Of Taking and Giving
“And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
“The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
Do you know the two verses above? Have you experienced the truth of these verses? In the following testimony, I would like to share with you how these verses came to life for me during this past year.
Twelve months ago I anticipated that I would matriculate into medical school during the fall of 2012. As a senior pre-med student, I planned to attend med school and then practice in another region of the world where healthcare and access to the gospel are limited. But there were some major obstacles...
None of the med schools where I applied invited me to interview. My application had been submitted very late and I was experiencing what some had warned me of - no interviews.
Then one day I got an email about a school that seemed amazing: it had a global health MD program for students interested in international health - perfect! The school was actually located in Israel and affiliated with Columbia University Medical Center in New York. I applied and was shortly invited for an interview.
The more I heard about the school, the better it sounded. Students learn about medicine in settings where underserved populations are located (within Israel). The classes are taught in English - - but students learn Hebrew in order to communicate with patients. During fourth year, students are required to complete a two-month international rotation in India, Africa, or South America. After praying a good deal about the decision, I sent in my acceptance letter, knowing that there were still many details that the Lord would have to work out...
Yet everything began falling into place more than I would have expected... the Lord provided: a roommate from the Lancaster area with a Christian background... a second-year mentor from the school who had graduated from Wheaton college and assured me that she (and others at the school) were praying for the next med school class... a place to stay during the month of orientation... the list goes on...
And then the list stops.
Some unexpected financial issues surfaced and I realized last minute that I would not be able to attend. Talk about change of plans! It was definitely one of the hardest times of my life. All my dreams had come crashing down. What was left?
------Well, if I wasn’t headed to school right away, I knew I needed to find a job in the interim. And thus began the long job hunt. I applied to nearly 30 jobs with practically no prospects of getting an interview. At one point I phoned one of the research hospitals where I had applied to several different research-assistant positions. I found out I was one of 400 applicants for one opening. What kind of chance would I have with those odds?
During this time of waiting, the Lord was working on my heart. In addition to not heading to med school, I was now having an impossible time finding a job. Need I say I felt like a failure? Maybe you know what it is like to have all your plans turned upside down. Actually, I felt like the earth (not just rug) had been pulled out from underneath and I was in a free-fall. Everything that I had looked to for stability and security was suddenly gone.
I heard somewhere that you realize that Jesus is all you need when He is all you have. When it feels like you have lost everything - dreams, hopes, aspirations - as I did, you suddenly realize the veracity of this claim. I said I felt like I was in free-fall; I was, until I fell on the Rock - Jesus Christ. Jesus said that whoever falls on the rock will be broken to pieces (Matt. 21:44). At first glance that sounds harsh. But Jesus can only use us once we have been broken - broken from our pride, broken over our sin, broken over the needs in the world around us. Hence the only way to be broken (and subsequently useful) is to fall on Him and be broken. When I lost the security of everything this world has to offer, I found true Security when I landed on The Rock that never changes. Jesus took everything away, broke me of my sin by allowing me to fall on Him, and showed me that He is sufficient.
Jesus opened my eyes to the fact that I had been expecting external things to give me value. I had been basing my success in life (and personal worth) on my abilities, career, and what others thought of me. As Jesus removed each of those idols, I began to realize that my identity - if I wanted it to be secure - had to rest in Jesus alone. I began to grasp the meaning of the term, “In Christ.” When I am in Christ, my complete value and worth is found in Him. He is full of value, so when I am fully in Him, I become full of value. Basing my value on things of the world set me up for disappointment. Basing my value on Jesus now allows me to be completely satisfied in Him, whatever the outward circumstances may be.
Along similar lines, I pondered the fact that the internal is more important than the external. I began to reflect on Biblical views of one’s profession. At some point, I realized I had made med school an idol. The Lord showed me that it doesn’t matter as much what you do or what you are (i.e. external) - street sweeper, CEO, musician, electrician, surgeon, babysitter, etc - as much as it matters how you do your work and to WHOM you do your work (heart motivations - internal). Our work is to be done as unto the Lord, not to man. The Lord is not a respecter of persons or professions. He looks at our heart - are we doing our best as unto Him? Are we doing our tasks out of love (I Cor. 13)? Are we looking to Him as our Final Judge Who will grade our work?
It is only because Jesus brought me to the end of myself that I can testify to His goodness. I learned that whether the Lord gives or takes away (Job 1:21), I am to bless His name because He is ultimately working out everything for good (Rom. 8:28). It also made me realize that if a job did show up, it would be a miracle and Jesus would have to get all the glory. And wouldn’t you know that is exactly what happened...
Back in the summer when my plans were still up in the air, I spent a day with the SMI team doing healthcare outreaches in North Philly. Sometime during that day there was a conversation about a region in Washington, DC, with specific health needs. Why not start SMI down there? I wondered. The others responded that it only takes one willing person. Well, if I don’t end up going to med school this year, maybe.....
It was an interesting idea, so I initially pursued it. However, as the summer wore on, I became immersed in job applications and practically forgot about it. But the Lord didn’t forget - He was on me for it, and since I wasn’t working yet, I spent more time planning how it could work. I met with the woman who organizes the Philly outreaches to pick her brain about SMI. She offered to put me in touch with some friends in DC. She also kindly offered to help me try to find a job in the Philly area.
It wasn’t until about a month later that this woman emailed her DC friends, forwarding the email I had initially sent. Apparently the last line of my email referenced my need for a job. Well, one of the contacts in DC/Maryland saw it and immediately responded, inquiring as to my job interest. Apparently she was a researcher and had just received funding to hire a postbac (college graduate) research assistant and was in the midst of interviewing and hiring!
We set up a phone interview for the next day, and an in-person interview for the following week. A week after my interview, I was offered the job. CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS??
It had been months of job searching. Then a wonderful job - in my field (science/medical research), at an amazing institution, and with a boss who used to attend Tenth - drops directly into my lap at (almost) lightning speed. What was even more amazing was to watch the subsequent details of the job situation unfold. The whole experience seemed to have the fingerprints of God’s hand upon it.
Since the job was in Maryland (just outside of DC), I would need to relocate - find housing, figure out transportation, and most importantly, find a church community. The Lord provided wonderful housing accommodations with a family that goes to the local Presbyterian Church (which has also become my church home down here). I live two miles from work and two miles from church - so close! Transportation has also worked itself out. Most importantly, the Lord provided a church family at Fourth Presbyterian Church. I have met others at church who are either in the medical field or in research. Everyone has been friendly and welcoming. And I have been able to reconnect with old family friends who are also living down here (and also go to Fourth). Of course I miss Tenth - especially the Tenth Healthcare Fellowship and the TCN small group which I was a part of - but I am excited to see how the Lord can teach me new things in a new place.
The list of positive outcomes could go on. It just boggles my mind at how every single detail has been accounted for. Now, does this mean Jesus loved me any less when I was searching for a job and not finding one? Does this mean He loves me more now because He has given me a wonderful job and life situation? No, Jesus’ love for us cannot change. What a wonderful assurance for us whether we face trials or joys. Does this mean I know why the Lord changed the plan for me to go to med school last year? No. Do I need to know why? No. All I know (and need to know) is that God the Father is working out His good plan on the earth and anything that happens will be part of that plan. The Lord has shown me that, like in the story of Job, He can take perfectly, or give perfectly. And in either situation, we are to bless the name of Jesus because we are confident that all things are working together for good.
Now that I have been in the job a few months, I have had to be reminded of these very truths to which I am giving testimony. It was exciting to have a new job and live in a new place. But at some point the excitement began to wear off and, with it, I began to lose my joy. Could it be that I was again basing my happiness on something external like my job, which would quickly lose its ability to satisfy, instead of looking to Jesus? As soon as the Lord brought this to my attention, I knew I had to run back to Jesus and find Him as my All Sufficient One. Yes, whether He gives or takes away, we can only find our security and identity in Him to be truly satisfied.