“Agnes, please pay attention to your careless mistakes. You scored the lowest in our department audit.”
These were the words my boss directed at me as she displayed slides of our January audit results in the March claims meeting. She had yet to receive February and March results from our vendor.
If only she had not been my boss, I would have loved to tell her bluntly, “You have already shown these slides before. Please do not repeat outdated information. Or have you forgotten that these were already shown?” I was upset that she was showing old results again when it was already March. Moreover, this time we had a new joiner in the department meeting. Did she have to shame me once again, in front of the new person?
Feeling the frustration in my heart, yet having to maintain my professional posture at work, I asked God, “Why? Why the shame again?” But the Lord gently reminded me of the lesson that He had taught me back in January, when the same thing had happened.
In January, for some reason I did poorly enough that my manager called me out in the department meeting as the staff who scored the lowest audit. I laughed it off to hide my shame, and assured my boss that I would do better in the months to come.
Outwardly, I seemed strong, but inside I was hurting from the condemnation. I felt ashamed and inferior for scoring the lowest among all the assessors, even though I had done my best and tried to avoid careless mistakes. I was so disappointed that I could not concentrate at work. Back home, I vented by shouting at my family until I almost had a sore throat.
It was only when I had stopped shouting and sat still before God that I remembered a verse from a recent devotion, Proverbs 16:9, “In their hearts human plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” It reminded me that the Lord is sovereign over what happens in my life. As I confessed to God my honest feelings and questioned the disappointing typos I had made in data entry, I felt lifted up and sensed that He was saying to me, it was not about my failure in the audit, it was about my response to failure.
My responses of laughing it off in public trying to hide my shame, and shouting at home trying to numb my pain, did not help in the least. Although I had always known God is a refuge who is close to the brokenhearted, when I experienced failure, I felt as if He were far away and sought to numb my pain in different ways. But the pain only grew in intensity, and that was when I knew I had to surrender. After I did that, I experienced peace and comfort.
As I dwelled in God’s presence, His promises swept over me, and I recalled in Romans 8:28 that all things happen for our good. I struggled to see the goodness in my failure, but then realized that the failure had realigned my heart to acknowledge His sovereignty. It was an opportunity for me to turn my eyes to Him and to hold fast to Him as a child, precious and worthy in His sight. Even when I did not respond well to disappointment, God was faithful and offered me His peace. Through my failure, He was refining me to reflect His image and make me His own.
As God aligned my heart with His, I repented and surrendered the coming month’s audit results to Him. Trying to achieve good results based on my own strength and capability, without acknowledging God’s sovereignty, only caused disappointment. Instead, I decided to fix my eyes on glorifying God in my work, and focus on putting in my best efforts for the months to come. I evaluated how I could do better, and decided to rearrange my schedule so I could tackle the more difficult work in the morning when my concentration level was at its best. I constantly reminded myself not to be weary in doing my work well even when I had yet to see the harvest (Galatians 6:9).
My February, March, and April results came out subsequently, and they turned out very well. These better results prompted my supervisor to raise my claims approval limit to a higher level from May onwards, much to my delight. But having gone through the dry seasons with Him, I am reminded that my boast should not be in my own strength, but in the sovereignty of God who comforts us in our disappointments.
Had it not been for the grace of God sustaining me, urging me to fix my eyes on Him and continue to give my best even after failures, I would have lamented that I was not cut out for the job. Even though I felt ashamed when my former boss mentioned my January results, I am still thankful for her, because it helped me learn not to rely on my own strength, but to invite God to be part of my job, to carry my burdens and failures, and to raise me up in spite of them.
Through my failure, God gently prompted me to be still before Him, to surrender my thoughts to Him, to allow Him to lead me through the valley. He is a faithful God who uses every weakness to show us His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9).