Your body feels tense, and your palms start to sweat. Your craving for ice cream reaches a new peak. Your hands start to shake from too many Red Bulls and a lack of sleep. Lecture notes from last term suddenly seem incomprehensible, and you develop an unhealthy fascination for daytime TV. There’s not a seat to be found at the library. The exam season has definitely arrived.
Some people seem to take exams in their stride. For the rest of us, they can be a nerve-wracking and horrible experience. A whole year’s worth of work condensed into three hours of frantic scribbling. How do we cope?
Perhaps you’ve always been a high achiever, and you’re suddenly faced with the prospect of failure. Your identity, your self-image, seems ready to crumble. Or perhaps you’ve barely scraped through, feeling out of place with all these clever people around you. You feel like a fraud about to be exposed.
Exams are about proving you have certain skills or know certain things, but we take things much further. We try to prove ourselves to our parents, to ourselves, to others – and to God. What if we can’t prove ourselves? What if the “expected” 2:1 isn’t going to happen? What if we have to retake an exam, or repeat the year?
With all these pressures and worries swimming around our heads, it can feel impossible to know where to begin. We procrastinate when we should be working, and feel guilty about not working when we should be resting. Things seem out of control, and we struggle just to keep our head above water. Everything else takes a back seat – exercise, healthy eating, spending time with God and his people.
What is the Christian response to all this? Here’s three truths to to encourage ourselves with:
You are a child of God. Christians are much loved children of a heavenly Father. The Father loves you even as he loves Jesus (John 17:23). You don’t have to be a high achiever. Your identity is not in your degree. Your place in the family is secure. You are a child of God.
Your Father is in control. Not only is God loving, but he is also powerful. Not only does he care for you in the midst of exams, but he is using them for your good. Things may seem chaotic, even hopeless – but God is using all of it to shape you to be more like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29). You don’t need to worry – your Father is in control.
You don’t have to earn his love. You don’t have to prove yourself. Pass or fail in these exams, the one verdict on you that ultimately matters has already been given (Romans 8:1). Your achievements never made God love you, and your failures won’t stop him either. His love for you is all of grace. You don’t have to earn his love.