Lung expert knows suffering

Known for his ground-breaking research into asbestos-induced cancer, Professor Bruce Robinson M.D is very familiar with a world of suffering both in his own life and the lives of others

Bruce Robinson

As one of the world's leading lung specialists and receiver of a Wagner Award for making the greatest contribution to mesothelioma research internationally, Bruce says he does not live for the accolades.

Instead, he is sometimes embarrassed by his long list of achievements and credentials but finds his motivation comes from his love for God and Jesus' example to show love and kindness to everyone.

"I am dealing with people who are suffering all the time. They're dying and they are often in a lot of pain," he says.

"Yet despite all this exposure to high-quality science, and intense suffering, I'm still a Christian. I think suffering is a difficult issue and I never try to give people a theological explanation. I hold their hand and weep with them and say 'It's hard'."

Bruce came from a family who were not churchgoers but he says he has always been a thinker about why things are the way they are.

"Even when I was a kid I would climb up on my parents' roof in the evening and look at the stars and try to contemplate the infinity of the universe," he says.

Yet it was only when he started medical school and began to study the complexity of human physiology and biochemistry that he says he began to suspect there must be a Master Designer behind it all.

"I went from laughing at Christians in my first year to saying 'this body is fantastic'," he recalls.

”People worry that suffering excludes faith but it doesn’t”"Those lessons in medical school made me stop and wonder if it was all an accident."

He later met people who saw that this troubled him and they gave him some reading material about how to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

"I was then faced with the agonizing decision to make – am I in or out? This was hard because I was playing in the university football team and it wasn't going to be 'cool' to be a Christian," he says.

"But I realized that there is no vague spiritual system that would allow me to sit on the fence. So I 'jumped' and have never regretted it."

After overcoming unscientific assumptions like 'nature is all there is' that are a common obstacle to believing in God, Bruce has often had to come to terms with the vast amount of suffering he has encountered in his field of work.

"People worry that suffering excludes faith but it doesn't exclude faith. Actually in some curious way it strengthens my faith even though I have no simple explanation for it.

"I know there is a loving God even though we don't understand it. I have a hope for the future. I am also aware that this answer doesn't satisfy people – it is the truth but the Bible just says weep with those who weep and reach out with compassion."

After almost bleeding to death in a backyard circular-saw accident that nearly severed his legs, Bruce says his faith took on greater clarity on the long road to recovery.

"As much as I intellectualize Christianity as a scientist, my experience of God personally, un-quantifiably and subjectively at that time was overwhelmingly one of being held up; of being prevented from sinking," he says.

"It was such a powerful experience of God's presence. I can tell you that it was a subjective sense of the love of God looking out for me during a time of suffering. I mean how do you measure that? You can't. How can you convey that? Someone will explain it away with some scientific or biological explanation."

"So why am I still a Christian? It's an intellectual thing, partly. I still find that the arguments are pretty solid for Christianity being true.

"But the second thing is my experience of God in my journey of life, which is subjective and therefore unmeasurable, but is quite profound."

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