First semester of graduate school is over but it felt like an entire year of racing against deadlines. It was tiring. I’d like to think that it is because I am not used to a semestral university system or maybe because I am still in the process of learning how to balance all the workload alongside an eight-to-five corporate job and seven-to-ten (plus weekend) ministry appointments. Or maybe I am just giving out excuses.
It’s most likely a heartcheck of whether or not I’d still choose to consistently seek and pursue God first in all that I do.
In the middle of the semester, because I was not coping effectively due to my self-dependence, I had to drop Saturday tennis coaching duties and make use of my work lunch and merienda breaks to catch-up on readings. Instead of getting a regular six-hour sleep, I had to settle with powernaps one after another.
Even though my personal time with the Lord never gets canceled, the quality of my heart whenever I dwell in His word or pray to Him was not particularly pleasing. There were times when I could not understand what He is trying to tell me because my mind would wander away with hurry and worry about my to-do list. There were times when I would have my quiet time to just get it over with. I would spend time with THE almighty God with a pre-occupied mind. How disrespectful.
The God who created the Heavens and the Earth desires to spend a quality time with me not because He needs it but because I desperately need it. He immensely blessed me with the opportunity to be in graduate school and He provides for all my school needs. But there I was, talking and listening to Him with a mind and heart distracted by concerns and situations I cannot even control or solve on my own. I was allowing the enemy to prowl on me, thinking that I can overcome on my own.
One time, I made a decision to designate an entire Saturday for schoolwork. My goal was to finish two comprehensive papers from five in the morning until nine in the evening. So I woke up at 4:30, read the Bible hastily, and prayed with an absent mind. I worked to achieve my goal for that day, but ended up not finishing a single paper until 11 in the evening. I was not only drained mentally and physically, I was also so discouraged that I sulked in my bed for hours. That’s when it hit me.
I cannot do anything on my own. It is clear what Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing”. That’s when I prayed and confessed and finally listened. God used such self-inflicted defeat in order for me to realize how much I need to depend on His grace every single time.
The more I try to find time and earn it on my own, the more I will lose it. But the more I lose and surrender my time for the Lord’s sake, the more I will gain it. This realization is pretty much aligned with what the Lord says in Matthew 13:12 – “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them”. I realized that whenever I am selfish of what God has given me (like time); the more I will get frustrated.
I did not finish what I needed to finish academically because I took God out of the picture. I magnified my worries instead of God’s sovereignty. I chose to lean on my own understanding instead of trusting Him with all my heart. What a way to forget my life verse! I did not finish what I needed to finish academically because I forgot that God is more concerned of my education more than I can ever be. But praise God for allowing such circumstance and for the power of the Holy Spirit, I got reminded.
The Bible tells us a lot about God’s promises whenever we prioritize Him in all that we do.
- “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33)
- “Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4)
- “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and He will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3)
My desire to please God and to get to know Him more should not be compromised just because I need to finish a bulk of homework. Finishing a degree is important but it should never ever be compared to the unfathomable importance of God in my life. There is nothing wrong with trying to get good grades. After all, we are called to honor God with the things He had called us to do. The issue only comes in when we would rather have good grades (which is only temporary and worldly) than have a deeper relationship with God (which will matter today and eternally).
In one final exam, my prayer to God was “Lord, I am so tired and I am not confident with what I have studied. But I trust in You for You are my confidence. I know that through You, I won’t be asked of something I did not study”. And God worked it out for me.
In one final requirement for another subject, formatted as a research proposal, I sincerely admitted before God that I cannot start and finish anything without Him. I prayed for a research topic that will have a sufficient set of references and something I would enjoy doing. Within fifteen minutes, I was able to find all the references that I needed, came up with a topic and wrote an outline. God worked it all out for me.
This is just the first semester. I have five or seven more semesters to go. I may or may not have to re-learn this, but I can hold on to God’s word along the journey:
- “I will go before you and will level the mountains…” (Isaiah 45:2).
- “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21)