What If You Keep Trying But Don't Succeed?
At church, we've been studying the first book of Samuel - going thorough the lives of Saul and David in great detail - and I became incredibly judgmental of Saul. I didn't get why he did those terrible things against David and God. How could Saul not get it?
But then I saw a little bit of myself in Saul and then I understood: he was desperate. Saul was losing everything he had in the world, so he fought desperately for a delusional hope that he could still have it all. The thing is, Saul knew that David was going to replace him as King - God had told him multiple times, but because God's plan didn't align with Saul's goals, he tried to take things into his own hands.
"Saul has slain his thousands. And David his ten thousands." -1 Samuel 18:7
It seemed like no matter what Saul did, he just could not catch up with David's accomplishments. Saul was a man living in David's shadow and he was not at all happy about it.
Have you ever wanted something so much that you would do anything to get it? A dream or goal that consumed you to a point of making irrational or even dangerous decisions?
I've seen girl friends try to make the guy they're dating be the right one, even though the red flags show how wrong they are together. I've seen girls go to extremes to fit into a size 0 dress or to get their appearance to look just right. Or, there are those who try to get a business idea or a career off the ground that just was never meant to be for them. I've seen classmates struggle through majors and classes they hate just because their parents want them to do so or because of the prestige attached to the field. It's like trying to fit a square into a circle, but if you are determined enough, like the child in this gif, then you can find a creative way to make it work - even though God didn't create it so.
Forcing something into submission does not make it right, just like repeating something over and over again does not make it true.
Academia has always been my weakness. Early in life, I decided that because of my introvert traits, I could not be the most outgoing one, so instead I wanted to be one all the guys liked. But then I realized that my beauty was never going to be the thing that sets me apart, and so that's when I became determined to be the smart one. So, for years I've worked hard to make school my thing, and I have the battle scars to show it - the sleeplessness nights, weight gain, fainting spells, and countless awards.
And I was doing well, until I got to law school. The thing about law school is its incredibly competitive - we're ranked against each other and good grades are holy grail of success. With my type-A personality and personal pressure to always succeed, I fell for the competition hook, line, and sinker. So, at one point when I came out in the middle and not on top, I was devastated.
I did not understand how I could do all the right things and get a result so contrary to what I expected. I studied hard. I understood the material. I prayed, and I felt God's presence in my life and in my studies. And still, it did not give me the correct results. So, I wondered why God would slight me like that. Why, when He had promised blessings, did it feel like I was just being set up for failure?
Like Saul, I have a choice to make: I could go on to try to do things with my human efforts to rewrite God's plan for my life or I can humble myself and accept to be mediocre or even dead last in my academic rankings.
Saul chose the first option - he let his pride and envy drive him - and the the consequence of his disobedience ended up destroying him. We become the worst version of ourselves when we allow jealousy and selfishness to be our motivation.
David chose the second option though and he prospered in his humility and obedience. But, it took time and so much restraint. There were multiple opportunities when David could have easily killed Saul and stepped into the role that he knew was rightfully his. Instead, David spent years hiding in the wilderness and in foreign lands, waiting for God to give him the okay to take the throne.
If you're trying to do something in your life and can't seem to succeed, I urge to re-evaluate what God wants from you in this season.
Maybe you're re-taking the same entrance exam over and over again to get into grad school. Or you keep dating the same kind of guys in pursuit of a love and wedding ring, but keep ending up with a broken heart. Maybe all your job applications have remained unanswered or the physical pain of an illness still makes it hard to sleep at night.
"The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." -Proverbs 16:9
Don't get frustrated with God or doubt His plan for your life. Because even if right now things don't look anything like you thought your calling should work, trust that the Lord knows what He's doing. Humble yourself and obey, even if what He is asking you to do today seems boring, a waste of your time, or overbearingly repetitive. When the going gets hard, just think of David in the wilderness and then of his eventual rise to the throne of Israel - for years, it didn't seem like things would work out for David, but they did - magnificently.
But, don't forget about Saul, because sometimes your plans won't align with God, and He may just ask you to give up on a dream so that He can give you one of His own.
As for me? I'm going to try and to disengage my worth from academics and plant it at the feet of Jesus. I realize I may not succeed in the eyes of the world or on the metrics of academic success. But, I know that this won't diminish my calling to be a lawyer in any way. Instead, it will take my human efforts out of the equation and leave an ocean-sized gap for the Lord to step in and be glorified. So that people may say, "I'm not sure how that could have happened, something special must have made you the exception." And I can answer, "Yes, Jesus happened."
Today, I choose to submit, no matter how painful it is, because I don't want Saul's story to become my story. What will you choose?
// image by Yelena Bosovik; text via vrsly