A . J. Cronin in his day was one of the greatest medical minds in the British nation and a wonderful writer. No doubt, many of you have read some of his inspiring novels such as The Citadel, The Keys Of The Kingdom, and Hatter’s Castle.
He went off to medical school in London wanting to be a surgeon. But the professor, under whom he studied, for some unknown reason, took a dislike to him and was very discouraging. Almost every day this professor would glare at him, shake his head and say sarcastically, “You will never make a surgeon!” By the time he had completed the class he believed the professor.
When he finished interning he took a job as a doctor in a small town in the western highlands of Scotland. But for some reason he couldn’t forget the words of the professor. They still haunted him. Speaking later of the experience, he said bitterly, “I was a pill peddler. I never dared to attempt surgery. I sent all of the serious cases to Edinburgh and Glasgow.”
Then one cold winter day as the minister’s son was walking under an ice-laden tree, a large branch broke and came crashing down on him. At the scene Dr. Cronin discovered that he was paralyzed from his waist down.
He told the father, “I’m afraid nothing can be done. Surgery is the only hope and all of the roads are blocked with ice and snow. “Then,” said the father, “You will have to do it.” Dr. Cronin tried to explain, “This is a most dangerous operation and I can’t do surgery.” Then very reassuringly the father replied, “Yes, you can! God will help you.”
The kitchen table was covered with a sheet, the minister’s son was placed on it and the anesthetic was administered to put him to sleep. Then the young doctor set to work. But as he picked up the scalpel to begin, the words of the professor began to pound in his head, “You will never make a surgeon!”
He paused and stepped back. Then over that voice he heard another voice, the voice of the minister, “Yes you can; God will help you.”
Hours later, the surgery had been successfully completed and he knew that the boy would walk and run again. It was then that he realized he had been repeating over and over Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Dr. Cronin went on to become an outstanding surgeon and a professor of surgery at the school where he almost flunked out. He received so many honors. He was knighted by the queen and became a great Christian writer.
And it was all due to the words of that father—words that gave him courage and faith: “Yes, you can! God will help you!”
Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.