Working as a doctor is a mix of things – it is a celebration, a battle, a mystery, a discovery. It delivers joyful bundles of miracles, victories and life, but it also confronts me with frustrations, uncertainty, death. Through the work, the study, the consult sessions and the drives to and from work, I have a God I can speak to. I ask him for wisdom, for patience, for miracles. I thank Him for the lives that pass through my day, and for the journeys they have. Above all, I thank God for his faithful presence with me day in and day out.
I used to pray a lot for excellence in my work practice – that I would be an excellent doctor, so that my testimony would stand when I spoke about Jesus in my workplace. What happens however, when a mistake occurs? This happens to everyone at some point in their careers, and looking through the Bible, I have discovered a few things.
- There is a testimony in how we respond to our mistakes.
There are numerous people in the Bible whose flaws are laid bare beside their successes. King David is remembered as a man after God’s own heart, despite a number of not-so-righteous moments. There was his adultery with Bathsheba, the murder of her husband, and some parenting fails. Not everyone liked King David. In fact, he spent much of his life dealing with people who hated him. We see his struggles in the Psalms we wrote to God and it is sad to see the fall of some of those closest to David, his son Absolom for example.
Yet, for all of this, there is a reason why David was called a man after God’s own heart. He repented of his wrongs, he appealed to God but accepted the consequences for his actions. He never gave up seeking after God and he never relinquished that relationship with God. Joseph had an excellent work testimony, but before he came to Egypt, he was a favoured son, and overtly proud. Joseph learnt to humble himself before God. He recognised that it was God who had all power and all knowledge, and Joseph submitted to his omnipotent God.
How can we respond to our mistakes in a godly way? I believe we need to recognise when we fall and acknowledge this. Say sorry to God. Say sorry to others. Be humble enough to learn and change. Sometimes these mistakes are opportunities for character-building. We can learn from them. Above all, we can remember that God is omnipotent. He sees our heart, He covers us with grace, and He can work with every situation. We have a God who never fails and ultimately we work for God, and not for man’s opinion.
- We are already successful if we have relationship.
Both David and Joseph were counted successful by their relationship with God. Multiple prophets, many of whom were rejected and poor, also were counted successful. It wasn’t wealth or power that afforded them success. It wasn’t popular opinion, and it wasn’t how convincing they were with words. All these people were successful because they obeyed God and loved Him. The first commandment as identified by God Himself, is that we love Him. Those who we know to be successful are those who knew they were loved by God, and also loved Him. [1 John 3:17] says,
“For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.”
Even in those times when we feel unworthy, we can be assured in the love and grace of God. He sees a heart that is genuinely for him, even when we fall. I was having a conversation with some people around Easter time. They believed that works were needed for salvation. I believe that works are important as they are evidence of our love and obedience towards God. However, I do not think we obtain salvation through works. We are able to do good works because we are made in the image of God, and God is good. However, my success in God’s eyes does not come from my works. My success in Him in found in how I love Him, and I know it is only by grace that I can do this.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” – [Ephesians 2:8-10]
What about the frustrations of work and the conflicts that are bound to happen? How do we navigate these? In my own workplace, I see a number of mental health patients. In fact, I realise that most people struggle through loss, rejection, and loneliness but deal with these in different ways. Some people have a defeatist attitude; others hide it until it bursts out of its own accord. Others become angry, and some try to medicate the pain. Many people, however, are able to find hope in the midst of their suffering. It might take a week, and it might take years, but I am always encouraged by the strength we as humans are somehow able to find when we look for it.
It can be quite a burden listening to these terrible stories daily, and knowing that you cannot change their situation single-handedly, or quickly. I pray for my patients and for their situations. I also pray for myself – for greater joy so that I can be constantly giving this to them, for patience so that they would feel heard, for wisdom to know what to say and how to help them practically. The other week, as I was driving to work, I felt a tug at my heart to pray a little differently. I prayed, “Lord, help me to love my patients.” Well in the next couple of weeks, I seemed to lose my frustrations. The same things happened – I still had some busy sessions; sessions that ran late; patients with complicated issues. I still worked hard and as best I could. Yet, there was a peace in it all, and I felt that love flowing in and through me. “Lord, help me to love.” It is exactly what God desires and of course He will help.
Let me finish with this passage from [Colossians 3:12-17] which gives us a picture of what is looks like to live a life in Christ.
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”