The day had finally come when all Secondary 4 students eagerly awaited the outcome of their O-Level results.
When my friends were called upon to get their result slips one-by-one, they were either rejoicing or crying, but my racing heart became anxious as I was still not called upon.
Then my form teacher tactfully invited me to another quieter room, a science lab, to give me my results slip. I was grateful for how she broke the painful and unpleasant news to me with such love and gentleness.
“What! I did not make it?” I was shocked beyond understanding. As it turned out, I didn’t pass my English exam, likely because I misinterpreted the composition question.
I still remember vividly and gently the words she spoke then: “Pauline, though you are a twin, the Lord may have different plans for your life. He even knows the number of hairs on your head. His ways are higher than our ways.”
Feeling dazed and utterly disappointed with myself, I dashed home to my grandparents’ place and, without a word, I shut the doors behind me and cried bitterly. Vaguely, I remember my best friend had accompanied me home and comforted me.
The expectation and pressure of getting good grades had been drilled into us since we were young – in school and at home. We focused on performance and results. We wanted to look good and gain the approval of others.
As a result of my failure, I contemplated suicide as I was overcome by shame, depression and despair. This verse from 1 John 3:20 became so real to me then: “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”
In fact, a few months before the release of the examination results, I read a story about how a girl had jumped to her death as a result of not doing well in her studies.
This was the first time that I had such close encounters with the Devil, the father of lies who whispered into my ears that “my life was not worth living”, “my twin sister was better than me” or even “my grandmother favoured my twin sister”.
I was very confused and devastated as I wondered how I would face the real world out there. I was only 16 years old when I was thrown into this sea of uncertainties and chaos.
The more I thought about my future, the more suicidal thoughts filled my mind. Yet I did not have enough courage to die, as tears of despondency made me tired and feeble and left me without sufficient courage to take my life.
While I was crying my heart out in my room, my aunt and mother were praying that God would soften my heart as I had locked the door. They wanted to talk to me, but finally, I only allowed my aunt to come into the room.
The moment she sat on my bed and held my hands, God impressed on me that I had come under a spirit of rejection and helplessness. Acknowledging these feelings, I cried out to God and asked Him to forgive me for being angry with Him.
I realised I had given Him a to-do list and wanted Him to do what I wanted. After my confession and repentance, I felt a warmth come upon me and blurted out Psalm 51:10-12 (ESV) while sobbing bitterly:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”
Immediately after that prayer, an amazing peace and strength filled my heart so I could face the future bravely. I submitted myself to God’s plan for my life. Surely, Isaiah 55:8-9 (NASB) struck a chord with me:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
This was a turning point in my life as I lifted up my burdens before God. In that week, I picked myself up and eventually took on two part-time jobs – one was in a former church friend’s florist shop and the other was at a bakery.
It was not easy, but knowing God was with me helped me to look to Him daily. Later, I equipped myself with secretarial skills and also joined a part-time English tuition class.
My teenage aspiration to study in the university did not quite materialise due to my failure. Instead it brought me to another path.
The Bible says in John 10:10 (NLT): “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
The Lord wants to give us abundant life, but we need to surrender to Him on a daily basis. Dying to our rights and entitlements helps us rediscover the beauty of enjoying a restful and refreshed life.
Ajith Fernando, the former National Director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka, once said: “Surrender is the means to enjoying more fully the most beautiful thing in our lives – our joyous love relationship with God.”
The pains we go through now will help mature us into men and women whom He can use to fulfil His purposes. His works of sanctification and purification are being worked out in and through our lives until we meet Him face-to-face.
My teenage aspiration to study in the university did not quite materialise due to my failure. Instead it brought me to another path. It is so true that “many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand” (Proverbs 19:21 NASB).
With hindsight, they were the best years of my life as I grew to know Jesus more through Ngee Ann Polytechnic Christian Fellowship, where I was involved as an executive committee member. While serving the Lord as the secretary of the evangelism and missions department, I met my husband who was the cell group coordinator.
Indeed, God is all-knowing and He strengthened me to face the many different challenges in order to fulfil His plans and purposes for my life according to Colossians 1:11-12: “being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light”.
This article was adapted from a chapter in Pauline Song’s book, Out of My Brokenness into His Calling, and has been republished with permission. Serving as a missionary in Thailand since 2006, Pauline and her husband Derric planted Oasis New Life Church in Bangkok. She has written this book as a fundraising project for the church. To support the ministry and/or find out more about her journey of how God restored her life, you may purchase a copy of her book.
- Is there anything you’re angry with God for? How can you surrender it to Him?
- What lies do you think the Devil has been planting in your mind?
- How do you think God is helping you to grow in maturity as a man or woman through whom He can use to fulfil His purposes?