Stress, Finals, and God's Faithfulness
It was the Monday of Finals Week last quarter, and I had just about had enough. I sat in the empty break-room at work, trying to keep my sobs from bursting out, worrying and stressing out about how I was going to get everything done. It wasn’t like I had been dawdling – an emergency baby-sitting opportunity had cropped up on Friday night, and I had worked the entire weekend as well. Combined with the stress of studying for finals, I had already not been in the best of moods that morning. But when my supervisor informed me that I had to take mandatory training the next day – the day of my hardest final – I panicked. Knowing how important the training was and the need to comply with company/state policies and regulations, I forced a smile and told my boss I would be there. But I could barely hold back the tears as I left the office, making a bee-line for the empty break-room.
Because of my lack of sleep, the stress over work and finals, and the general sense of panic, this new addition to my workload seemed overwhelming – something that simply could not be done. Taking a few shaky breaths, I suddenly remembered what a friend had told me just a few days before.
“Are you going to Worship Night tonight?” I texted Hosanna.
As nursing majors, Hosanna and I had ended up taking many of the same courses together. This quarter was no different – we shared an English 102 class and an Anatomy and Physiology class, both of which were quite a bit more work than we had anticipated.
“I’m not sure… I’m trying to figure out if I should stay home to study for finals next week. Are you going?” She texted back.
I stared down at the table in front of me, mulling the same question over in my mind. Already my time was trickling away, due to an unexpected babysitting request and more shifts than usual at work. I would barely have time to finish studying and reviewing all of the concepts before the science final, much less studying enough to feel confident on each subject. But on the other hand, I knew I needed to consciously fix my focus on Jesus and depend on His strength to get through the next week. With Colossians 1:17 in mind, I decided to go ahead and go to the worship night. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 1:17. I figured that as long as I had to take these finals, I should do it with thankfulness, giving God the glory, no matter the outcome.
At the church, we spent at least an hour singing and worshipping God. As we sang, I felt the burden of worry lift off of my shoulders, and I was reminded yet again of how the peace of God surrounds us when we pull our eyes away from our own trials and turn them to bask in the awe of His glory.
After singing, we split up into groups of two or three to spend time praying with and for one another. We spent awhile praising God through prayer, reflecting on His faithfulness, and pleading for His strength during the coming week. When we finally stood up to join the rest of the group to conclude the evening, a friend pulled me gently aside.
“Johanna, I want to let you know that God is telling you not to fear. Don’t be afraid, and put your trust in Him. He is faithful."
Although touched, and thankful for the message, I was not entirely sure what it was referring to. I did worry sometimes about various things, but there was nothing especially pressing, aside from finals. After fellowshipping with the rest of the group for a few more minutes, I headed back home, pondering over what God was trying to tell me. As I prepared for bed, I put the incident out of my mind, choosing instead to focus on formulating a game-plan for the rest of the weekend.
As I sat in the empty break-room, tears streaming down my face, God suddenly brought to mind that conversation with my friend. “…God is telling you not to fear. Don’t be afraid, and put your trust in Him. He is faithful.” Stunned, I realized that God had put those words into the mouth of my friend, knowing that I would need that reminder and encouragement just few days later.
Humbled, I took a few deep breaths and prayed for strength to get through the next few days (as well as peace throughout anything else that might come my way). Almost instantly, I felt peace come over me and felt the assurance that even though I was in the middle of what seemed to be an overwhelming set of problems, I knew that God was in control. Whatever happened, whatever the outcome, He would be glorified in and through this situation.
Looking back, I see how trivial this problem was. Yes, finals are important. And yes, it was a stressful situation. But my emotions, focused on myself and my own problems, blew the situation way out of proportion. At the time, it seemed like it would be the end of the world if I didn’t ace that final. But what are a few less points on a GPA in the greater scheme of things? I could have missed out on an opportunity to see just how amazing our God is, and how great His faithfulness and provision truly are. In addition, God brought home to me the fact that He really does know our needs, even before we realize them for ourselves. Our God is amazing - He can use the toughest situations to reveal more of Himself to us in ways we never could have thought possible!
“…your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:8