I have always lamented the fact that I didn’t win the genetic lottery when it comes to intelligence.
As my name’s (Emily) meaning suggests, I am “diligent” and “industrious”. But that’s not because I desire those qualities. Instead, I always felt I had to compensate for my lack of intelligence.
That might sound like a humbleflex since my grades at all the national exams were objectively quite good, but they were a product of my blood, sweat and tears as I slaved for them.
Nevertheless, hard work only brings you so far sometimes. There are certain things in life that are simply beyond our capacity, and some of my O-Level papers were just that.
I really doubted that God would come through for me in my O-Levels, but that’s when He pointed out my lack of faith and started a journey of learning to trust Him.
During my O-Level year, I was under immense stress and pressure to do well.
However, most of this stress was self-imposed as I had set a high bar for myself and my heart on getting into the junior college of my dreams.
My reasons weren’t the greatest; what partly fuelled my determination besides the prestige was being labelled as a bimbo by some people.
I wanted to prove them wrong and in my quest to do so, I was struggling to juggle nine examinable subjects.
And having pressured myself to hang on to all of them, I had already missed my window of opportunity to drop some of these subjects.
Feeling overstretched and afraid I could not cope, I came up with a strategy: I would bank on six of my best subjects and give less priority to the other three, which I would probably not count in my L1R5.
I planned to just pass them decently so they wouldn’t look too bad on my transcript. However, after finishing my E-Math and English papers, I became extremely anxious.
Though these were my best subjects that I had the most confidence in, I started to doubt.
The papers were weird and slightly different from the usual ten year series that I had been constantly practicing. I just didn’t have a good feeling about them.
I went home devastated that my best subjects which should have been the ones to boost my grades might be the very ones to pull down my overall score.
That night, I remember bawling to my mother. And although she tried to console me, I could not be comforted because I was just so distressed and upset at the thought of all my hard work being in vain.
But that same night, I had a supernatural encounter with God.
I had a dream which quite literally slapped me back to my senses. In the dream, I saw myself lying on my bed. A figure stood beside my bed and was laughing cruelly at me as I despaired.
But suddenly a man’s voice spoke out from nowhere: “Did you just doubt Your God?”
I woke up shaking in fear. However, it was not that fear of the dreaded O-Levels — it was an awesome fear.
I was trembling because I knew I had just heard the voice of God.
“Did you just doubt Your God?”
Though it was the first time I had ever heard God’s voice audibly and clearly, I knew that it was definitely Jesus.
While His question rebuked my lack of faith, His voice was gentle and assuring.
And after I repented for doubting Him, I felt a great peace and assurance that God was going to see me through this storm.
As for the figure standing over me and mocking, it had to be Satan, who wanted to steal, kill and destroy my peace.
By being so anxious and believing that I had screwed up my papers beyond repair, I was buying into the enemy’s lies that my O-Level situation was hopeless and that it couldn’t be salvaged — not even by God.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
That was the first time I learnt to distinguish between God’s voice and the voice of the enemy.
I would not buy into the enemy’s lies again, and instead turned to the Word of God for certain and unfailing hope.
During my quiet time, I chanced upon this verse that really spoke to me.
“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.” (Proverbs 21:31)
I had done my best and stewarded my responsibility as a student well, and I acknowledged that that would only bring me so far.
But coming to the end of myself — I learned that made room for God to demonstrate His power.
All I had to do was give my best, and let God do the rest.
Later, God gave me another verse and another dream.
One clear repeated message in these subsequent encounters with Him was the word “victory”.
I saw it as God’s way of giving me assurance that He was fighting this battle for me. All I had to do was give my best, and let God do the rest.
Fast forward to results day — I received an almost perfect score, which I hadn’t ever achieved in school before.
By His grace, I made it into Victoria Junior College, the very school I wanted to enter.
It was even more symbolic for me because the college’s name paralleled the victory God had assured me of. All glory to God!
God may not always come through for us in the same way that He did for my O-Levels.
We may not always get what we want, and we certainly can’t arm-twist God into answering our prayers.
Having also been through A-Levels and almost four years of university, despite my best prayers and efforts, I was still met with closed doors and also flunked quite a few modules spectacularly.
But even if He doesn’t always come through in the way I hope for, would I still trust Him to lead me to the best place He has in store for me? Would I be okay with not being able to prove myself to those who had dismissed me as an airhead?
I now know that grades don’t define my worth, and that I don’t have to prove myself in any way to anyone, since the only opinion of me that matters is God’s.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2)
While God may not come through for us in the way we imagine, one thing we must do is continue to trust Him. Not “trust the process” as the saying goes, but trust in God.
It is trusting that He will see me through tough times. It is trusting that even if He doesn’t give me the grades I hope for, He closes doors for protection and redirection.
I trust God that whether my grades end up being stellar or subpar, victory is still guaranteed in the sense that He will always be with me and help me to overcome life’s hurdles.
So, even if your O-Level story doesn’t have a “happy ending”, don’t be discouraged: have faith and know for certain that God has good plans for you.
May we all have the courage to strive on, with a hope that overflows!
- When was the last time you felt hopeless?
- Looking back on that incident, where do you see God’s hand in it?
- The next time you face a difficult situation, what are some ways you can approach it with faith?
- What are some promises of God in the Bible that you can lean on?
- Share them with a fellow friend today!