Have you ever worked really hard for something only to have it not work out? A few years ago, I started working toward a certain job. It started out as a volunteer position with the promise of employment the following year. I spent hours volunteering during one of the busiest semesters of my college career. As summer approached, the leader of the organization told me that they should have a position for me the following semester. I told him that I would continue to volunteer even if they didn’t, but that I could really use the job.
As summer passed and the following semester approached, I followed up with the leaders of the organization. I didn’t hear back for a while, and I was heartbroken when I received their response. We can’t hire you. We already hired someone who qualifies for work study. I’m sorry that it didn’t work out.
I became bitter and frustrated. Why would God open up this opportunity–a dream job, I might add–only to take it away. Were those hours spent a waste? Why would God take away a job that I needed and had worked so hard for? The answer didn’t come for a few months. I do have to confess that I did not keep my promise during this time to volunteer in the absence of a job. I chose to let resentment fester within me instead of swallowing my pride and keeping my word.
I searched job boards for places willing to hire a student with an incredibly inconsistent schedule. I filled in as a lifeguard/housekeeper at a nearby camp, but I desired a job more within my field of study. One day, I came across an ad. Wanted: reading tutor for high school student. I quickly applied and was hired within the week. I remember my first phone call with my boss: You will be tutoring a high-school student. He is in the foster-care system, speaks little English, and is not able to read well. Please let me know if you need anything.
For almost a year, I met with this student twice a week. He went from not knowing all of the letters of the alphabet to being able to read short books. This student started to eat dinner with my husband and I. We taught him how to make a few simple dishes and invited him to stay for movies after dinner. Slowly, he opened up and shared bits and pieces of his story with us–a story that no child should have to endure. This student completely changed the way that I see the world. His background was the complete opposite of my own, and I know for a fact that I learned more from him than he did from me.
In the midst of this time, I also had the opportunity to help homeschool for a family with five beautiful children. I learned how to apply what I learned in the classroom to real-life situations. We spent our days exploring the creek, learning phonetic patterns, and journeying to Mordor with Frodo and Sam. This family encouraged me, challenged me, and changed me during a stressful season of my life.
Looking back, God knew exactly what he was doing. The hours I spent volunteering were not a waste even though I did not get the job I had worked so hard for. The Lord was simply closing one door to take me down a path more meaningful than I could have ever imagined. That student and those five children have wedged themselves into my heart, and I will carry the lessons I learned from them with me.
Have you ever worked really hard for something only to have it not work out? Maybe you are in this position right now. I urge you, friend: don’t let bitterness take root; don’t let frustration deplete your joy. God is doing something in your middle moments–even if you can’t see it.