Remember the following…
Your Results Matter
Don’t let anybody underestimate or take away from the significance of your exam results. They are important. God made you and made the world that you live in. This is a world that we are both to enjoy and to work to care for. Therefore education matters. Study is both a way of enjoying God’s creation, taking delight in it and working to care for it.
The first Science student was Adam. God brought all of the animals he had made to him to name and to classify. The first human poet (art/literature student)was also Adam when he described Eve as “flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone.” However, Adam was only really thinking God’s thoughts after Him. God was the artist who created this world out of nothing and called it “good.” God was the scientist and engineer who divided darkness from light, water from water and water from land. God not only knows all the stars of the heavens. He made them.
So your results matter. If you did well then you deserve congratulations! It’s right to enjoy and take satisfaction in what you achieved. On the seventh day, God rested. This led to God’s people observing “Sabbath days.” Part of “Sabbath rest” is about stepping back and reflecting.
If you didn’t get the results you wanted then I hope there will be good friends and family around to encourage and comfort you. Some people may try to help by playing down the significance of them. They will say things that are intended to be helpful like “It’s not the end of the World.” However, sometimes it will feel like the end of the world. Don’t forget that they mean well. You may feel guilt about your emotions, especially if you have been constantly told not to focus on temporary, earthly things but on eternal things. So it’s important that you know that it is okay to feel and to express, disappointment and sadness. Your results matter too.
In Genesis 6:6 we are told that God “regretted” (NIV) something. He was “sorry” (NLT) Now, this does not and cannot mean that God had got something wrong, changed his mind, made a mistake. God is perfect and he does not get things wrong. God is all knowing and eternal so that he is never surprised. Saying that God “regretted” or “repented” is a way of expressing in human language God’s judgement on things that were wrong. I also think that by using those words to describe God’s thoughts, the bible gives us permission to express regret. We live in a fallen world, things are not perfect now and so until Jesus comes again, frustration and regret will be part of life. This sense of regret and frustration now can be used for good if you don’t let it overwhelm you. It can become the motivation to do better next time, to learn from mistakes and/or to consider other alternatives.
Your results are not the be all and end all
At the same time, we can also make the mistake of putting too much emphasis on how we do in our exams. Education can become an idol. Often, parents put huge pressure on children to perform well. They can even live their own dreams through their kids. Work can become all consuming. Watch out for the pressure to give up on other things, taking part in church life, enjoying hobbies, spending time with friends for the sake of the specific grade. Keep perspective, only a few percentage points separate one grade from another. Better to have an A or a B and be healthy and content than an A* and be close to a break down.
This is important if you are experiencing disappointment. No, you don’t want to hear the “it’s not the end of the world” comment. But in the end it is true. May I let you into a secret. Far fewer things are life defining than others make out. This is not your one shot at achieving success and happiness. There will be other opportunities and other choices. Our world puts forward a lie that you must achieve that one goal, dream, and ambition. You don’t have to. You can find great joy in life without achieving those dreams.
And for those who have done well, watch out for pride. Don’t allow your academic success to become an idol. Enjoy your achievements, keep working hard but remember that the idol will one day let you down. One day, your intellectual capabilities will fail you, your memory will start to dim, one day you will meet someone more academically gifted than you, more successful than you. You will also meet people who have achieved more in terms of career, who are richer than you, more popular or famous than you and yet haven’t worked as hard as you or got the same grades. If you have made academic success your idol then this will be earth shattering. Instead find your value in knowing that God loves you and that He has called you by name into His family.
Fruitfulness counts more than success
I am particularly grateful to Tim Keller for pointing out the importance of fruitfulness over success. This world worships success. Success is about comparing my achievements to yours. Fruitfulness is different. Jesus tells a story about three servants. They all receive a different amount of money from the master to invest. Two of them invest and do well. One has five bags of silver and makes five more, the other has two bags and makes two more. A success mentality would lead to them making comparisons. The one who only made two more bags of silver might feel crushed and envious when he sees the other man’s results. This would have robbed him of his joy.
Success means that I measure myself against how others have done and against the expectations others have of me. You may be looking at a friend’s results this morning and comparing. You may have done better than them or worse than them. Maybe you have looked at your results and you have done really well but you cannot see that or hear the praise of teachers and friends because you’ve not met the standards another person set you. Maybe your mum or dad or one of your teachers has told you that nothing less than a specific grade will do. Maybe you are trying to live up to the achievements of an older brother or sister.
This is where fruitfulness counts. Did you work hard? Dd you do your best in the circumstances? Have you done, not what others expected of you, but what God asked of you. If so, then whatever your grade, well done.