Written by Gracella Sofiani Mingkid, Indonesia, originally in Bahasa Indonesia
“I can’t tell you about my unhappy moments because I’ve never experienced any before,” my friend said. We were having a small group discussion and were taking turns to share about at least three moments in our lives that made us unhappy.
I almost couldn’t believe her reply. “Wow, what an amazing life she must have,” I thought. And yet, a part of me couldn’t help but wonder, “Really, God? Is it possible that someone is never unhappy?”
I have had my fair share of unhappy moments. In eleventh grade, I was ranked third in class for the very first time. I know this may sound odd, but I was sad because I had always attained first place. I was a perfectionist especially when it came to grades—I had to be the best.
I blamed myself for failing to stay in first place and repeatedly chided myself for not studying hard enough. The day I received my results, I locked myself in my room and cried.
When I told my friends about how disappointed I was in myself, they told me off for overreacting over a “small difference”. What my friends didn’t realize was how much this “small difference” meant to me.
When the new academic year started, I pushed myself even harder to do well. It was not easy at all. I had lost my confidence and believed that my friends didn’t look up to me anymore. Some of them had moved to another study group.
During my time in college, God allowed me to go through the same struggle again. While there were times I did get a perfect score, there were also times when I didn’t get a satisfying score, no matter how hard I tried. The perfectionist in me still wasn’t used to failure, and I went through the same set of emotions again and again.
I’ve always been ready to share my testimony of God’s goodness. However, whenever I didn’t perform as well as I expected, I couldn’t bring myself to testify about His grace and goodness. In fact, when I think about it, most of the testimonies I’ve heard have been about thanking God for something good, such as good health or good scores in school. I’m sure I’m not alone.
Of course, we are to glorify God for everything He has done for us. But what if someone who just got fired from his job, is suffering from last-stage cancer or who has failed his final examination were to ask you, Does that mean God does not love me?, how would you answer them?
I’ve heard one pastor suggest that we can give better testimonies by adding “one way” in front of our sentences. For example, one way God shows me His kindness is by giving me excellent scores. One way He shows me His love is by giving me good health or a good job. By recognizing that God uses different ways and means to bless us, we are reminding ourselves that God can and will display His love and kindness to us in many ways.
God may not always give us what—according to our perspective—is good and extraordinary. When Job was suffering, his wife asked him to curse God. Job’s response was, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).
As Christians, we are to expect that our lives are not going to be smooth-sailing. God may use disappointment, heartache, defeat, and loss to show us that He will love us no matter what. In fact, that is what He did with me. God shaped me by putting me right at the bottom. He allowed me to experience disappointment and defeat.
The pain helped me understand His purpose. He showed me the correct attitude I should have in the face of disappointment. I became less result-oriented and more process-oriented. Appreciation of the process itself—when it comes to study or work—makes it easier for me to accept my failures and unfulfilled expectations or wishes.
A story of a high schooler who felt depressed because of her perfectionism may sound silly. But that’s exactly how she learned patience, self-control, and the correct attitude. Through this experience, she realized how much God loves her, and that God has the full authority to shape and purify her life. She learned to rely on God’s mighty hand and wisdom.