A few days after A level results were published, a young girl was interviewed on BBC Breakfast. She had missed out on the grades she needed for her university course, and told the reporter: “My future has been set back completely. I would have happily sat the exams but it was up to the government,” adding that she was angry her results had been affected by something out of her control. There is no doubt that thousands of young people knew exactly how she felt that morning, and the ensuing crisis over how the grades were awarded probably only added to their feelings of helplessness, as their futures were apparently decided by a computer algorithm over which none of them had any control. The fall-out from the government’s subsequent U-turn in favour of teacher assessment is still with us, and doubtless the controversy will rumble on throughout the coming months.
The feeling that we are out of control of events which are seriously impacting our lives can be extremely frightening as well as inducing anger and frustration. This particular season has seen thousands of people losing their jobs in industries which were thriving, but which are now at the mercy of economic forces outside their control. Our bodies can let us down, leading to medical diagnoses which suddenly propel us into treatment we would rather not endure. Family breakdown, the sudden change of life after an accident, unexpected bereavement and a myriad of other circumstances all leave us reeling and suddenly aware that the plans we had for the future were not securely in our hands as we had once believed
Thankfully God has not left us to founder in the wreckage of our expectations and unfulfilled hopes. There are secure promises in the Bible which tell us that the future is safe in His hands and that there is no need to fear. Sometimes these verses are quoted so often that they lose their resonance (Jeremiah 29:11 is one example!), but they are eternal truths to which we can cling when things are spiralling out of our control. Proverbs 19:21 says that ‘many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails’, and these words tell us that even when our own plans seem good to us, God has a greater one which cannot be put aside.
We have found this particular promise to be true on several occasions in our own lives, and although sometimes it can be difficult to bow to God’s will when we would prefer to go our own way, it is also enormously reassuring to know that God has a purpose for us when all our plans go awry. That was certainly true when sudden illness threatened Matthew’s earlier career with the police, but the ensuing change to our plans set us on a road which took us to a different destination. In the particular context of exam results, we have seen young people reluctantly take up offers at universities which were not their first choice, only to thrive once they arrived there. And in the struggles which seem futile, or which appear to give only negative outcomes and weaken our faith, we can still cling to the promise that no circumstance is outside God’s concern. As we have said in the past to our young people, our lives and futures do not depend on the grades we receive, or the opinion of others; rather, they are in God’s hands and He is always in control.
With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline