“You would need to pay an outstanding amount of S$XXXXX.XX for the withdrawal.”

I was stunned. Staring at the email from the Office of Admission, I wondered whether I was making the right decision. This was the toughest decision in my entire life so far.

I was in the fourth year of my Chemistry Bachelor’s Degree. And as part of my graduation requirements, I needed to do a Final Year Project (FYP) consisting of research and a thesis paper, whilst juggling my other final-year chemistry modules.

This major project and all the examinations led to much stress and anxiety. And because of my ongoing mental health struggles, I felt limited in my mental capacity and capability.

Yet, the final year of school required me to function at a level of intensity that I couldn’t afford. I felt like I had no choice but to push myself beyond my limits because I simply wanted to graduate.

At times, I forced myself to study even though I felt like I wasn’t absorbing much. I tried my best to keep catching up with my FYP progress even though I felt overwhelmed by how much I was falling behind.

These all piled up to a point where I had a panic attack and missed an important exam for one module. I was devastated and felt hopeless. It seemed impossible to complete my module because the paper that I missed accounted for 40% of the module weightage.

Out of desperation, I turned to my parents and counsellor for help. And that was when the idea of withdrawing from university came up.

Doubts, darkness and diagnosis

Surprisingly, they were all quite understanding of my situation and sought to support me.

Since I wasn’t planning to pursue a long-term career in my field of study, we also discussed the option of graduating early with a three-year degree.

While all the options seemed to be open at that point, the decision-making process overwhelmed me and made me question and condemn myself. Had I really tried my best? Could I have tried harder? Was I being irresponsible or immature?

I felt like a burden for creating so much trouble for my parents. Because I was on a scholarship, they would have to pay back a huge amount of money if I were to withdraw.

I felt useless. And I didn’t know what I was doing in life.

It wasn’t easy for me to bring these requests to the school as well. After speaking with many professors and deans in my faculty, I was finally directed to meet a doctor in school for a proper diagnosis.

Unfortunately, the experience turned out to be traumatic. The doctor wasn’t very sensitive to my condition and he asked many hard questions bluntly. At the end of the consultation, he even ended off by saying, “I don’t know how I can help you.”

That day, I left the room feeling so unheard and misunderstood. It almost felt like he was invalidating my experiences — and I wasn’t expecting that from a doctor.

The session left me beating myself up even more, thinking that there was something wrong with me because no one could understand me.

Nevertheless, I thank God that the doctor still referred me to a psychiatrist because he couldn’t give me a proper diagnosis.

It was a long wait, but when I finally met the psychiatrist, she empathised with me and helped me to understand my condition better. She also recommended I start taking medication, which has been helpful for my journey.

Eventually, she gave an official approval for me to withdraw from the fourth year of school. In the short span of a few weeks, I graduated from university and entered adulthood.

God has never left me

Since I was on a scholarship, I still had to find a job locally to fulfil my bond obligations even though I graduated early. That was another process that made me feel lost and helpless. I had no idea where to start. I wasn’t particularly interested to continue in my field, but I also didn’t know where else to look for a job.

However, as I was already writing for Thir.st on a part-time basis after my summer internship, I decided to talk to my boss to see if there was any chance of securing a full-time role.

Even so, I was doubtful that something would work out. As a foreigner, my job application process would be more complicated and tedious. I also wasn’t sure if the organisation would be able meet the requirements to hire a foreigner.

I didn’t have much hope even on the day when I met my boss. That morning, I texted my friend saying, “Aiyah, I don’t think this can work out. I’m just trying my luck.”

And after speaking with my boss, I was even more certain that it wouldn’t work out since he shared that some of the hiring requirements seemed impossible for the organisation to meet.

But guess what? God made a way.

Some time later, my boss shared that certain arrangements could be worked out and a space could be made for me to join the team.

He then proceeded to talk about the job details and offered to pray for me… but in that moment I was simply in disbelief!

As I look back on that chapter of my life, I am encouraged to see God’s fingerprints present along its pages.

God has been leading my way since last year, when I stepped down from pastoral ministry and took up an internship at Thir.st.

The unique seasons that God brought me through allowed me to share my stories vulnerably and minister to people through my writing.

More than what I could bring to the table, my time at Thir.st also gave me a safe space to grow and to learn from the many faithful men and women of the Kingdom.

When I ended my internship last year, I made a prayer to God that I wouldn’t mind serving Him in this ministry after I graduated. What I didn’t know was that His providence and confirmation would come sooner than I expected!

Throughout the entire process of withdrawing from university, searching for a job and starting on medication, God has also provided timely and godly friendships that supported me.

There were friends who offered to spend time with me and hear me out in my moments of pain and fear. They did not dismiss what I was going through, but simply empathised with me and reminded me of God’s character and faithfulness.

Though they couldn’t do much to help practically, I appreciated that they stood by me in that season of uncertainty.

They remind me that even though all our journeys are different and unique, we can love another as God has loved us. And I’m grateful that they embodied God’s love for me in the times when I struggled to experience it.

All these things will be given to you

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Now, a few months in, I remain in awe of the plans that God has for me. I am always humbled and encouraged when I hear that my writing has blessed someone.

This was something that I struggled to comprehend when I first started my internship, because I felt like I was just typing on my laptop and I didn’t know who I was talking to.

But now, I have seen how God can often move so powerfully and unexpectedly in this digital space, and I am convicted that this is the ministry that God has called me into.

There are still times when I struggle with doubts, uncertainties and comparisons as I think about my income, my career path and my future. But in these moments, I am reminded of how faithful and generous God has been in this journey.

If not for my weakness met by His love, and my failures met by His grace time and time again… I wouldn’t be where I am today.

I find that Matthew 6:33 encapsulates my journey thus far quite well. I wasn’t even looking for a long-term role when I joined Thir.st. I simply wanted to explore this ministry because I was passionate about writing and young people.

Yet, God has grown my heart for this ministry and opened doors one at a time. And I’m grateful that I now get to serve in this role in a full-time capacity.

If not for my weakness met by His love, and my failures met by His grace time and time again… I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Surrender can sometimes be costly. But we know that, in God, everything we sow along the journey is never wasted. Every struggle, every wrestle, every surrender matters. Because we will eventually come to reap the fruits one day.

And we can take heart that He is not done with us yet!

  1. Is there an area in your life that you struggle to trust God?
  2. What does surrender look like to you?
  3. Think of people who have supported you in this journey. Appreciate them today!