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Friday, December 28, 2012

Finding God's Will

I don't often blatantly discuss religion on this blog (that's what my other one is for), but I also don't hide that side of me.  My faith in Christ guides just about everything I do, including my work as a vet, and that will come out from time to time.  So I received this email from Rachel:

I am so glad to have come across your 7/24/11 post called 'God and Veterinary medicine'. I have a pressing question which I know only God knows the answer to, but I wanted to open it to you for honest insight... 

My name is Rachel and I'm a pre-veterinary student at the moment, after having graduated with an unrelated bachelor's degree a few years ago. I don't know how to put my passion for helping animals into words that don't sound cliche. I want to help and heal them to my highest ability, which is why I changed my course and returned to school in pursuit of a career as a veterinarian. At the time when I made this decision, there were many signs that this is the way, and many wondered why I hadn't chosen this path in the first place. Simply put, I'm crazy about God's animals, and to see them ailing brings me to my knees.

I have always believed in God, but only a few weeks ago I fully accepted Christ into my life and my relationship with Him is growing everyday. Before, I admit to being guilty of putting animals above humans - honestly, I was people-fearing, even loathing. After reading the Bible, I realize that as a follower of Christ, I cannot live or think that way - we must love one another as Christ does. I heard a sermon not too long ago that said once you accept God into your life, He does with your life as He pleases, and He will take/make you far from who you think you are, and you certainly may not like it at first. 

Thinking of this brings me anxiety, panic, and confusion, because not long after, a thought came to my mind (from me or God, I do not know) that I should be a human doctor, and specialize in oncology to be exact. I don't know if this was God talking to me, or me messing with mind trying to stir up anxiety again (not uncommon). I feel that everything that has happened for me in the past two years - volunteering, participating in veterinary mission trips abroad, meeting wonderful contacts in the field, finding inspiration in the veterinarians I have followed - all of these things I feel were/are blessings from God. They all came to me at the right place and time; coincidence is impossible. I enjoy and am fulfilled when I help people day to day, but animals have been in my heart, as are many other God-given passions and talents, since my beginning.

Perhaps it is God trying to tell me that I need to balance myself out and dedicate more time to helping people in need? This I can believe. I have merely just begun my walk with God and I am just starting to learn more about Him. Of course I want to always say 'Yes' to God! He knows what is best for us. I can only hope it was a silly 'what-if'  thought that came to mind. Now I can't help but worry as I continue my studies that I am displeasing God, and being selfish for pursuing what I love. I have prayed about this, but nothing is yet clear to me. 

I am coming to you because I trust your honest insight, and I am sure you understand more about God's character than I do right now. What are your thoughts?

First I want to say that I'm not an expert on God, just a devoted layperson who makes mistakes and still sins.  I'm no better than anybody else, so take any of my advice with a grain (or three) of salt.  And I can't say that I understand more about God....I'm still trying to figure a lot of it out myself!

God is not the author of confusion.  That's the domain of Satan.  But we as fallible, sinful humans can mess with our own minds without the Devil's help.  I've certainly had plenty of doubts and confusion of my own and have doubted what God wants for me, yet I don't think Satan is behind all of that.  We have our own free wills, and that includes the freedom to doubt.  But if you're moving in a direction that God wants, Satan can certainly intervene and muddy the waters.

I agree that too many people put animals over humans.  Humans have a special place in God's creation, and though animals are special they are not on the same level as people.  I do believe that animals have emotions and can show love and devotion, but that alone doesn't place them above or even equal to humans.  In Genesis God gives Adam (and therefore all his descendants) authority over animals.  But that doesn't mean that we can do whatever we want to them with impunity.  God still wants us to take care of His creation.  Animals are there for us to be able to use, but also for us to act as caretakers.  That is a big responsibility and ties directly to those of us in the veterinary profession.  But no matter how much I love animals, I firmly believe that any human has more value to God than any animal.  As a follower of Christ, I need to mirror that attitude.

Rachel, I can't tell you what God wants from you, even if I knew you.  I would first recommend finding a local pastor, priest, or other spiritual leader that you respect and with whom you feel comfortable.  Talk to them and ask them to pray for you.  Also spend daily time with God, praying and above all listening.  I think that too much prayer time is spent with us talking while God wants his turn to speak to us.  Be quiet and focus on His will and His presence.  Read the Bible daily and get to know His character.  You'll find great wisdom in His words that will help you understand what He wants from you.

Think about where your true passions and interests lie.  When I think about human medicine I get a bit weirded out.  I find things related to humans rather disgusting and could never imagine myself being part of that, even though I deal with the same things on animals.  I also don't feel a burning desire to help people in this way.  God has never given me a heart or passion to be involved with human medicine.  That's not me being selfish, that's just how I've always been.  God creates each of us with innate talents and interests, even before we turn to Him.  He creates us to do certain things, even if we may not realize it at the time.

He did the same thing with you, Rachel.  If you feel strongly drawn to human medicine and oncology, start to look into that.  Perhaps volunteer at a hospital where you can work with cancer patients.  If you feel your heart crying out to these people and wanting to be around them, then consider switching your path.  But if you feel uncomfortable and nervous in this situation, it may not be right for you.  If you go into human oncology you can still help animals by giving to charitable organizations and volunteering at shelters or as a foster parent.  If you pursue veterinary medicine but still feel that God wants you involved with human cancer patients you can do something similar, volunteering at a hospital or with hospice, or giving to cancer research foundations. It is possible to have a passion for one thing but still help out in another area.

Both veterinary and human medical schools will stress and tax you in ways you can't imagine.  Both are worthwhile pursuits, but you should be sure of which one you want to pursue before starting.  Spend more time with God, listen to Him, and find a local pastor to help you.  I hope that some of my words may also help, and I will pray for you.


  1. Hi Rachel,
    I'm not religious at all so I can't contribute to that part of your question. I have some insights that might help, however.

    Something I have come to realize during veterinary school (I'm a second year student) is that veterinary medicine really ISN'T about helping animals, at least not at the bottom line. It's really a support profession for HUMANS who choose to include animals in their life, whether it be as working animals, food animals, or companion animals. This can be hard sometimes -- for example, when a dog needs treatment that the owner can't afford or doesn't want to do, you as the veterinarian have to respect that choice even if you feel its not the best choice for the animal.

    On the other hand, I think remembering that you are supporting humans first and foremost might help you. If you are a small animal/companion vet, you are treating animals that bring joy and fulfillment to human lives. If you are an industry veterinarian, you are helping to put food on people's plates. I even have a friend who traveled to Morocco and did free vet care for working donkeys - these are animals that are utterly required for the well being and sustenance of their human owners, who rely on them to be healthy and strong to carry their goods. What a fulfilling way to be a veterinarian!

    Public health is also an option - issues like zoonosis, vector borne disease, etc have direct impact on human health, even here in the US.

    Animal health and human health are irrevocably linked for better or for worse, and I strongly believe that the more that animal health is supported, the healthier we will be as a world and as humans. In fact, I think being a vet is the "best of both worlds" if you love helping and treating animals but want to ultimately support human health as well. It's a huge part of why I love this profession so much!

    Best of luck!

  2. A lot of good advice..

    I hate it when people who think they want to work in the vet industry say they prefer animals to people.... If they can't relate to people, don't work in a vet clinic, or medicine with people.
    I too feel weird about human medicine and could never be a doctor. The choice was easy!
    And yes, whatever job you land up in, do voluntary work to balance out your life
    Good luck

  3. I am working in a (human) Health Science specialty for 26 years (thankfully, I am not a doctor). My dogs often show me things I believe God wants me to know. I believe they are the children God always wanted me to have and love them to pieces! Unlike people, they never judge me harshly.

    I found the medical profession very adverse to many of my Christian beliefs. I am only holding on because I believe God placed me here to do His fighting for Him. But it stays a big and bitter fight, most of the time. It has killed my family life, my social life, my financial well-being. Sometimes it even made me doubt myself and my Christian convictions. And the scientific truths underlying my work.

    But: God tells us many places in the Bible and through other means in life, that He makes business with us to let our spirits grow. If you get disappointed in something, ALWAYS see it as a teaching and not a rebuke. Keep looking for the reason why God may be doing this to you, and you will often find either something in yourself that requires improvement, or something in the rest of the world that requires improvement (even if it is just your attitude). Doing that gives you opportunity to change into someone better for God. And that is the biggest and ultimate purpose we serve. God will never prune you out; He will only prune you to produce better fruits of the spirit, for himself! Let any misfortune always remind you of this and always try to sanctify your whole life. You will one day be so grateful you did!

    And do not for one moment think the medical world is more Christ-like than the veterinary world. You can be everything God made you to be by helping both animals and humans in the ways God will direct you to work with them. But many things in Medicine simply kill your soul rather than make you grow. In that sense it is a much harder field to serve the Lord in than caring primarily for our animals. It is noble to do "humbler" work as well.

    It is not good for Christians to be in any type of work where people can judge you on the generally accepted people-caring value thereof! God has made you who you are to be for Him before you were conceived, before the beginning of the world! I would any day turn time back and do my line of work outside Medicine! Medicine is definitely far from easy spiritually. And, frankly, potentially dangerous as a more Christ-like choice!

    God loves you! He will show you the right way to go. But, please, do much more homework before changing to Medicine. And I think He put you in the right study line already!

    May God bless you abundandly!


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