Congratulations! Your place at [uni] to study [course] has been confirmed.
I hope this is the first thing you read as you woke up unnaturally early (pre 8am) to load up UCAS track this morning. Regardless of whether you finally had your place at your preferred uni confirmed, or whether today is going to be a day (maybe days) filled with uncertainty and doubt, here are 5 things to remember:
1. Your identity is not found in an a4 envelope
Or on the UCAS website for that matter. On today of all days it’s extremely tempting to let a number, a letter or a status define who we are. I’m the guy who aced all his A-levels. I’m the girl who just scraped by. I’m a failure. None of these things define who you are. When you became a Christian, your life was ‘hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:3) – you were given a new identity, so tightly bound up with Jesus that it’s functionally indistinguishable. You are a beloved son or a daughter of the Most High not because of anything you’ve done or any grade you’ve obtained, but simply because God wanted you to be.
2. You have not mucked up God’s plan by getting the ‘wrong grades’
Do you ever think of ‘doing God’s will’ as trying to walk across a tightrope – one tiny misstep and you’ll fall off into absolute disaster? Chances are, if you think like this then you probably find big decisions terrifying. What if I make the wrong decision? What if I choose the wrong uni or course? What if I don’t get good enough grades? Have I completely mucked up God’s plan for my life?
I don’t think God’s will is anything like that. Firstly, God’s main plan for each and every one of our lives is to make us “mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). None of this is thwarted by choosing this uni or that uni, or getting this grade or that grade. Secondly, God’s plan is much more freeing than that. Think of Adam and Eve in the garden. They were told that they could eat from any tree, with one restriction on what they were not to eat. God didn’t plan their meals for them, he simply gave them boundaries and let them decide how to live within them (sadly they chose not to). I find it much more helpful to think of God’s will as being more like a garden or a playground; there are boundaries which we are not to cross, but within those boundaries there’s freedom. Of course, God might call us to one specific part for a season or two, but there are lots of places we can go and things we can do and still be within his will.
3. It’s okay to feel disappointed
Disappointment is a natural emotional reaction when life just doesn’t go the way we want it to. It’s what we feel when what we’ve been hoping for doesn’t come to pass. It’s not a wrong feeling for a Christian to have, but as always what matters is how we choose to deal with it. Take your disappointment into the throne room of God Almighty as is your right as a child of the King (Hebrews 4:16). Follow the example of Job who continued talking to God in the midst of suffering and associated disappointment and was commended by God for speaking rightly. Many Psalms also provide great examples of what it looks like to come honestly before God in the midst of bitter disappointment but still remember how good God is, even when life is really painful. God listens and God loves when we come to him with the contents of our hearts.
And remember that in all situations, God acts for the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28)
4. It’s okay to feel proud of your results
Woah now, surely it’s never okay to be proud as a Christian?! Yes, and no. Pride has two definitions – the first might be the one our minds jump to quickest: this type of pride always seeks to big ourselves up and denies that we really need God at all. God hates this pride. The second type of pride is the pleasure we feel when we’ve done something well, or when we’ve pleased someone who it’s natural and right for us to want to please (e.g. parents, teachers). As CS Lewis writes in his chapter on pride in Mere Christianity, the danger begins when we move from type-2 pride to type-1 pride – going from delighting in our achievements to delighting in ourselves (“Aren’t I clever/amazing/brilliant!”). There’s nothing wrong with feeling proud in our achievements, in fact denying them is false humility rather than true humility, but be careful that your pleasure in your results doesn’t turn into pleasure in how fantastic a person you are. Remember that everything, your intelligence, the support of your family and school and even your uni place, is a gift from God in the first place and remember to praise him for it.
5. Whatever’s next, God is with you
It might only be today that the reality of what you’ll be doing and where you’ll be come September/October starts to sink in. You might be fearful or excited or anything in between. Remember that God goes ahead of you and will be with you always, whether you go or stay.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31.6)
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)