In today’s Summer Snapshot, an emerging scholar in our network shares about God’s faithfulness in a summer that turned out to be tougher than expected. Because some details in the post may be sensitive, at the request of the author we are sharing it anonymously, as we often do in similar cases. We are grateful for this very thoughtful contribution to the Summer Snapshot series, and pray that it is a blessing to others encountering challenges this summer. If you’d like to read other Summer Snapshots, you can find them here.
I had high expectations for this summer. I was headed for a research internship at a prestigious institution, working in my first-choice lab out of over 100 in the department. I was also headed to the city I most wanted to be in for the summer. Shortly before leaving, one of my friends asked me if I was nervous. Almost immediately, I said, “Not really. I can’t wait.”
Now, with just a few weeks left in my internship, I think that perhaps I should have been. I am glad that I wasn’t intimidated by where I was going, but my lack of concern for how the summer would go also stemmed from a lack of dependence on God’s strength to carry me all the way through. While I had praised God for my acceptance into the program, I hadn’t spent time praying for how things would unfold after that. I felt sure that this was where God had led me and was blindly confident in my own ability to handle whatever came my way this summer.
Within hours of stepping foot in my lab for the summer, I realized how wrong I had been. The professor I am working with was distant, and, during our brief conversations, appeared smug about his achievements and the reputation of the renowned department I am working in. The independence I had sought and even expected in my summer research has eluded me, as my direct supervisor has not been receptive to new ideas and seems to view those working under him as merely hands to carry out his experiments. In desperation, I have finally turned to Christ for comfort and direction, as I should have done in the beginning.
I have also been busily working on fellowship applications for graduate school in the evenings. I have been more faithful in praying throughout this application process for peace and the grace to write essays that reflect the wonderful work He has carried out in my life over the past three years. However, here too I have come up against unexpected obstacles. Although by God’s grace I have written essays that I am proud of, the reviewer from my university’s scholarship office has been extraordinarily negative. Friends and other reviewers have encouraged me, but I have still felt deeply hurt, repeatedly receiving suggestions for significant edits in the sections that I had felt led to write in a certain way.
This summer, I have truly felt “pressed on every side”, “crushed”, and “perplexed”, like Paul in 2 Corinthians. However, like Paul, I have also witnessed God’s mercy and compassion, giving me strength to persevere. The full passage says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). While I have experienced deep disappointments this summer, God has also given me glimpses of His greater plan, far above my own. God has not only been using my struggles to remind me to rely on Him rather than myself, but He has also given me more confidence and joy in my calling as a scientist. Notwithstanding the unwelcoming environment in my lab, he renews my interest in what I am researching day by day. Although I have not been given the authority to act on creative ideas now, He has gifted me with more ideas than I have had in the past, making me more confident that I can succeed as an independent researcher in graduate school. Finally, standing my ground and not editing parts of my essays that I have felt specifically led to write has grown my boldness and trust in God’s provision. While not editing certain parts of my essays may result in not being nominated by my school for a fellowship that I have worked hard on over these past few months, I can submit my applications knowing that the content is true to what God has been doing in me and is not twisting the truth in order to make myself look like a better applicant.
I know there are still days ahead when I will question God’s reasons for placing me in these situations. Part of me still wishes that I could have had the summer I envisioned for myself; however, on days when I am centered on Him, I am thankful for the beautiful lessons He is teaching me that I never could have learned if the summer had gone according to my own plan. During these last few weeks, I want to follow God’s exhortation to the Corinthians, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).