom they belong and He is the One who has entrusted them to us for this time. In keeping with this, we must also recognize that God loves them even more than we do. The sovereign, all-powerful, gracious, compassionate God ?did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?? (Romans 8:32) Is God then not trustworthy with our lives and with those we love so dearly?
On a day to day basis, resting means coming to God with my burdens and casting them upon Him. It means setting aside the distractions of the day to get away alone with the Savior. It means taking time in the stillness of the morning to meditate on His attributes, His blessings, and His promises. It is coming eagerly to His Word to find the Bread of Life and Living Water that alone can truly satisfy and sustain. It means spending time abiding in the Vine and letting Him bear fruit in us. It means being a little bit more like Mary, who sat at Jesus? feet adoring Him, and a little less like Martha, scurrying around busily trying to serve Him. It means learning to listen more, speak less, yield my will, pray more and wait on His answer rather than charging out hastily on my own impulses. It is being able to take our hands off situations that are clearly out of our control and trusting His good intentions, infinite wisdom, and almighty power to work on our behalf. It is dwelling on His beauty and remembering His great love for me. It is this kind of love that propels me to love Him in return and serve Him with my life. It is finding ultimate satisfaction in Him the Giver and not in the gifts He gives. I can give my whole life to working and amassing a fortune for my own consumption, but I would still wind up empty. There would never be enough to fulfill the cravings of our souls because these things were never meant to satisfy. The bank balances, possessions, accolades and success can never fill the God-shaped vacuum that is found in our hearts. We were created to worship, delight in, trust in, and glory in God alone. Augustine of Hippo stated it this way: ?Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.? The solution to the frenetic pace of today is to rest in and worship Christ Jesus, Our Lord and Savior.
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. 6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. 7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! (Psalm 37:3-7)
10 Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! (Psalm 46:10)
1 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:1-2)
I don?t know if I will have an opportunity to write another blog for the COS in 20 years. Maybe then the form of communication would be something totally different than a printed newsletter or an online blog. If I do have the opportunity to write then, I am confident that I will have much to say about His faithfulness to me. Jesus Christ is indeed the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8).
I leave you with the lyrics of one of my favorite hymns, ?Jesus I Am Resting,? written in 1876 by Jean Sophia Pigott. Sources say that her brother, Thomas Wellesley Pigott, a missionary to China, was killed by insurgents during the Boxer Rebellion of 1901. The timeless words of this hymn, inspired by Hebrews 4, capture the essence of what it means to rest in and be completely enthralled in the beauty of Christ. I pray that this leads you to deeper love, devotion, and worship of the Savior!
- Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power,
Thou hast made me whole.
Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
- Oh, how great Thy loving kindness,
Vaster, broader than the sea!
Oh, how marvelous Thy goodness,
Lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Beloved,
Know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certainty of promise,
And have made it mine.
- Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings:
Thine is love indeed!
- Ever lift Thy face upon me
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting ?neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth?s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father?s glory,
Sunshine of my Father?s face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting,
Fill me with Thy grace.