Ben Carson's Dream

Are you an atheist? Are you a happy atheist? Well if you are and you want to stay one, then don't read any further.

The following story is an account of how God intervened in the life of Ben Carson when he was a first year premed student at Yale university. The miracle performed was just as spectacular as similar ones recorded in the Bible. No atheist will be the same after reading this story.

"Each day I slipped farther and farther behind in my classwork, especially in chemistry. Why I didn't work to keep up, I'm not sure. I could give myself a dozen excuses, but they didn't matter. What mattered was that I didn't know what was going on in chemistry class.

It all came to a head at the end of the first semester when I faced final examinations. The day before the exam I wandered around the campus, sick with dread. I couldn't deny it any longer. I was failing freshman chemistry; and failing it badly. My feet scuffed through the golden leaves carpeting the wide sidewalks. Sunlight and shadow danced on ivy-covered walls. But the beauty of that autumn day mocked me. I'd blown it. I didn't have the slightest hope of passing chemistry, because I hadn't kept up with the material. As the realization sunk in of my impending failure, this bright boy from Detroit also stared squarely into another horrible truth--if I failed chemistry I couldn't stay in the premed program.

Despair washed over me as memories of fifth grade flashed through my mind. "What score did you get, Carson?" "Hey, dummy, did you get any right today?" Years had passed, but I could still hear the taunting voices in my head.

What am I doing at Yale anyway? It was a legitimate question, and I couldn't push the thought away. Who do I think I am? Just a dumb Black kid from the poor side of Detroit who has no business trying to make it through Yale with all these intelligent, affluent students. I kicked a stone and sent it flying into the brown grass. Stop it, I told myself. You'll only make it worse. I turned my memories back to those teachers who told me, "Benjamin, you're bright. You can go places."

I was failing freshman chemistry; and failing it badly.

There, walking alone in the darkness of my thoughts, I could hear Mother insist, "Bennie, you can do it! Why, son, you can do anything you want, and you can do it better than anybody else. I believe in you."

I turned and began walking between the tall, classic buildings back to the dorm. I had to study. Stop thinking about failing, I told myself. You can still pull this off. Maybe. I looked up through a scatter of fluttering leaves silhouetted against the rosy autumn sunset. Doubts niggled at the back of my mind.

Finally I turned to God. "I need help," I prayed. "Being a doctor is all I've ever wanted to do, and now it looks like I can't. And, Lord, I've always had the impression You wanted me to be a doctor. I've worked hard and focused my life that way, assuming that's what I was going to do. But if I fail chemistry I'm going to have to find something else to do. Please help me to know what else I should do."

Back in my room, I sank down on my bed. Dusk came early, and the room was dark. The evening sounds of campus filled the quiet room--cars passing, students' voices in the park below my window, gusts of wind rustling through the trees. Quiet sounds. I sat there, a tall, skinny kid, head in my hands. I had failed. I had finally faced a challenge I couldn't overcome; I was just too late.

Standing up, I flipped on the desk lamp. "OK," I said to myself as I paced my room, "I'm going to fail chemistry. So I'm not going to be a doctor. Then what is there for me?"

No matter how many other career choices I considered, I couldn't think of anything else in the whole world I wanted more than being a doctor. I remembered the scholarship offer from West Point. A teaching career? Business? None of these areas held any real interest.

My mind reached toward God--a desperate yearning, begging, clinging to Him. "Either help me understand what kind of work I ought to do, or else perform some kind of miracle and help me to pass this exam."

From that moment on, I felt at peace. I had no answer. God didn't break through my haze of depression and flash a picture in front of me. Yet I knew that whatever happened, everything was going to be all right.

The professor had a rule that might save me. If failing students did well on the final exam, the teacher would throw out most of the semester's work ...

One glimmer of hope--a tiny one at that--shone through my seemingly impossible situation. Although I had been holding on to the bottom rung of the class from the first week at Yale, the professor had a rule that might save me. If failing students did well on the final exam, the teacher would throw out most of the semester's work and let the good final-test score count heavily toward the final grade. That presented the only possibility for me to pass chemistry.

It was nearly 10:00 p.m., and I was tired. I shook my head, knowing that between now and tomorrow morning I couldn't pull off that kind of miracle.

"Ben, you have to try," I said aloud. "You have to do everything you can."

I sat down for the next two hours and pored through my thick chemistry textbook, memorizing formulas and equations that I thought might help. No matter what happened during the exam, I would go into it determined to do the best I could. I'd fail but, I consoled myself, at least I'd have a high fail.

As I scribbled formulas on paper, forcing myself to memorize what had no meaning to me, I knew deep inside why I was failing. The course wasn't that tough. The truth lay in something much more basic. Despite my impressive academic record in high school, I really hadn't learned anything about studying. All the way through high school I'd relied on the same old methods--wasting my time during the semester, and then cramming for final exams.

Midnight. The words on the pages blurred, and my mind refused to take in any more information. I flopped into my bed and whispered in the darkness, "God, I'm sorry. Please forgive me for failing You and for failing myself." Then I slept.

While I slept I had a strange dream. ... In the dream I was sitting in the chemistry lecture hall, the only person there. The door opened, and a nebulous figure walked into the room, stopped at the board, and started working out chemistry problems. I took notes of everything he wrote.

While I slept I had a strange dream, and, when I awakened in the morning, it remained as vivid as if it had actually happened. In the dream I was sitting in the chemistry lecture hall, the only person there. The door opened, and a nebulous figure walked into the room, stopped at the board, and started working out chemistry problems. I took notes of everything he wrote.

When I awakened, I recalled most of the problems, and I hurriedly wrote them down before they faded from memory. A few of the answers actually did fade but, still remembering the problems, I looked them up in my textbook. I knew quite a bit about psychology so assumed I was still trying to work out unresolved problems during my sleep.

I dressed, ate breakfast, and went to the chemistry lecture room with a feeling of resignation. I wasn't sure if I knew enough to pass, but I was numb from intensive cramming and despair. The lecture hall was huge, filled with individual fold-down wooden seats. It would seat about 1,000 students. In the front of the room chalkboards faced us from a large stage. Also on the stage was a big desk with a countertop and sink for chemistry demonstrations. My steps sounded hollow on the wooden floor.

The professor came in and, without saying much, began to hand out the booklets of examination questions. My eyes followed him around the room. It took him a while to pass out the booklets to 600 students. While I waited, I noticed the way the sun shone through the small panes of the arched windows along one wall. It was a beautiful morning to fail a test.

At last, heart pounding, I opened the booklet and read the first problem. In that instant, I could almost hear the discordant melody that played on TV with The Twilight Zone. In fact, I felt I had entered that never-never land. Hurriedly I skimmed through the booklet, laughing silently, confirming what I suddenly knew. The exam problems were identical to those written by the shadowy dream figure in my sleep.

The exam problems were identical to those written by the shadowy dream figure in my sleep.

I knew the answer to every question on the first page. "Piece of cake," I mumbled as my pencil flew to write the solutions. The first page finished, I turned to the next page, and again the first problem was one I had seen written on the board in my dream. I could hardly believe it.

I didn't stop to analyze what was happening. I was so excited to know correct answers that I worked quickly, almost afraid I'd lose what I remembered. Near the end of the test, where my dream recall began to weaken, I didn't get every single problem. But it was enough. I knew I would pass.

"God, You pulled off a miracle," I told Him as I left the classroom. "And I make a promise to You that I'll never put You into that situation again."

I walked around campus for over an hour, elated, yet needing to be alone, wanting to figure out what had happened. I'd never had a dream like that before. Neither had anyone I'd ever known. And that experience contradicted everything I'd read about dreams in my psychological studies.

The only explanation just blew me away. The one answer was humbling in its simplicity. For whatever reason, the God of the universe, the God who holds galaxies in His hands, had seen a reason to reach down to a campus room on Planet Earth and send a dream to a discouraged ghetto kid who wanted to become a doctor."

Gifted Hands, The Ben Carson Story, Ben Carson, M.D., with Cecil Murphey, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1990, pages 74-78.

The Lord truly did have a work for Ben Carson to do.

"In 1987 Dr. Benjamin Carson gained worldwide recognition for his part in the first successful separation of Siamese twins joined at the back of the head. It was an extremely complex and delicate operation--five months in the planning, 22 hours in the execution, involving a surgical plan that Carson helped initiate. He pioneered again by saving 30 children who had no hope of survival, using a rare, daring procedure to remove half their brains. . . . Carson was raised in inner-city Detroit by a mother with a third-grade education. His future didn't look bright. He lacked motivation. He had terrible grades. And a pathological temper threatened to put him in jail.

But Sonya Carson had a vision for her son, and managed to convince him that he could make something of his life, even if his environment was telling him he couldn't. Trust in divine power, a relentless belief in his own capabilities, and a strong determination to succeed catapulted him from failing grades to the top of his class and eventually his career. Carson won a full scholarship to Yale and graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School. At the age of 33 he became director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland." from Gifted Hands, dust-jacket cover.

You may not have as dramatic an experience as the one here recorded. But the Bible promise is given: " ... that he rewards those who seek him." Hebrews 11:6. Of course, the first part of this verse should also be considered: "And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists ..." The problem is, what is faith? The Bible gives us the answer: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1. This is unfortunately one of the biggest hurdles the average atheist faces. I can't see God so therefore there is no God. But is this reasoning sound? We can't see electricity--but it exists. The same can be said for magnetism, the force of gravitation, and so on. But those things exist just the same.

How do we get faith to believe? Probably the simplest way is to study the prophecies concerning the Messiah. The Bible told centuries before the event;

  • His birthplace. Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1.
  • The exact time he would begin His ministry as the Messiah. Daniel 9:25 (for a further study on this point, see study God's Sanctuary).
  • Would teach in parables. Psalm 78:2; Matthew 13:34, 35.
  • Rejected by His own people. Isaiah 53:2, 3; 6:9, 10; 8:14; John 1:11; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Peter 2:8.
  • Betrayal for 30 pieces of silver. Zechariah 11:12; Matthew 26:14-16.
  • Desertion by the disciples. Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 26:31, 56.
  • Silence under false accusation. Isaiah 53:7. Read all of Isaiah 53--who else could it possibly refer to?
  • Disposition of His garments. Psalm 22:18; John 19:23, 24.
  • His dying cry. Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46.
  • The hour of His death. Exodus 12:6; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Matthew 27:46-50.
  • The year of His death! (Spring AD 31) Daniel 9:26 (See God's Sanctuary).

And many more too numerous to fit in this small tract. There is only one person who fulfils these specifications (and many others not listed)--and that is Jesus Christ.

Finally to end on a surprising note; Faith is not something you have to work hard on--it is actually a GIFT from GOD!

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; ... To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge ... to another faith by the same Spirit, ...
1 Corinthians 12:4, 8, 9. Emphasis supplied.

So there it is! Not one person will have an excuse for not being a Christian when the Lord returns. Jesus said (speaking of His death):

and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.
John 12:32.

So to be a successful atheist, YOU must REJECT God!--not God reject YOU! But the best news is--if you turn to the Lord, He will answer your prayer! Jesus Himself said:

Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Matthew 7:7, 8.

Now that's a Bible promise! You may not get as phenomenal a response as Ben Carson did, but the promise still stands, every one who asks receives. Why not give it a try?


Bible texts from:
REVISED STANDARD VERSION OF THE BIBLE, OT 1952, NT 1946, 1971.

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Stephen Buckley
E-mail: stephen@chodesh.info
Last revised: 14 Sep 2011.