Written By Samuel Herianto, Indonesia
I grew up in a Christian family but began asking a lot of questions about the faith in high school. Questions about God began to emerge as I studied chemistry, physics, and math, but nobody—not my teachers, Sunday school teachers, or even the youth pastor—seemed able to answer my questions satisfactorily.
I eventually began to find some answers through a sermon I heard based on Genesis 3 about how sin has affected the way humans view everything—including nature and every part of life. This inspired me to look to God as Creator to understand the world around me better.
I continued to wrestle with these questions up to college. I spent a lot of time thinking and praying about these two things in my life—being a Christian and being a scientist. Truly understanding the gospel changed my whole life. Thus I believed that becoming a scientist who is Christian could help me offer a cohesive view of science and faith to other young people. I could help answer the same questions that I had always asked pastors and teachers.
God subsequently answered my prayer by giving me a full scholarship to study in Taiwan, and since then I have been studying molecular biochemistry under the guidance of a Christian professor. I learned about lipid-protein interactions and soon began experimenting independently in the laboratory. In just one semester, I realized that the scientific world is a world full of stress and pain.
By the second semester, after conducting some 70 failed experiments, my health declined and I experienced chest pain and dizziness. Doctors were unable to find any physical illness. The last doctor I visited was a cardiologist who suggested that I see a psychologist because of my stress. I began to ask, Where is God in the midst of my stress?
I found myself frequently crying all night because I was unable to interpret the data to generate a good story for the report. I had never felt so stressed or pained before, and I knew that even my supervisor would not be able to offer the specific advice I needed for a breakthrough. Trying to still be grateful even as my hair started to fall out one by one due to stress was not easy.
At one point, I visited a pastor in another city and poured everything out to him. He encouraged me to find God’s will and purpose by reading the Bible, instead of focusing on my stress. After three months of regular Bible study under his direction, here are some answers I’ve found.
As a Christian, I am not immune to stress, pressures, and temptation.
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41)
Before becoming a true Christian, I used to work independently through my own methods. It worked brilliantly at that time. Everything was fine, and I always topped my class. Since becoming a Christian, it seems that I still did not throw this attitude out completely. I was still tempted to work on my own—without involving God—particularly in my experiments. I thought I was strong enough to overcome any difficulties in my path. I did not guard against overconfidence. It was as if I had said to God, “I can do this by myself.” Hence, God used these experiences to show me how weak I was and how vulnerable I was to stress and pressures.
Moreover, the temptation to worry and give in to stress still afflicts me from time to time. But Matthew 26:41 is the medicine that reminds me to watch and pray. Surrendering my fears in prayer and acknowledging God’s sovereignty helps to calm my mind.
God uses stress to get my attention.
I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me. (Psalms 120: 1)
God saw that I began to value achievement in my area of research over valuing Him. Let me explain. As a researcher, I behaved like a creator—at least, like the small creator—who controls creation. I planned, designed, and executed the experiments according to my plans. I tried to control the results according to my hard work, without involving God. I tried to control the outcomes so that I can glorify my work—and ignore God in this domain.
However, as I experienced failure up to 70 times and grew increasingly stressed, I saw how God used that stress to draw me back to Himself. Now I understand that God wants me to put Him first in my experiment, because He is the Creator of lipid-protein networks. I should continue to work hard in my experiments—not for my ambition, but for His glory.
God wants me to rely on Him only.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
In scientific research, everyone is working to discover something new, and very often our experiments are so technical that no one can help us, not even our advisors. During the past 1.5 years of training, I’ve had a lot of disappointments due to relying on myself and my own ability. Through this painful training, God has reminded me that He is the only true place to lean on.
As I continue with my experiments, I realize that the mysteries of lipid-protein interactions ultimately belong to God, and He will reveal them according to His plan and glory. In the meantime, I will be patient and work diligently, enjoying and leaning on God in every step of this training.
God’s will for me is to be grateful in all circumstances.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (Thessalonians 5:16-18)
I used to think that God would only give happiness to His children. When He allowed me to experience sadness and misery, I started to grumble. I used to think that I always deserved the best from God simply because I am a Christian. I forgot that I am a sinful human who is by nature deserving of wrath (Roman 3:23). I also forgot that all goodness and blessings that I have received—including salvation through Christ—are God’s grace indeed.
Now I am reminded that I should not demand success or grumble over failures, because everything is a gift from God. If I can be thankful for the good things from Him, I should also be thankful when bad things come my way. God is teaching me to be a grateful person.
Ultimately, we as scientists cannot find anything in nature without God. God created all of creation, and we should humbly ask God, the Great Owner, to open our minds to understand what He has created. My professor often highlights that God is the owner of the great secret in lipid-protein interactions, as well as all interactions in nature. Therefore, God will give the knowledge to whom He wants for His glory.
I’m sure that whichever field you find yourself in, I am not alone in asking, “Where is God in the midst of my stress?” Through the last few months of searching, I have learned that God is still here with me. Does that mean my stress is gone? No, the stress is also still there, but my response to it has changed.
I know that I may fail again in my coming experiments, but I will continue to work hard. And I will keep being joyful—because God has promised to answer me in my distress (Psalm 120:1).