God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. ~ Job 37:5, NIV

The way we perceive our circumstances depends on our experiences.

It was another warm and humid June morning in Maryland. I was lamenting about having to wear my combat fatigues and boots, as I felt the sweat bead up on my neck at 0530 hours. My mind was inundated with financial concerns and work-related responsibilities that morning: the mortgage payment was approaching, food was eating through my bank account, childcare expenses continued, and my monthly work load reports were due.

As I backed out of the driveway, I glimpsed at a lawn that was begging for some attention. I was first-year gastroenterology fellow in the twilight of an inpatient month, about the time when you’re no longer sure if it’s dawn or dusk. As I started rounding that morning, I remember being frustrated as an intern babbled his way through a patient presentation. And then I overheard a conversation in hushed tones.

They were saying one of my friends was currently en route via air, medevaced after suffering sudden cardiac death. How quickly my perspective changed – how ashamed I felt regarding my attitude! He was a Christian, an honorable husband, the father of two beautiful, young children, and a cardiology fellow of impeccable knowledge and skill.

When I ran down to the critical care unit, I saw “Big Tim” intubated and lifeless, his wife seemingly broken at his bedside. I tried to contemplate her feelings of helplessness and abandonment so I could offer some sort of comforting words. It is well known that the likelihood of recovery from ventricular fibrillation occurring outside of the hospital is beyond poor. I did what I was trained to do; and with tears pouring, I prayed with her for God’s faithful mercy and grace. Five days later, with an implantable defibrillator in his chest, “Big Tim” walked out of that hospital with full mind, body, and spirit!

As a United States Army physician, I am ever reminded of the fragility of life, especially with all of the imaginable and unimaginable war injuries; and I am reminded of my need to deal with those who are unceasingly inflicted with things of the past that are so very present. These are palpable experiences that tend to provoke questions about life but have no answers. I also don’t know why God heard my voice and answered my prayer that June morning. I am resigned that I just have to keep living, learning, and trusting in Christ… because my understanding is limited by my perspective.

Joseph Cheatham, LLUSM class of 2003 – for which he was junior class president – is a gastroenterology fellow at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He is a captain in the United States Army.