After my A-Levels, my dreams were dashed and I couldn’t see the road ahead
Stephanie Chew // September 28, 2021, 3:20 pm
Coming from a single-parent family and struggling with insecurity, I always felt alone and had many anxieties. I often sought for safety in the wrong places. I also often felt lost because I relied a lot on my own strength.
I had high expectations of myself and desired to be in recognised careers to make my mum proud of me. Achievements helped me to feel big and make meaning of my life.
That is why I considered being a doctor, psychologist or writer. People always seemed to be quite complex but of interest to God, and I hoped to be there through these jobs to understand them better and lead them to knowing God.
That started my active pursuit of achievements and getting good results. But what seemed to be good intentions for God ended up being my biggest stumbling block.
PRESSURED TO EXCEL
Since it was so competitive to make it to the medical field, I was surrounded by classmates who were spending long hours studying.
I always didn’t seem to be able to keep up. It also took my attention away from spending time with God.
After completing junior college, I was looking forward to all the possible opportunities I could have. However, my A-Level results were not good enough for the courses I was interested in.
It seemed like my dreams were dashed, and I was challenged to surrender it all to God.
During a church conference the year after, I received the above message from God as I prayed for clarity for the next phase of my life.
I thought that it would be related to the medical field or the writing profession as I had been actively writing in my own time. So I continued to apply for courses even though I knew that my results didn’t meet the mark.
But after two years of trying to get a place at local universities and looking into overseas options, it came to no avail.
WHEN THINGS DIDN’T WORK OUT
“Why is this happening? I worked so hard and did not stop serving you.”
This was my honest question to God for a period. But it also made me realise that my worship and love was conditional.
As I allowed the reality to sink in, I took a gap year as I did not want to rush into any course. This led to questions from people around me.
Honestly, I was also worried that there would not be many choices left for me, which could end up disappointing my mum even more.
Shortly after graduating from JC, I attended a church camp. I was leading a small group of girls who were transiting from JC to university. Watching my peers leave one after another to their university cell groups, I was crushed and wondered if I had actually made the wrong choice.
But the camp also left a deep impression on me.
I realised that temptations to follow the world and act upon the feelings I was experiencing would come. But I could also make the choice to depend on His Word as a solid foundation, and continue waiting upon the Lord for His guidance and timing.
So I continued to find part-time jobs or internship opportunities to gain exposure and reassured my relatives about the path I was taking. Throughout that time, I held onto Joshua 1:9, remembering that God would be with me wherever I go.
THE COURAGE TO WALK WITH GOD
I managed to try out writing and worked with a psychologist for a short period. None of those seemed to work out.
But as I became more convicted in my spirit to surrender my future to Him, open doors came along as I applied for jobs.
I started serving as a volunteer tutor for children from underprivileged backgrounds. It also took a few months of waiting before one of the organisations got back to me.
It turned out to be a student care teacher position, which was not what I had wanted. However, I accepted the position, trusting that this process would give me some exposure to the social service sector.
Despite not knowing much about counselling or social work back then, I began to have clarity over time that “the broken-hearted” could look like those who are in need of the Good News, who need to experience hope and peace in times of distress.
I became excited for people to know who God is and how He has brought me through valley-low seasons with His faithfulness.
Three years passed in the blink of an eye, and I realised that my heart’s posture towards people and life had changed.
I found myself connecting with and speaking into the lives of children easily. Although it was not always the most comfortable, the Holy Spirit empowered me in those moments.
These experiences also reminded me of the depth of God’s grace for me and increased my burden for families.
Soon after, I began to take on part-time studies and full-time work. It was not an easy decision because it was not what my family would have wanted for me, but God’s favour and mercy continued to be with me.
I was not as tired as I thought I would be from the responsibilities. Not only that — I was filled with much joy and gratitude, and experienced the closeness of God throughout.
Over time, my family became more assured about my decision. Together with the prophecies that came, I grew in confidence as I sought His direction to reach out to the next generation and bring them His love, healing and hope.
EACH STEP DIDN’T GO TO WASTE
Looking back, I didn’t know how “be there for the broken-hearted, I am near to them” would come to pass back then when all doors were closed.
But with the help of loving godly mentors who guided me, God revealed to me along the way that all my experiences were not wasted.
He could use my brokenness and weaknesses for His glory. He knows what we need more than ourselves!
Today, I am a counsellor. I am glad that I had waited for His clarity to help me learn the greater gift in the work that we do.
God continues to work in my heart as I work with families to empower children, praying that He will shine His light through me to speak to their situation, one client at a time.
I am reminded that there is no greater honour than to be able to serve and worship my King, doing the work that He has entrusted to me.
He loved us, died for us, and trusted us with the greatest news we could share with the world. What can I do, but to trust Him with every step of the way?
THINK + TALK
- Have you built your worth on grades and achievements?
- Is there something that you sense that God is calling you to do? What can you do about it in the meantime?
- Are there disappointments or rejections that have left you confused? Keep journeying with God as you pray for clarity.