by Melanie Chan
I’m a worrier. Yes, I’m aware that that’s a bad thing. But a lot of times, I can’t help but worry over such small, yet seemingly significant things. What if they don’t like me? What if I don’t do well enough? What if I get rejected? What if… what if?
It’s easy to be rebuked about these things because I already know what I’m supposed to be thinking and doing. “Mellie, you just need to trust in God more” is a phrase I’ve heard so many times this past quarter and being honest, I’ll probably hear this many more times in the coming months. The anxiety of feeling insufficient, mediocre, inadequate, doesn’t dissolve at the utterance of a few words.
This quarter I’ve had to confront an issue that I’ve been pushing away since the beginning of college — making decisions for post-college life. Since my senior year of high school, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in speech-language pathology to help people overcome speech impediments. I came into college as a Psychology major and later added the Applied Linguistics major so that I’d have a better understanding of what the career would look like. I started volunteering at speech clinics to gain more experience. I felt like I had my life together, for the most part. I knew what I wanted to do and I was on a pretty straightforward path to get there.The biggest hurdle was actually applying to graduate schools.
The future that I have idealized and planned for is not set in stone. I know that I’m far from a stellar student and my application is definitely less competitive than that of other applicants. Part of me just wants to accept failure and rejection from these schools already because I feel that these places would not readily choose an applicant like me. My sinful anxiety, related to the things I don’t have control over, revealed itself in frustration and disappointment with myself for not being better. It never feels great to stress out over apps, but it took some time to realize that there was a greater purpose for these feelings.
Looking back at this quarter, I realize now that this application process has allowed me to loosen my grip on future plans. To be completely transparent, a lot of times I’d much rather push the stress and worry away than face and fight these sinful thoughts. Because when I really sit down and think about these things, I realize it’s my own selfishness and pride that’s weighing me down. My selfishness of wanting my plans to go exactly my way at exactly my timing feeds my pride of thinking that I know best. Many times I think, “God, I know that you have a plan for me, and I know that you’re sovereign and good, but if things could just go this certain way, that would be great.” Once the sin of selfish pride came to light about grad school applications, I started to see it all over in my life: in feeling like my grades will never be good enough, in feeling like a person’s spiritual growth was my responsibility only, or in fearing what other people would think of me.
When you boil it all down, I was placing my preferences and my own desires over the necessary truth. I realized I didn’t truly and fully rely on God’s ability to know and control all things because knowing this should have allowed me to rest easy about the things I couldn’t change. Does God know what my GPA is? Could God move the admissions committee to accept (or reject) me from a certain school? Does God have the power to allow me to be a speech pathologist? Yes! I might have certain preferences for God to work these things out in a specific way, but He can and will work them out in His perfect way. And whichever way He does, because He is sovereign, it is the best way for my sanctification even if His way means that I don’t get into any schools at all.
Sanctification is an ongoing process. And because I’m human, I will still have moments where I get anxious about various things. But I’m very thankful to have loving brothers and sisters in my life to faithfully point me back to truth — which speaks of how great and mighty our God is. Because He has been and will always be in control of everything, we can place our whole trust in Him. Romans 8:28 reminds us that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God.” A few things stick out to me. This means that God causes all things, not just some things. And all of those things work together holistically; they aren’t isolated, independent incidents. And holistically, they happen for our good. And though we might not see the goodness in the purposes that God is trying to fulfill in us at the time, we can still trust that God is sovereign and good and He wants the best for us which is our sanctification. This also means that we don’t have to fret over difficult things, like grad apps, because God is using them to mold us to the likeness of His Son.
Though the problem might seem hard, there’s a simple solution. A verse that is helpful when anxiety creeps up is a very Sunday School answer to this lifelong problem of leaning only on our own abilities: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). There’s a command to trust in the Lord with all we are. And there’s a promise that He is the one who makes our paths what they are so that we can have assurance in His sovereignty. I am still far from perfect in trusting in God, but I know that God will continue to grow my trust in Him until the day of completion (Philippians 1:6). And knowing about and trusting in God’s complete sovereignty in all things will help me get through not only the rest of the graduate school application process, but also any other hardships that come my way.