Written by Isabel Crisostomo, Philippines
I was writing a report at work when I saw the email notification:
“…we are regrettably unable to offer you a place in our entering class…”
A hundred emotions rushed through me as I read the rejection letter from my dream medical school. While it said that my qualifications were exemplary, they could only accept a limited number of applicants per year into their programme.
After years of praying while working on my undergraduate degree, I decided to continue my studies—go into medical school—overseas instead of going back to my home country. I’ve wanted to become a doctor since I was nine, after surviving a brain tumor. I told God that I wanted to serve others in the same way my doctors did.
I decided to apply to only one school as I am not the kind to apply to many schools, though the bigger reason was that I’d set my heart on this one school because their programme aligned closely with my goals, and I believed that God could open the door for me.
When time came for me to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), Covid-19 happened, and due to the lockdown and travel restrictions, I had to postpone my exam twice, which consequently delayed my application by two years.
I finally sat the MCAT in May 2022. I thought, “This is it. God has carried me through two years of waiting; the ride will be smooth from here on.”
After completing my application in November 2022, I waited expectantly for God to open the door. I attended interviews in January 2023, then was waitlisted in May.
Then June came, and God closed the door.
As I finished reading the rejection letter, I felt God reminding me: Turn your eyes upon Jesus. An inexplicable peace came over me (Philippians 4:6-7), and though saddened, I praised Him.
Bracing for rejection
I am the last person to praise God amidst trials. In fact, when I first received the waitlist notification, I went through a downward spiral.
“I am not cut out to be a doctor after all.”
“Why does God have to prolong my agony?”
“Everyone else is already ahead of me.”
There were many days the negativity consumed me, and I felt shortchanged for placing my faith in God. “I should not have gotten my hopes up that He would open the door to my dream medical school. I should have done like everyone else did and applied to many schools so that I have back up.”
A lot of fears surfaced as well:
“What will others think of me?”
“I don’t have the strength to re-apply if I am rejected.”
“What if I made the wrong decision?”
I was sure that a rejection would crush me, and I would never get back on my feet and live the fullness of life God desires for me.
But thankfully, God did not allow this to happen.
For two consecutive Sundays before I received the letter, our sermons in church were about faith. The speaker first talked about how Job praised God even when he had lost his possessions, family, and health (Job 1:21). The following Sunday, the message was about how Abraham gave up his only son, Isaac, even when this seemed to contradict God’s promise that He will bless Abraham’s lineage through Isaac (Hebrews 11:17-19).
Hearing these stories again encouraged me to be bold in my faith as they reminded me of the perfect faithfulness of God.
God also led me to read the book Winning the War in Your Mind by Craig Groeschel. The book helped me see my negative thoughts for what they were: lies used by the enemy to distract me from God. Each chapter ended with an exercise to help me navigate these thoughts and replace them with truth from God’s Word. I learned to reframe my views on rejection and see that it can still be a beautiful part of God’s plan for me.
The night before I got the rejection, my boyfriend forwarded an article written by humanitarian doctor, Tam Wai Jia, who had received this advice from her pastor during her waiting period: “…doors are closed because God is closing them – He loves you with a jealous love… Would you trust Him? Instead of knocking on more doors, muscling your way through, would you let Him hand you the keys to His kingdom?”
I went to bed that night surrendering to God, ready for whatever His answer would be.
God’s surprising reassurance
It is hard to admit failure, more so to praise God for it. But that I was able to in that moment was really through Christ alone.
Not only did God prepare me for the news, He also held my hand in the moments after. On the car ride home from work, I felt God comforting me in what seemed like a humorous way.
First, we drove past a car with a Nike logo sticker, but instead of the slogan “Just Do It”, it read “Just Praise Him”. Minutes later, we passed by a pedestrian wearing a shirt with the words “Faith Over Fear” in big, bold letters.
It comforted me how God showed Himself to me even in the littlest of ways. He also showed me how a lot of my fears wouldn’t materialise:
“What will others think of me?” – I thought that family, friends, and colleagues would look down on me if I didn’t get into medical school. Instead, they told me how proud they are of me for working hard and reaching as far as being waitlisted.
“I don’t have the strength to re-apply if I am rejected.” – To my surprise, God gave me a renewed determination to work towards my dream of becoming a doctor. I am now building up on my experiences to better prepare myself for medical training and improve my applications.
“What if I made the wrong decision?” – Before, I had equated rejection with me taking the wrong path and missing out on God’s plan for me. Perhaps if I had gone on this other path instead, I will already be accomplished, and God’s plan can continue in my life.
However, I am comforted by Psalm 139:16: “…all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” God knew that I would not get into medical school by now, but this does not stop His plans. I can trust that He will accomplish everything that He has purposed for my life (Philippians 1:6).
Most importantly, He grew my faith to a level I did not imagine I would reach. As someone who tends to keep a tight hold on plans, I would sometimes reach the point of trying to “manipulate” God into following my plans. This showed in the way I prayed, as it would sound more like me dictating what I want God to do, instead of actually listening to His leading.
But through this experience, God taught me to loosen my grip and allow room for His sovereignty.
First, this means that I can—and so have decided to—re-apply to my dream school, believing that God could still open this door. I am also applying to other schools, trusting that if God should lead me somewhere else, that is where He can best prepare me for His work.
Second, this also means trusting in His timing. Some days, I dread waiting for another year (or even longer). But this overwhelming uncertainty has made me realise that I have no one to hold onto except for God.
In sharing my story, I hope to encourage you to overcome your fear of rejection. Do not be paralysed and held back from applying to your dream school or job, or from aiming for that promotion, or asking the person you’ve been praying for out on a date. God is perfectly able to open doors for you, but even if He does not, know that He will not leave you stuck in front of a closed door. He will hold your hand through the pain and redirect you to the door that He will eventually open.