Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…”
I still remember the sinking feeling I had in my chest as I stared at the 70 something mark on my world government and religions test in 9th grade. Despite knowing full well that I had not put in the effort necessary to get a good grade on that test, I was still shocked. However, more than anything, I was determined to never do so poorly on anything again. This has been the story of my life over the past several years, especially since being in college. The drive to succeed and do my best has become engrained into my deepest being.
And this is where I found myself at the start of this semester. Despite occasionally having to deal with some anxiety, I felt as if I was on top of everything. I prided myself in my good grades- not necessarily because they made me feel smart, but because they were visible proof of the hard work I put into everything. Perhaps more than that, however, I was driven to not let others down. I defined myself as a faithful, dependable person, and the idea of ever not being my best for anyone sickened me. Aside from this, I truly wanted to help people, so I delved deep into committing to finding as many ways as I could to serve on campus and even off when I had the free time. Through all of this, I took comfort in the feeling that every hour spent early in the morning studying and every busy weekend meant that I was being the best that I could be. Colossians 3:23. But is this what God was really asking from me?
And then I lost it- or at least that’s what it felt like. It began when I started having a hard time concentrating in class because my mind was so consumed with worry. Several particularly hard weeks left me exhausted and physically sick as it became even more difficult for me to concentrate on my homework. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I started waking up in the morning with anxiety like I had never experienced before. Over the course of several weeks, my developing anxiety turned into despair and I found myself unable to control the amount of times in a day when I would just break down in tears. I was overwhelmed and confused. I felt as if I had become everything I never wanted to be- I felt lazy, unmotivated, undependable, and hopeless. I felt like I was a failure- not just to myself, but to others. I didn’t know how to process and to explain to others what was going on in my head, and I hated myself for it.
Currently, I am still working through my emotions. I suppose there are a lot of lessons that I have learned and am learning through this experience. Slowly I am learning that it is ok to fail sometimes, and it is ok to not understand everything that is going on. But the thing that has stuck out to me the most during this time is the grace God has given me through the support of other people. When I was at my worst, and barely able to function, I was overwhelmed with the amount of patience and mercy my parents, my professors, and my friends showed me. I may never understand-or feel worthy- of it. But this I believe: like Paul declared in his letter to the Corinthians, God’s grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in my weakness. I’ve been forced to realize that my efforts and my striving will ultimately get me nowhere if I’m not doing it for God. And by doing it for God, I don’t mean relentlessly striving to please everyone and be perfect every hour of the day, but rather, to humbly accept my weaknesses and accept that God’s power and grace can only truly be revealed when I surrender everything to Him.
2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”