when your best doesn't seem good enough

Friday, December 18, 2015

I got a B this week. And a C, and for me, that's not really that great. In fact, my family has a long history of expecting A's. We strive for excellence in everything we do, and this time around, it seems that I didn't measure up. It's not like I didn't study. I did, and maybe even a little too much. At the end of the day, though, I made a C, and a low one at that. I'm still not all that happy about it, but I know that it's things like this that make us press on and work harder. (If you're looking for a post that addresses why we should work hard in everything we do, check it out here.)

Frankly, this week, from Monday to Friday, has been nothing short of disastrous. Weeks like this come with a name, a name that carries so much disgust and hatred that I shudder as I type this: exam week. And with exam week came three emotional breakdowns, a thousand gallons of coffee, oily hair, and writer's block, all to my apparent demise.

Life only gets harder, Mary Shelley. My mom told me that this week, probably during emotional break down number one.

But how can it?

And now, I'm through with being overly dramatic, because the truth is that with God, there is always hope. And, like usual, He taught me something big this week, something I should have learned a long time ago.

A bad grade is not the end of the world.

While you sit there, staring at your chemistry test wondering how you could have gotten a seventy-six percent when you studied harder than you ever have before in your life, the world is still spinning at the same speed it was before you got your test. The clock hands are still valiantly turning clockwise, like they always do, and God is still there, loving you the same amount He did the minute before,  not even a smidgen less.

No matter whether this is a final or a midterm, life still goes on. I promise that unless God wants you to work at McDonald's your whole life, that is not your fate. Do you best, and do it for God's glory, and things will always turn out the way they're supposed to. It might not seem that way now, but I promise you, He promises you, that glorious joy awaits.

We all fail sometimes.

I mean, yeah, there's that one guy who seems to make one-hundreds on every paper he's ever written, and who thinks he failed his math test but then gets over one-hundred. But I bet if you ask that guy how many bad grades he has received over the years, he'd probably reply with something like, "Too many to count." Because that's how we tend to think of ourselves, and I don't think that is entirely unhealthy.

At some point we have to come to terms with ourselves and realize that in the long run, we're all equal, and without Jesus, we're all beyond hope. He made a sacrifice for us, though, one bigger than anyone in human history. If God can love me through a million times of rejecting Him and failing to see His grace for so long when I should have seen it right in front of me, He can love anybody through a C on their report card.

Do your best; it might sound cliche, but really, it's what God asks of us. Depend on Him to do your best, and when you excel, give Him the glory. It's harder than it sounds, but I promise that depending on God is the most freeing experience ever offered to mankind.

These numbers don't define you.

Hey, Christian, let me let you in on a little secret: God does not love you based on your performance.

We use the term unconditional a little too much, so I think its meaning has been lessened over the years. God's love is unconditional, and only He can truly personify that love.

I'm blessed to have Christian parents who depend on God to love me like He loves me. I have to admit, when I received my chemistry test back, the first thing I thought was what will my dad think? I backed myself into the corner of thinking that the percentage on my paper was something like a price tag: 76%, 0.76, 76 cents. God doesn't love you any less if you make a bad grade, and if your parents are striving to be like Him, neither do they. Let it go; you did your best, remember?

The truth is, after my mom gave me the usual, "You did your best; that's all you can do," I didn't really feel any better. I did do what I thought was my best, but it was only seventy-six percent worth it. When the kid across the room's best is an a hundred and four and yours is a seventy six, it's hard to feel good about yourself. "Letting it go" is just not possible on our own strength. We get down on ourselves; it's natural. You tell yourself that you'll never be good enough to get into that school, you'll never be the CEO of that company you've always dreamed of, that no one will ever read your books that you spent half your life on because they're just not good enough.

This mindset is absurd for a Christian, because God tells us, so many times that He will always love us no matter the circumstances. He will always forgive you, even when you think that He couldn't possibly forgive you anymore. Come, fall at the feet of Jesus and taste this sweet grace. It never disappoints, and neither does He.

This is what God says about you:

Isaiah 43:4 // You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you...
Jeremiah 6:16 // Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. 
Jeremiah 31:3 // I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
Isaiah 1:18 // Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

So what? You made a seventy-six percent. That does not mean that you're only seventy six percent human, that you're only seventy-six percent loved, that you're only seventy-six percent worth it. As a born-again Christian, your worth does not come from somewhere within you; it comes from Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. God knew we could never measure up, so He provided a substitute to live out His law perfectly and to pay the price we owed. So next time you study harder than you ever have and get a less than glamorous grade, don't think for one moment that you're not worth it anymore. Jesus' worth has been transferred to you, so you will always be worth it.

I'm happy to announce that this afternoon, I took a much-needed three hour nap. Looking back on this week now, it wasn't that bad. Yeah, life only gets harder, but God is crazy about you, and He wants nothing more than for you to come to Him and depend on His grace for your everyday life. Life is hard, but God is always good.

May your Christmas season be filled with His love and grace, and may you never forget the Reason for the season. This Christmas will be one for the books; I can feel it.


  1. Thanks for such an encouraging hopeful post! It's so easy to let numbers and labels define us... But as you say, God doesn't work like that, and that is a promise.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Jessica! I too am thankful for God's unconditional love and His promise!
      Have a wonderful day!!

  2. Hey Mary Shelly,
    I think we all know that. Sometimes in the year you can learn so hard for a test and in the end it will be worth that you think could be. Last year i was a very good Student that had always luck with the marks, but in this schoolyear at another School it's different. I'm worth than before, that's ok. I hope next year will be better,this year it's ok, because It isn't important for my graduation.
    Love, Lea

    1. Hey, Lea! I know how the pressures of school can be! It's good to step back from all the stress and realize that your eternity isn't defined by your grades.

      Thanks for commenting!!


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