My husband and I were 27 when he started medical school. We had been married for almost 5 years and already had two children. Life was in full-swing and hard enough! Adding medical school was exciting and terrifying but felt doable. The loans and workload were things we hadn’t thought of too much — we knew they were both large, but we just assumed it’d all work out. Like many medical students, my husband breezed through undergrad without much stress. He enjoyed school and was looking forward to going back. We had no idea of the intense mental and emotional strain headed our way.
As we entered his first year, we found a church we liked, got connected with other members and started to build a life in our new city. But as the year continued, I noticed my husband’s joy depleting. His excitement began to fade and it was replaced with anxiety and sadness. By the time he was into his second year, I rarely saw him smile. His love for learning and life was replaced with depressing and the beginnings of hatred towards med school were sparking. I could feel the tension in his body each day. He talked about quitting. He said he wasn’t smart enough. He wasn’t good enough. He felt like he’d never match into any program. I tried to be encouraging but my words were failing. And I honestly didn’t believe them much myself. But I prayed. We prayed. Often his prayers were just tears.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans 8:26
Eventually, through that prayer and study in the word, my husband was led to the practice of keeping the Sabbath. He said that from then on, he would take each Sunday off. He would not study or do anything school related if he could at all help it. This was life-changing for us both. For our whole family. During this time, I had our third baby, a little girl, who reminded us that life goes on and we were in this place for a reason. We continued to keep the Sabbath by spending each Lord’s Day as a family, in the scripture and prayer. We often had other families in our home for a meal and fellowship. My husband seemed a new man. He was joyful again. He knew that no matter how hard his week was going, he’d have that day off to rest in Christ.
His grades never went down, he never felt behind in class or in simulations. He felt like he was retaining more information during the week.
At first, it was hard for him to rest though. My husband was doing what he felt convicted to do, but he wasn’t all-in from the get-go. He felt like he was falling behind. That his classmates would get the upper hand and he would suffer for it. But he never did. His grades never went down, he never felt behind in class or simulations. He felt like he was retaining more information during the week. He started to feel like he was no longer missing anything on this day of rest. He was joyful to take it off. This was no longer a burden but a blessing. And we all were blessed.
We still continue this practice as we near the end of his first year of residency. He has some Sunday’s that require him to be at the hospital, of course. But he’s been blessed with an understanding group of co-workers who do try to schedule him according to his convictions. He gladly works holidays so that he has more Sundays off. Our family has benefitted greatly from following this commandment. Our time together is precious but our time with the Lord is irreplaceable. We strive for a closer relationship with each other through Him.
If you are in the throes of medical school and struggling with these mental and emotional hurdles, let me encourage you. It does get better. Through prayer and continued service to your spouse, you will come out the other side of this stronger and more joyful. This is not a time to be downtrodden or selfish. We are on this path with our husbands to encourage them. They are working hard for us, their family. The Lord brought us through this trial and though my husband still hard days, he never fails to remember he can turn to Christ in prayer. We covet our Sabbath rest in Jesus and look forward to life after residency when work is less demanding and schedules are more flexible. We know there is always the possibility of new trials around each corner but we don’t fret. We have walked through dark times and are now able to see the light.