I have been tutoring student recently in a variety of math and science. Therefore I find myself doing a bit of studying. It has made me reflect on a large majority of my life. Life as a student. Given I worked through both a doctorate and masters degree, I have spent more of my life as a student then not. So what is the greatest lesson I learned through those years, particularly the later years as a medical student?
I learn a great deal about the science, the human body and medicine. But the greatest tool I learned is how stay in relationship with Jesus in the midst of all the studying.
When I was in undergrad I often struggled to feel connected with God. I often felt like he had forgotten me, left me or I did not feel his presence. Of course God never left me. It was my perception. I eventually learned ways to help live each day more aware of God. There were periods of time I succeeded and other times not so much. I would describe it like this. If you have someone sitting right next to you, they are there but you never acknowledge them, talk with them, spend time with them, rather are always looking off in the opposite direction giving them the cold shoulder then how connected would you feel to this person? They are present, they are there, they have never left but you do not feel near to them. In my undergrad there were times I did this with God. There were other times I turned around and such. My ignoring God did not come out of a lack of desire for God or a lack of love. It came from the fact that my nose was stuck in a textbook trying to prepare for exams and such. My lack of acknowledgment of God came from my trying to be a good friend to others and succeed in gymnastics. So rather than starting with God then moving to the tasks I had as a student, I was bypassing God. The result was I lost touch. I felt distant from God. Disconnected. I basically was sitting next to God, giving him the cold shoulder and saying God where are you?
As I matured through my undergrad then went into medical school the Lord worked in me and developed a healthier style. I learned how to be a student with my nose stuck in a book but also turned so I was facing God, aware of him and his presence. This brought much peace, fulfillment and joy despite the challenges as a student. So how did I learn to be “mindful” of God while studying all the time?
-Starting each day spending some time in prayer and reading either a devotional or the Bible. I can have problems falling asleep, having poor concentration, etc. I found that writing helped me be more alert. Writing scripture and then writing thoughts on the scripture was my most common way of helping me focus. The Bible was the textbook and my journal was my note taking. Plus I could let out all my thoughts, desires, wishes, struggles, etc. I often needed this from my emotional well-being. God did not mind hearing about it all. Jesus is my healer.
⁃ I learned to take pauses from studying. No one can study for hours on end. We pause to go the bathroom, eat, etc. Well we also need to pause to talk to God. So I took several 5-15 min breaks every so often to talk with God and maybe meditate on scripture. Maybe the scripture you read that morning. Nothing wrong with repetition.
⁃ Even though I was a student I needed some hobbies, I needed exercise. I was a runner. I used my time running to listen to sermons, pray or listen to worship music. I could have used that time to listen to lectures. But I needed that time away from all the school stuff. Running was devoted to God. I also painted. Painting was relaxing and gave me a break from studying. It was a way to be still and know that God is God.
⁃ Watch who you are spending time with. It does not matter who you are. The strongest person or the weakest person. The people you spend the most time with will rub off on you. So make sure the people you are spending the most time with are encouraging you in your walk with the Lord. Make sure they are loving, supportive people. Ask in prayer for the right community for you and always remember the Lord wishes for you to be in a community that is supporting you and loving you so you can grow into the person God created you to be.
⁃ Do not be afraid to say no to things that are not life giving. Not every invitation you receive is from the Lord. I found that when I was more in touch with God and asking him his opinion I was better able to tell the difference between a not so good invitation and a life giving invitation.
⁃ Life as a student is stressful and in some ways it is easy to become consumed with yourself and lose touch with the needs of others. Ask the Lord to show you a way to serve in some form. Even if it is only once a month. It is good to be reminded that your studies although important are not everything. Serve others and it will be life giving and refreshing to you.
These were the main lessons I learned as a student. It does not just apply to student either. It really is settling you up for a healthy foundation in Christ no matter where he leads you. I went to medical school and never dreamed the Lord would lead me down the path I have taken. This path was not in my minds eye. But Gods perfect will is much better than our own. To know Gods will we have to following Christ. How do you follow Christ when you are giving him the cold shoulder?
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