If you’ve just failed your exams, or you didn’t get the results you were after, that’s rubbish. Sorry. People fail their exams for different reasons. Maybe you didn’t put any effort into studying. Or maybe circumstances out of your control –an illness, bad news– meant you couldn’t do your best on the day. Or maybe you revised hard and you could concentrate but in the end didn’t do as well as you’d hoped.
And so maybe right now you’re feeling disappointed and guilty. If only you’d tried a little bit more you’d have got the grades you wanted. And maybe other people –your teachers, parents, friends– are also feeling disappointed in you. You feel like you’ve let them down. You might even be thinking you’ve disappointed God by not doing as well as you could have.
If this is you, this is what you need to hear; How well you do at exams is a terrible terrible place to go looking for happiness and fulfilment. There is no lasting joy in fixing your identity on being good at studying and being smart. The Bible says the place to find your identity is in Christ Jesus, and says that if you come to Him, He’ll give you a new and better identity as a beloved child of God the Father. So trust that in Jesus God loves you eternally and sees you as perfect. When everyone else is disappointed with you know that God isn’t. When you can’t bear to share your results with your friends or your parents or even look at the results slip yourself, know God knows and delights in you. Whether you did badly in your exams because you were lazy in your revision, or because you weren’t smart enough, or because you just had a really bad day, God sent his Son to die for you and secured his delight over you forever. He’s always overjoyed for you to come to him in prayer and worship. If neither angels nor demons, death nor life, height or depth, can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38), how can bad results? His love is carved into granite by Jesus’ death on the cross, not your grade in an exam.
What next? Well, the good news is that for those who love God –those people He’s saved and rescued– He’s promised to work out all situations for your good (Romans 8:28). So in failed exams results and missed university places and re-sits and cancelled 6th form plans, God is going to work this out for your good somehow. That means He’s going to use even these poor results to make your more like His Son Jesus. How He uses them might remain a mystery till heaven, but He’s promised He will, and He keeps His promises. So you can relax, knowing you haven’t screwed up your future forever, but that God is working things out even now for your best.
Practically, your school or college is probably the best place to find out about other options, they can help you with alternative courses or point you in the direction of other people who can help. You might want to consider taking a year out to work or volunteer with maybe some part-time courses if it’s possible, giving you space to look again at university or further education with a bit more perspective.
I originally wrote this for Youthwork Magazine a couple of years back