Written By Keziah A., Malaysia
I excelled in my first job after university and was promoted within a year and a half. However, despite doing well at my job, I kept focusing on the small failures and disappointments I experienced. My discontentment led me to search for a new job. Drawn by the glamor of marketing, I took up a brand executive position at a well-known company that offered more opportunities for success and recognition.
The new job environment turned out to be incredibly toxic, and after a year I left to work for a non-profit. Though I was initially thrilled to escape a toxic culture to work in an organization that helped society, I was let go at the end of my probationary period due to a poor job fit.
These combined experiences completely crushed me. I felt like a hopeless failure and struggled with thoughts of my worthlessness, and fell into depression. To make things worse, I was rejected from the numerous job posts I applied to, and only managed to nab three unsuccessful interviews.
As I prodded through those six months of painful waiting, I realized that throughout my previous experiences, I had not sought God’s guidance for my life, but leaned on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). Discontented with my circumstances, I had barged ahead and did what I thought best for myself—which led me down a path of unnecessary pain and meaningless striving.
Even though God had tried to show me in many ways that taking on the marketing role was not the right decision for me—trusted colleagues warned me against the toxic environment, and my previous employer had even offered a pay raise to keep me—I forged ahead with what I wanted. Even as I tried to escape my first mistake, I continued to rely on my own judgment, which led to another bad experience at my next job with the non-profit. I had also inadvertently messed up the opportunity God had given me in my first job to fulfil His plans, whatever they might have been.
Since following my way led me awry, I decided to pay closer attention to God’s leading in my life, and to find a sense of purpose and contentment in everything I did, however small. I knew that doing God’s will does not mean a life without challenges, but I trusted that God will take care of me during difficult times (Psalm 23:1,3-6). Just as God promised to be with Joshua wherever he went, I know that He will never forsake me as I seek to fulfill His plans (Deuteronomy 31:8).
Learning to be Open to God’s Leading
When I didn’t hear back from my job applications, my dad encouraged me to apply to graduate school, as I had always been academically inclined. This time, I prayed to God throughout the process and spent a lot of time reading Scripture and devotions to better understand how to listen to God.
I was accepted into a master’s program in Dublin, but was unsure if Dublin was the right place for me. However, the “pieces” I was worried about—like funding and accommodation—just fell into place. I was offered a scholarship by the university that eased the financial burden I faced moving to a new country. I also found accommodation in a Christian student residence through a friend who had happened to move to Ireland a few years back.
I have since completed my Masters and am currently a third year PhD student on a full scholarship from the university. My PhD research is on the effects of poor mental health on economic outcomes—not a research area I had in mind, but this time I was more open to God’s leading. My supervisor had persistently encouraged me into the area, and although I was hesitant at first, I recognized that this might be God’s way of nudging me towards His plan for my life.
Changing the direction of my research meant I had to put aside all the work I had done up to that point and start again from scratch. This was discouraging, but I saw God supporting me through many of the challenges I encountered. For example, I struggled with a severe bout of depression in the first year of the PhD while working on my first paper. There were weeks when I could not work due to the emotional distress and insomnia I experienced.
Somehow, God gave me the strength to complete this paper and publish it as a working paper, and it has been very well received. As I trusted God in this journey, I have also discovered a genuine passion for mental health research. My research also encouraged me to seek professional help for my own mental health issues, which has led to a significant amount of personal growth.
What I’ve Learned About Trusting God
Learning to trust God in this period means acknowledging that He crafts my every circumstance. Instead of insisting on doing what I think is best for myself, I now have a sense of openness to every opportunity that comes my way, even if it is completely unexpected.
I am slowly learning to give up controlling things in my life so they meet my expectations, and allowing more space for God to guide my decisions. I do this by praying to Him about the various decisions I make, and carefully considering whether my decisions honor God. I also spend my mornings reading Scripture and devotions to gain a better understanding of how to live out God’s word. Finally, I’ve been seeking advice from godly people in my life who have been providing me with perspective when I am too distressed to see things clearly.
I still face a lot of challenges, make mistakes, and struggle with uncertainty about God’s will in my life, but I am assured that God is guiding me to fulfil His plans so long as I continue to listen and trust Him.