We often look back and think our life is full of failure and things not working out, but that is faulty thinking and not ever what God is saying. He is by our side every step of the way and allows failures and difficulties for our good.
When I was 18 years old, I started working full-time (at night) and enrolled full-time in college. I attended classes a few times and then stop going at all. I was very young and was not thinking about my future. I did not even bother to officially withdraw from my classes. At the end of the semester all of my instructors had withdrawn me from my courses, except for one. There was an orientation class you typically take in the summer, but I ended up having to take the class. Yes, that’s right, my instructor failed me. In retrospect it was my fault for not withdrawing, but of course it looked ridiculous on my transcript. A few years later when I got serious about school and returned, the advisor I spoke with was incredulous how I failed the class. Guess what? I overcome it. Believe it or not when I went back to school some 5 or 6 years later, I had many fears. Even though I knew I needed to go back to school, I felt like a total failure, I mean seriously, who has a zero GPA… I still remember having so many fearful thoughts about returning to school. I wondered if I would fail again. But of course that wasn’t God. I overcame those fears and did fine in school. I went for 10 years, a bachelor’s degree, 2 master’s degrees and 2 certifications. But that isn’t the whole story.
After I started working, I applied and was accepted to a doctoral program. The first year seemed to go fine, but I was working fulltime and studying until 12am most nights. In the summer I attended on campus classes where we met the professors and other students in the program. For some reason it did not go well. For starters, one day in class, I agreed with the professor and made a comment. Seemed harmless enough, but it wasn’t. While I agreed with the prof, my comment had caused an offense. I did not realize it at the time. Later in the course when we presented our projects, the feedback I received seemed very harsh. That would have been enough, but the prof publicly embarrassed and humiliated me. That was just one instance. The summer classes did not go as I had hoped and by the end of it, I was considering dropping out. Several months later I received an email from this same professor. It was a mystery because in the email I was being talked about, you know, like you would talk to someone else. In fact, he was talking to someone else! He had accidentally sent the email to me. He was explaining to a colleague how I was not a good fit for the doctoral program and would be better suited in an applied area. When he realized his mistake, he contacted me and apologized. At this point, I gracefully took it in stride. I had already decided to just get my master’s degree and not pursue further studies. But I never did get that doctorate…
After I finished my master’s degree, I applied to every job possible. Nothing, not even a single phone call. So, the next fall I stayed in my same job…BUT you know God, he is always up to something. He made me wait 6 months. Around November the Dean of Students approached me and asked if I would be interested in being a counselor. Of course I was interested! When I did my “official” interview, it went something like this. “Are you interested in the job?” “Yes sir.” “Great! Now how much do you make…” That was about it. It was the easiest job I ever got. So, a lot of failure and bad experiences and then boom, you get a promotion. Eighteen months later I got another big promotion when I took a job in Keller. In fact, the job in Keller was the biggest pay increase and positional move I ever made in my career.
Now, I do want to point something out. When I decided not to pursue my doctorate, it really wasn’t from bad experiences. We all have bad experiences and we keep moving forward. The main reason I did not continue in that program was family. When I started the doctoral program, my son Isaac (our firstborn) was about 3. But in my second year, Christie became pregnant with Crystal. I knew this was not going to work with my study schedule. I needed more time with my family. They needed me and I needed them. And I know God gave me a choice and maybe he allowed some bad experiences to make the choice easier. But it was a no-brainer.
Sometimes we give up the things we want to receive what’s best. God knows what he is doing. When we read the story of Job, it is hard to fathom all his bad experiences, particularly losing his kids. But in the end, God doubly blesses him. Now, the book of Job does not gives us all the answers, and Job certainly did not have the answers when he was going through his sufferings. But God had a purpose in what he was doing. He doesn’t tell us everything and this is part of his mystery, but he is good and works out everything according to purposes. Have you had some bad experiences, setbacks that you can’t seem to overcome? Be encouraged, God knows what he is doing. Keep moving forward, keep depending on him. Failure is never an option with God. Fruitfulness often comes through hardship. Don’t ever walk away too soon.