“Dear sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
~ James 1:2-4
At our Spring Hope4Hollywood Ladies Tea: Stories of Joy, one of our ladies shared how God granted her joy in the midst of a difficult journey. “For as long as I can remember I have dreamed of being a doctor. So in college I earned high grades and diligently studied for the MCAT exam. I was devastated to learn the news that my scores were too low to even be accepted into any schools. And to add to my sense of failure, my test scores did not improve and then I learned that I had to wait 2 long years to reapply. I felt defeated, mentally and emotionally exhausted, and my joy was gone. Why had my efforts failed? After much prayer and wise counsel, I realized that God hadn’t taken away my opportunity but had just given me more time. He had gifted me with 2 extra years. This gift of time allowed me to save money as well as complete a Master’s Degree. Somehow my ‘struggle’ was turned into an opportunity to find joy.
Two years later I was overjoyed to receive the news of my acceptance into medical school! I felt so blessed to finally have the opportunity to fulfill my dream of becoming a physician. But the transition to another state was very difficult. Everything was brand new. I felt all alone and medical school was very challenging. Perhaps you have heard of the term imposter syndrome? That was me my first 2 years in medical school. I felt like I was pretending to be something I was not. Not only were classes a daily challenge but my relationship with my longtime boyfriend was disintegrating. I was an emotional and physical wreck, having doubled in size from all the stress. I was at another low point, discouraged and defeated. How and where could I find joy in all of this? Once again I had to consciously choose to hang onto anything that would bring me joy. Slowly over the next year God began to restore joy through the love of my friends and family.
Today I work as a medical resident and am being challenged and tested yet again. I am working an unimaginable number of hours, without even time during my busy days to use the restroom or take a break. At times I feel under appreciated and devalued. Even harder is dealing with the daily burden of breaking bad news to my patients. I recall recently delivering the news to my 30 something patient that she has stage 4 terminal cancer which will likely take her life within the next year. How do I find joy in the midst of all of this?
As in all my other dark times, I remember that I needed to take time to stop and reflect. And so one day at work, despite having a morning clinic session and a full patient load, plus a multitude of other tasks, I decided to take my wheel-chair bound patient into the healing garden. We sat outside for nearly an hour, just enjoying the sun on our faces. He was so grateful to get out of the confines of his room and have a sense of something normal again. His smile and authentic gratitude reminded me of why I wanted to go into medicine in the first place.
James 1 reminds us that our struggles are actually “opportunities.” So each day I am making an effort to view my difficulties as opportunities–opportunities for joy and growth. Hopefully I can turn these newfound opportunities into helping me develop into an even better friend, sister, daughter, partner and physician in the future.
What struggles are you currently facing?
How can you consider these struggles as “opportunities” for joy?