2018-2019 were the two most arduous years of my life. It began when I was studying in my dream school.
Like most of my peers that went to junior college (JC), I picked this route because it seemed like the fastest and most straightforward path to university. I expected it to be an academically rigorous journey, but I thought that with enough effort, I would eventually get used to it.
I had my own vision of what JC would look like, but as the weeks went by, I slowly realised that many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).
Having led the canoeing team in secondary school and excelled in the sport, I intended to pursue canoeing as my CCA in JC. But I was crushed when I didn’t make the team. In addition, I struggled in school and getting good grades was much harder than I thought.
At home, I was constantly compared with my elder brother who had consistently been scoring straight As. That not only damaged my self-esteem but also gave me immense pressure. I even had to attend remedial lessons and tuition classes after school, which heightened my stress.
I entered a season of grief. I felt inferior and thought that I wasn’t good or worthy enough for God to use me.
God blesses His people – not simply despite suffering, but often through suffering
I recalled that at my lowest point, I felt trapped in a deep dark hole that I couldn’t escape. Not knowing how to control this deep sense of helplessness, I turned to self-harm and suicidal thoughts filled my mind too.
Like David, I turned to God, asking: “How long, LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:1-2)
Most nights ended with me lamenting to God, crying to sleep and asking God if He loved everyone else but forgot about me. However, it was no coincidence that this was also the period when I drew close to God in prayer. Over time, this fuelled my hope in God as I chose to trust in His unfailing love for me even when I felt like my whole world was crumbling.
Even when prayer didn’t seem to make a difference at first, I just kept praying and believing beyond what I could see before me, walking by faith and not by sight. It was discouraging, but I stuck to it. Eventually, this persistence in going to God led me closer to Him and built up my endurance and ability to cling to Him.
I realised that God blesses His people – not simply despite suffering, but often through suffering. Suffering gives us unique opportunities to experience God’s grace and power in our lives.
God’s grace was evident in my life when He surrounded me with fellow believers who consistently prayed for me, even if it was tempting to isolate myself from everyone. Even when I felt distant from Him, I felt God drawing me to Himself and to experience His love through them.
I was also financially able to afford to seek professional help in the form of a psychologist and psychiatrist. I am still receiving treatment now as God continues to do a deep work in me.
I saw God’s power when He answered my prayers too. When I wanted to talk to someone, my Student Council teacher texted me out of the blue one week later, even though we hadn’t spoken for months.
In our lack, God will provide (Philippians 4:19). When I felt all alone, He never once gave up on me but continued loving me, strategically placing people in my life that cared for and comforted me, especially during my A-Levels.
Through their actions, I saw God’s love displayed to me tangibly, further relinquishing my need for control as I could trust the Author of my life, knowing that He is sovereign over all things. It was this love that sustained me through my darkest moments.
Not too many months ago, I graduated from JC. I wished that I could say that things got easier, or that I had a happy ending and God gave me good grades, but that wasn’t the case.
I didn’t get into any of the three big universities that I desired, but it was a humbling experience. If I’m honest, my purpose of wanting that was really to feel accepted.
Looking back, I see that God’s plan to get me to where I am now was better than the plans I originally had for myself. Everything that fell apart was a chance for God to show me more of Himself and turn it into something better.
He changed it to something far more than I could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
By God’s grace, I got accepted into a private university, one that I believe better suits my style and pace of studying. I even got to do a double major in the course of my choice – psychology and sociology.
Sometimes an unexpected turn of events will leave us smiling. When that happens, it is easy to count our blessings and offer up our praises to God.
However, it is how we react when things don’t go our way that truly puts our faith to the test and reveals our character. As Christians, when we suffer, we can grieve and yet rejoice in our salvation (Psalm 13:5).
Because in God’s hands, every suffering is an opportunity for us to prove the realities of our faith that are greater than gold (1 Peter 1:7).
Just like how I can trust Him in the midst of so much pain or suffering, I can trust Him with anything that comes my way and not be intimidated when things don’t work out the way I want.
I can rejoice even in my disappointment, bearing in mind that trials are part of God’s good gifts to His people, to strengthen them in their faith.
He never fails and always has a better story worth waiting and being excited for. When life falls apart, God’s love is more than enough.
Experiencing this perfect love gives me strength to face anything in life, knowing that God is right beside me, faithfully holding my hand to walk with me through every season.
We never know where life leads us, and we may take unexpected twists and turns, but that’s the beauty of it. Our chance encounters are orchestrated by God’s invisible hands.
I pray that when life throws its hardest curveballs at you, you will choose to faithfully trust in His unfailing love. That you will remember that your story is never over because God never gives up on you.
He loves and cares for you so deeply, far more than you could ever imagine. He has a plan for you greater than your wildest dreams.
- Are you going through a season of self-doubt? If God were to write you a love letter, what do you think He would say?
- How has God used suffering to show you more of Himself?
- In what areas do you need to trust God in?