Question

I am an 18 year old girl and I follow Christianity religiously. I am an ambitious girl, and I've always wanted to be a doctor. I want to be able to heal people and have a job job that makes a difference. One of my biggest driving force behind this ambition is my brother. He has Down's Syndrome, which makes him intellectually challenged, socially and financially dependant on his family. I have always loved him the most, maybe more than myself, and I desire to take care of him all my life, especially when my parents are older. What better way than being a doctor and have the ability to attend to his health needs myself?

It's just that I sometimes doubt my abilities to make it into medical school. In my country there's cut throat competition, and you really have to be better than the best to make it to med school. Sometimes I feel hopeless about my selection. I extrapolate this to believe that I will not be a good human or a good sister if I don't become a doctor. All this worry affects my health and my focus on studies. I desperately want to get this feeling out of my thought process. The exam for med school is in a few months.

There's one more thing I want to share. I have had a troubled childhood. My parents have never really got along, and I've seen them fight and abuse each other over the smallest things. I've always tried to pacify the situation, but it only makes matters worse. My mother always accused me of being inclined to my dad and always taking his side. The fights that followed between her and me have always disturbed me mentally. This kind of conditioning has nurtured a low self esteem in me. I've found myself in constant self doubt, in every sphere of life, because I've always been reprimanded for doing the right thing. I love mom for standing by me when no one else did but also resent her for her mostly irrational behavior.


Answer

You never know if you can get into medical school until you actually attempt it. Worry about obviously won't make your chances better. Instead, put all you effort into it so that when you are done with the exams you can honestly say that you couldn't have done any better.

Let's just assume for the moment that the worse happens and you don't qualify. Then you select a related field that is not quite as demanding. You could aim to be a physician's assistant, a nurse practitioner, a nurse, or a hundred other medical specialities. Nothing says you have to stay at that level either. I've known nurses who later became nurse practitioners or physician's assistants. You can also move up to being a doctor. Often having the experience in the field makes a huge difference in you knowledge and abilities.

Still, we can hope and pray that you can get into your dream field directly.

Regarding your parents, stay out of their squabbles. They have developed this relationship with each other and they are comfortable with it. You can't change it. All you can do is realize that you don't want that in your own marriage, so find a husband whom you get along with well. It sounds as if your mother prefers to "solve" problems by bullying others to her point of view. It doesn't make for a peaceful relationship.

Thank you for your time and advice. I think I've now got a better understanding of how to deal with my parent's squabble. Maybe I just need to detach a bit. I guess I'm too involved in their lives and now it's time to focus on mine.

My problem is that I've always tried to measure up to other people's standards. My life isn't about me, it is about other people and their opinions about me. If I don't become a doctor, which I've been telling everyone since I was a kid, what are they going to think about me? Will I ever be a good daughter or a good sister then? I obsessively think about my alternate options, maybe more than my main aim. Even if I chose a less in demand field and I don't earn that well, aren't people going to look down on me? I know I sound too anxious but I've been trying to eliminate such thoughts because I know they are a hindrance, that's why I'm seeking your advice and the Bible's help. Whatever I do, I just can't stop this self sabotage.

The last statement is false. You have full control over yourself and your choices. "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (I Corinthians 10:13).

That you measure your self-worth by other people's opinion is a poor choice on your part. The only opinion that matters is God's opinion of you. The only standard that really matters is God's standard. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Where would we be if Jesus tried to please the Jews and the Romans? "Goodness" has never been measured by other people's opinions.

My dear, do what you enjoy doing. And when other people see you, they will see a woman who is happy at what she does.

Thank you for your prompt reply and your clear mindedness about my doubts. You have no idea what you have done for me. These 18 years I have carried so much baggage and now when I read your mail I get overwhelmed. I feel as if Jesus himself is caressing me, telling me that it's all right and that he'll be there for me come what may. Thank you for being that medium of connection, but I need to ask you this: how does one know that he is standing up to the Almighty's expectation? How do you know if your ambitions are just yours or if those are precisely the reasons why He sent you in this world? If it's the latter and He expects me to do what I want -- become a doctor, a healer -- then I dare not fail. If I fail, how do I know for sure that it's God will and He had some other plans for me or would it be my fault for not being able to do what He wanted me to? I've always believed that he has sent me to this world to take care of my brother and heal people by studying medicine.

People know they are pleasing God because they are following God's commands. "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (I John 2:3-6). It is that simple and that profound at the same time.

It is you who have yourself wrapped up around the thought of being a doctor. It is a noble pursuit, but nowhere has God ever told people they could only be saved by pursuing a certain career. God's desire is for people to live righteously. "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (I Timothy 2:3-4). Don't confuse your desire with God's purpose.

If it is God purpose, for whatever reason, for you to become a doctor, then there would be nothing that you could do to prevent it. "Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,' calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it" (Isaiah 46:9-11). This is the attribute of God. What He purposes depends solely on Himself. This is unlike man who can plan, but ultimately realizes that most things are out of his hands. "A man's heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).

What you don't realize is that God makes use of the doctors and the laundry maid. He demonstrates that He gets His way with the righteous and the wicked. God's purpose doesn't depend on people wanting to work with Him or against Him. However, if we are to be saved, then our salvation depends on working with God by obeying His laws. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Your standing before God doesn't depend on having some particular career, it depends on you living righteously regardless of what life throws in your way.

Truly that was eye opening. When you said that I'm confusing my desire with God's purpose, my whole life flashed before me and a realization struck me that the paths I chose in life are my own, but God will be with me and illuminate them whenever I feel it's too dark for me to step forward. Thank you for this life changing enlightenment. Now that I realize that the outcome is controlled by Him.

I want to make sure that I make the best of my journey. I want your guidance as to how should I empower myself and my desires. How should I make sure that I'm not dismayed by the smallest of pretext? I just want to make sure I don't give up in the middle of my goals and give my best shot with perseverance, then what will be will be, right? I guess that'll not just be for these few months but a lifelong asset.

I also want to tell you one thing. Ever since I conversed with you I've been looking at my goal to become a doctor with a whole new perspective -- a new spark. I now read blogs by med students and feel this is what I'll feel like when I get into med school very soon. I see videos of students covering their first day in med school and feel that this is exactly how its going to be. I wonder whether it is positive visualization or wishful thinking. If the outcome isn't in my hands, should I detach from feeling what it will feel like if I reach it?

Each of us make our overarching plans with the understanding that those major plans may change as events occur. That gives us guidance in making day to day choices, and it allows us to just focus on the next step. "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:36).

If I want to walk to Seattle, a journey that is over 1,500 miles from my home, I could get wrapped up in how long it is or I can simply take the next step in the direction of my goal and know that I'm one step closer. There is no single highway that takes me straight to Seattle. There are spots along the route that technically I won't be walking toward Seattle, but I have to walk in a different direction to avoid obstacles. I could get worked up over the fact that I'm not getting closer to my goal, or I can focus on the fact that I need to first get around this one problem before I can resume my journey.

Being positive about the outcome is fine, so long as it doesn't become an arrogance that causes you not to get prepared. Better is just look at what is the next step in your goal and do your best. If an obstacle arises, focus for the moment on getting around it, knowing you'll resume your journey later.

The best thing you can do is not pin your happiness on the destination. Happiness is found in enjoying the journey to your goal wherever it leads you.