three broken chalks

When God’s Will Wasn’t What I Had Expected

Written by Sheng Xia. Originally in Traditional Chinese.

This past summer, I had to re-learn what it means for God to be in control of my life. Something had happened that made me notice how I handle my emotions when things don’t turn out the way I expect.

I study full-time and work part-time to pay for my tuition and living expenses. It’s exhausting having to work and study at the same time, and at the end of each day, I often feel like I’ve nothing left to give. I have been praying to God to ask Him to bless me with a more stable position with better hours. 

When summer vacation rolled around, I came across a teaching assistant posting with our school’s international exchange department. I began to think about how working there would not only give me the opportunity to learn new things, but also interact with different students. This would help me improve my conversational Korean, which could be a useful skill for the future. Furthermore, teaching assistants receive a discount on their tuition, in addition to their monthly salary. Overall, it was a very attractive post.

I figured this must be God’s leading, so I excitedly shared it with my friends, who were all very supportive and certain that I would land the job. My confidence was buoyed by their encouraging response. I thought I had a good chance of getting it since the notice said that they would be hiring two to four people, and only three were interviewed for the role. 

Imagine my shock when I learned that I didn’t get the job. I told my pastor, who comforted me and said that I should take my time to process this, and to do it “slowly”. I knew this meant that I should think through how I felt and sort them all out before God; and I shouldn’t rush myself to “get over” things and neglect my emotions in the process, since I do tend to avoid my feelings. 

However, even as I tried to express how I felt, deep down I didn’t believe it helped. Gradually, the disappointment and sadness morphed into self-pity, and I began to think that the reason I got rejected was because I just wasn’t capable; I simply wasn’t good enough.


Who’s at fault here?

Objectively, I knew there were many factors involved—the staff’s considerations, the environment, etc. But even as I told myself these things, I still couldn’t help but blame myself.

Naturally, God became the target of my grumbling. I decided that it was God who had led me to apply and interview for the position, and if it wasn’t for Him, I wouldn’t have done it, and I wouldn’t be dejected as I am now. I became upset at God for letting things turn out this way, for letting me down.

As I bemoaned my condition, my mind went back to what my pastor said—to not rush to resolve what I felt but give myself time; to bring the pains in my heart to God in prayer.

So, I went to God and told Him that I honestly felt that He had abandoned me. Worse, I felt that He wasn’t in control of the situation. If He truly was in control, then I wouldn’t be facing this. As I prayed, God prompted me to temporarily set aside my feelings and judgment so I could listen to what He had to say. I sensed the Spirit asking me this question: “What do you think the outcome should be if God is in control?”

It was at that point that I realised that my definition of God being in control was that things would turn out the way I wanted them to. Deep down, I figured that getting accepted for the job would be proof of God’s leading. 


What does surrendering really look like?

I realised that all this time I didn’t really understand what it meant to surrender to God. Even though I often said that I would submit to His sovereignty, the truth was, I didn’t know what that meant. 

At that point, I had to ask myself, “Is it possible that God is still in control even if the result wasn’t what I had expected? Can His sovereignty bring about an outcome that would look like a ‘failure’ to me? Can I accept this definition of sovereignty?”

Through this incident, God has allowed me to see how I’ve not relinquished my desire for control to Him. I saw how I had been acting like a child, hoping that God would give me what I wanted. And when He didn’t, I immediately threw a tantrum and complained. 

Luke 11:11-12 says: “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” If this is how I know God to be, understanding that He sees way more than I do, He knows what is good for me, and He loves me and will not give me what is bad—then I can say yes, He remains in control no matter the outcome.

I thank God for giving me this experience to re-examine myself, and for letting me see the importance of praying, working hard, and at the same time, surrendering to Him. Truly, He knows what I need, especially my need to grow. This is why He continues to work on changing my perspectives, renewing me from the inside out.

As 2 Timothy 2:21 says: “If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonourable, he will be a vessel [instrument] for honourable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” I am reminded that I, too, am an instrument that’s being made pure, and that as God removes the impurities and the wrong values in me, He will replace these with His vision and standards.

I thank God for how He has been growing me, through His word and the people He’s placed around me. I’m thankful for how He uses all these experiences and different ways to let me know Him more. My life is continuously being transformed by Him, and in Him, is where I’ll find significance and the meaning of life. 

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