Restoring the Joy - Through Surrender
by Irene Thomas Thevatheril, MD, with Dianne Masters
Today's Christian Doctor - Spring 2008
It has never made sense to me from a human perspective why the Lord called me to Cornerstone Family Health as a new mother. In my mind, He should have done this either before I had children or after they were grown up, when I would have had more time. I knew that to be the solo provider of a start-up clinic that sees all who walk through its doors with so few resources would be very demanding. I also knew how ill-qualified I was in undertaking a task like this. Like Moses, who told God that he was not competent to talk to Pharaoh, I repeatedly told God that He had picked the wrong person. But His response was that I should look to Him, and that His grace was sufficient.
Early in 2003, a colleague who was leaving the country contacted me to see if I would be interested in taking over her very small practice. I was not anxious to pursue this opportunity because of my sense of calling to medical missions and to serve the poor from a young age. I had always thought that God would call me to serve Him abroad or to the inner city, where I saw the most need. Never would I have thought that He would call me to be part of a private practice in the suburbs.
While it seemed obvious to me that taking over this practice could not be part of God’s plan, my husband and I started praying, as we wanted to make sure that we had sought His will on our knees. Surprisingly, many things fell into place. My husband was supportive of acquiring the office. There seemed to be a flexibility that would allow me to work part-time and still be a mother of my then two-week old daughter. Most of all, I sensed the Lord was calling me not to merely open up a private practice with my name on it. The office was to be His: His doing, His people at work, His people being served.
Thus, following the Lord’s leading, Cornerstone opened its doors on May 12, 2003, centered on Ephesians 2:20: “built . . . with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” The clinic would serve in the name and love of Jesus, serving all who walked through its doors – rich or poor, insured, underinsured, or uninsured. Seeds would be planted for the kingdom. Bibles and tracts would be available. Prayer would be offered to those in need. Local churches would join in this ministry of outreach.
Once Cornerstone opened, I gave it my all to make it a place of excellence for God’s glory. The goal was to provide patients with the personal, compassionate, quality care that any small private practice would strive to provide. But in retrospect, perhaps it was His intention for me to trust Him to make it the clinic and ministry He wanted it to be, instead of my working so hard at it in my own strength.
Over time, I began to feel torn. Each morning, I would pray for our children and ask the Lord if He really wanted me at Cornerstone when He knew I had children at home to care for. I shed many tears as I left home in the morning while they were asleep or as I came home at night, only to find them asleep. As I sought His will, I knew that He wanted me to continue at Cornerstone, and that to leave would be disobedience.
One morning, during my first year at Cornerstone, I began to weep while driving to work. I was struggling deeply with leaving my daughter who was only a few months old at that time. She would cry so hard and long when I would leave in the morning that it would break my heart. I was wrestling with the Lord, trying to convince Him why I needed to be at home to care for her and raise her in His ways. That morning, the radio speaker was talking about the importance of being in the center of God’s will. He stated that there was no better place to be than where God wanted you that day. He said that often, He asks us to sacrifice and leave good things, but we had to trust the Lord to take care of those things. This message struck such a deep cord in me. I sensed the Lord telling me to leave my daughter to Him, that He loved her, and that it was He, not me, who would bring her to Himself.
That was 2003, when we had only one child. By the end of 2006, God had blessed us with three children, so the need for me to stay at home had increased. Yet, the burden to keep Cornerstone going as the solo doctor weighed heavily on me, also. We had searched hard for a physician to join us, but had no success because of our limited resources, and the sacrifice it would take to join Cornerstone. I had convinced myself that until the Lord brought another physician, it was my job to keep it going. After all, many patients had come to experience Jesus through this ministry, and so many of our uninsured and Public Aid patients would not have a doctor if we closed our doors.
So I just worked harder, in the process losing my focus on trusting Him to provide what He wanted and to take us where He wanted us to go, in His good time. As a result, discouragement, doubt, and a lack of joy overcame me.
Today my joy is returning because the Lord has changed my focus. As I began to sense that He was calling me to spend more at home, I realized that I had to trust Him to keep the doors of Cornerstone open. In recent months, I have cut down on evening and Saturday hours. I take a full day off, and no longer provide acute care hours on a daily basis. I knew that these steps were bad business decisions in terms of our finances, but they were taken in faith and the Lord has honored them.
Once I reaffirmed my trust that God would do what He wanted to do, when, and how He wished, He miraculously provided a practice manager and a nurse practitioner. In addition to these new partners in ministry, we still need to increase our base of support and prayer, and are still seeking a physician to continue the ministry of Cornerstone.
While only God knows the future of Cornerstone and whether or not we will be able to keep our doors open after May 2008, I am deeply grateful for what He has taught me these past years. I never could have grown so much and learned to trust Him so implicitly had I not gone through the “furnace” of this experience. Had Cornerstone Family Health been an easy ministry to establish, with all the resources and personnel in place from the start, I would not have been on my knees nearly as much and I might have wrongly assumed that its accomplishments were somehow due to my expertise and talents. Through the process, the Lord has truly become my Cornerstone, blessing me with the joy that comes with complete surrender.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Irene Thomas Thevatheril, MD, is a solo Family Physician at Cornerstone Family Health in Hinsdale, IL, and a graduate of Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX. She completed her Family Medicine residency at Rush University, Chicago, IL, and a Faculty Development fellowship at Cook County Hospital, Chicago, IL. She serves as an Associate Director at the Adventist La Grange Family Medicine Residency, La Grange, IL, and is on the local Chicago CMDA Council.