CMDA's The Point

Quiet Time

January 12, 2023

by Danielle Ellis, MD, MTS

When Hagar flees after Abram and Sarai, wary of God’s unrealized promise to make their descendants as numerous as the stars (Genesis 15:5), take matters of procreation into their own hands and take advantage of her in the process, she finds herself in both a literal and physical desert.

Hot, tired, thirsty—not to mention pregnant—she was no doubt attempting to make sense of how she could have been walking faithfully and wandered into such a place at the same time.

While Hagar’s plight was the product of a kind of exploitation that most of us will never experience, I resonate in some sense with the idea that in dutifully living out our callings as practitioners of medicine, our good intentions can sometimes be exploited (even unintentionally). And in our attempt to flee, we may look down and find that our feet have wandered into a desert of sorts.

Fortunately for Hagar, she comes upon a spring in that desert, but what she found is far less important than who found her. As Genesis recounts, “The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring…” (Genesis 16:7, NIV), and as the angel tells her that the Lord, having heard of her misery, has a plan for her future, she becomes the first person to name God: “You are the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13, NIV).

When Hagar names him El Roi, she calls to mind that, desert or otherwise, there is no place her feet could fall where God would not go before her and behind her. God sees our steps and the particularities of our time, treasures and talents, and He is not surprised because He Himself has ordained all of these.

As a resident, I have found myself tired and thirsty in a very real sense, but the desert has most often been a spiritual one. Faithfully living out this calling in training can mean early mornings and late nights that feel at odds with faithfully living out the disciplines that spiritually nourish us as God’s children and co-creators.

In the desert moments wherein we attempt to make sense of how we could be walking faithfully when we find ourselves thirsting to cultivate many of the other things we know God cares deeply about—fellowship, family, our physical health and even something as foundational as time with God Himself—God sees us. No matter what space and place we find ourselves, God finds us and reminds us that there is no season He cannot fill and speak into.

“Quiet time” in its mainstream form (i.e. spending 30 to 60 minutes doing some combination of Scripture study, devotionals and prayer in order to hear from and commune with God) was a discipline I thought essential to a faithful Christian walk, which made my newly inconsistent times of quiet once in residency disconcerting. Thirsting for Living Water and tired of feeling so spiritually dry, I looked for a spring—did I need to get up at 3:30 instead of 4? Should I give up time with my patients? With my family? Read the Bible in between cases in the operating room?

By a spring, God found me. In a seemingly small but deeply impactful display of His faithfulness, God’s voice was loud and clear that quiet time didn’t need to be all that quiet at all. After a fellow believer turned me on to an audio Bible reading app, quiet time became on-the-way-to-work time, on-the-way-home time, on-call time. Time with God was no longer relegated to the mornings; it was a moment-to-moment gift to hear what He was up to and how I might get to participate. One Bible-in-a-year plan later, it was evident that even in a year with rife with more sickness and suffering than with healing or wholeness, God is seeing and speaking to us as much as He ever has.


About Danielle Ellis, MD, MTS

Danielle Ellis, MD, MTS, is a general surgery resident at the Massachusetts General Hospital and an alumna of the Theology, Medicine and Culture fellowship at Duke Divinity School. She is deeply committed to cultivating kingdom principles for both patients and healthcare professionals, a commitment which was nurtured by her CMDA chapter in medical school and formation in seminary. She plans to pursue pediatric surgery and palliative care, with interests in health parity and practical theology.

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