Hold every desire with open hands
From the time the Lord saved me at the age of fifteen in 2010, I had a strong desire to be a Medical Doctor.
I was in Grade 9 and about to choose my subjects which would shape what I wanted to do after High School.
During my Primary School years I had wanted to be a Lawyer, but when the Lord drew me to Himself in High School, that desire slowly faded and a new desire was ignited within me.
I wanted to be a Medical Doctor.
I wanted to minister medication to heal physical diseases but also give the ultimate remedy for a dead soul…the Gospel. My passion was to serve the Lord and follow the Great Commission - but on my terms and becoming a doctor was definitely one of those terms! That must be how God was going to use me.
My desire to be a Medical Doctor became an idol.
It was my plan A and there was no plan B.
I was not accepted to study Medicine after matric. It was a blow but I was accepted to study Public Health and I saw that as a pathway to Medicine. God was still serving my agenda, just another way. I was determined to follow my dream, my idol, Medicine, which blinded me from seeing God’s goodness in what He had provided. Public Health was merely a means to that end.
I began resenting Public Health.
I saw nothing interesting, mentally stimulating or thrilling in Public Health. I was grateful that I wasn’t chilling at home doing nothing but that normally lasted a second before I found myself grumbling and discontent. I had a long song of complaint but only a thirty second praise song. This lasted for three years.
Our hearts are prone to be idol factories and mine was no exception.
I was just like the Israelites.
God rescued the Israelites from harsh slavery in Egypt. Before Moses led them out of Egypt, God performed miracles to show that He was the only true, living and almighty God. He inflicted ten plagues on the nation of Egypt, freed the Israelites from Pharaoh’s harsh slavery and through kindness, He travelled with them by day with a cloud and by night with fire.
He parted the Red Sea and they crossed over onto dry land, escaping Pharaoh’s army. He provided manna from heaven to feed them daily - (just imagine bread raining down from heaven every single day!) God helped them annihilate the entire Amalekite nation: ‘I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven’.
But when Moses was delayed in coming down the mountain after talking to God, the Israelites requested that Aaron make them a god whom they could worship. How bizarre is that?
Aaron made them a golden calf and they bowed down to it. In Exodus 9, during the fifth plague, God had killed all the Egyptian livestock, including the very calf they now made from gold to worship.
The living thing they made into gold didn’t stand a chance against the living God who created it, yet they insisted on worshipping it as their new god and broke the very first commandment: ‘You shall have no other gods before me.’
Reading through Exodus is just a rollercoaster like, ‘Ah c’mon squad you can’t be that foolish,’ but self-examination shows that we are very much like the Israelites. I know I am.
Our hearts truly are idol factories. We can take something that’s good and a blessing from God and make it into an idol.
The desire to study Medicine and to use that vocation as a Gospel opportunity is not sinful. It became sinful when that desire became my idol – when I started worshipping that.
My ‘golden calf’ was my planned Medicine career path.
I didn’t see that in the beginning. It truly was a blind-spot. I struggled to be fully satisfied in God, seeing Him as a good Father who always does good and trusting Him as my refuge. Every time a ‘door closed’ on me studying Medicine, I felt as if God was withholding something good from me, like He was punishing me and not wanting to see me flourish for His glory.
I refused to see the idol before me and instead I saw God as an unloving Father who clearly disliked me. I was behaving like a stubborn and spoilt child.
Although I agreed with the Psalmist in Psalm 103:8:‘The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,’ that did not seem to be my experience. I was angry at God. He was not serving my agenda. He was not serving what I was serving.
In Exodus 32:9-10 though, we see that God was angry with the Israelites. He called them a ‘stiff-necked people’ and was ready to consume them.
I was stiff-necked, clinging so tightly to my ‘golden idol.’
Yet because God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, He didn’t leave me to chase after my idol. Instead, in His steadfast love and patience, He removed the scales that blinded my eyes from seeing my sin.
Through His Word, He reminded me what I ought to be chasing wholeheartedly; that my chief end is to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. There are no terms and conditions for that. There is no fine print that reads ‘Not just when you’ve received what you’ve earnestly desired.’
My chief end is not the pursuit of Medicine. It is the pursuit of God.
I am called to glorify God in all circumstances and to enjoy Him forever and am I am beginning to trust that He is working all things for my good to transform me to the image of Christ.
I agree with the writer in Hebrews 12:11 ‘For at the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.’
Over the past year, God has slowly, gently and painfully opened my hands to take away the idol that I was holding onto so tightly; the idol that was never going to fully satisfy.
He has taught me that He is the bread of life, and whoever comes to Him shall not hunger and whoever believes in Him shall never thirst. I am content and at rest with my God.
He has reminded me of the command in 1 John 5:21: ‘Little children, keep yourselves from idols’
My soul was restless till I learned to completely rest in Him.
As I write this, I still don’t know if I’m going to be accepted into Medical School. At the present moment, it looks as if a Public Health career is where the Lord has ordered my steps and where He is choosing to use me.
That is okay. I can do that for His glory.
I am no longer enslaved to that idol, the shackles have been broken. My desire is to praise Him and serve Him where He has placed me. That gives me much joy and contentment.
I am learning to ‘Hold everything earthly with a loose hand but grasp eternal things with a death-like grasp’ [C.H. Spurgeon]
I am slowly learning the surprising comfort of Psalm 37:4-5. As I delight myself in the Lord, he will give me the desires of my heart. They are new desires that align with His will for my life – to grow me, sanctify me and love Him more. As I commit my way to the Lord and trust in Him, by holding my desires with an open hand, I see Him act in ways beyond my imagining.
Nomfundo is South African and grew up in the small town of Bethal in Mpumalanga.
She recently completed her Public Health degree at Monash University, South Africa and is currently working as a Junior Researcher.
Her hobbies include dancing, working out and drinking green tea.