Why Does God Allows Disappointments and Setbacks in the Lives of Christians? A Personal Experience by a Christian in Singapore

In a previous blog, I shared my personal experience of learning to hear God’s voice.

Soon after attending the two evening lectures by Brother Paul Hawkins from YWAM (Youth With a Mission) on “Hearing God’s Voice“, I decided to put what I had learnt into practice, and would regularly set aside time to pray. Because I would get distracted at home, I would walk to a nearby playground (which was typically free of children after sunset) during the evening to pray for about an hour. I would not have any specific prayer request other than to ask the Lord to speak to my heart and to reveal Himself to a greater measure to me (“Speak, for your servant is listening.”; 1 Samuel 3:10).

It soon came time to take my final university examinations. Throughout my undergraduate years, I had been consistently praying for God to bless me in my studies, and my greatest hope was to do well enough to be selected for an Honours degree programme, after I graduated from my Bachelors degree programme.

Although I was busy with my studies, I was also involved in various Christian activities. In church, I was a Sunday school teacher. The church that I attended held a bible study class before the main service, and I regularly attended that class, and was also rostered to lead a short session of worship before class started.

In the university, I was the class representative for my Biochemistry class. In addition, I was also studying Microbiology, and the ‘seniors’ in the faculty passed on to me the mantle of being the leader for the faculty’s undergraduate Christian fellowship.

I took on all these extracurricular responsibility with stride, ‘trusting’ that as “I served the Lord, the Lord will grant the desires of my heart” (Have you ever heard this cliche spoken to you by people who want to “motivate” you to serve in a ministry?)

So, I took my final university examinations, and everything seemed well (or so I thought).

Days before the results were announced, I would pray every evening at the playground; I would remind the Lord of my desire to be selected for the Honour programme, as well as to remind Him that I had been faithful in serving Him, in spite of my busy university schedule.

However, as the days got nearer to the date, my heart grew increasingly heavy. I increasingly perceived that something was not going to go according to plan (my plan, that is), and although I was uneasy about that feeling, I continued to “trust” God and to “reason” within myself (“Don’t worry, I’m sure that I will make it to the Honours programme; after all, I am a Christian, and most of my other peers, who are also aiming for the programme, are not.”).

Despite my attempts to “reason” with myself, I could not shake away the growing perception that something was wrong, and finally, on the very day before the results were announced, I said to the Lord while at the playground, “Ok, Lord, please give it to me straight. Am I, or am I not, going to be selected for the Honour programme?”

“You will NOT be selected,”came the immediate and unambigious reply within my heart.

I was stunned, but knew it was the Lord.

“What, it can’t be! I have served You…” I protested and started to cry.

“Trust Me,” came the reply.

Trust You? How do I trust You? This had been my deepest dream even before joining university, and now You have crushed it.

“Trust Me. I will provide for you a job,” I sensed the Lord say to me assuringly, and even while I was sobbing uncontrollably in the semi-darkness, I felt a new peace entering my heart to assure me that everything would be ok.

I am by nature punctual, but the next day, I deliberately reached the university about half an hour later than the scheduled time that the results would be announced.

As I was walking towards my faculty, I could see one of my classmates, who was clearly elated that she had been selected into the Honours programme, but as I approached her, her expression changed and she became more sombre.

“The results are out at the noticeboard,” she said. “Eh… I think you might want to have a look at it.”

I don’t have to,’ I thought to myself. ‘God has already told me.‘ But her attempt to avoid being the bearer of bad news, just confirmed to me that my name was not included on the Honour’s list.

Indeed, although I had passed the examination, and thus effectively graduated from the university, my results were bad; not only did I not make it on the Honours list, I did not even graduate with the title of ‘Merit’.

That evening, when I went back to the playground to pray, it felt like I had experienced a passing storm, and was emotionally too tired to do or say anything, except to try to console myself that the Lord had promised that He would take care of my employment needs.

I pause my story to address this important question: “Why does God allows disappointments and setbacks in the lives of Christian?

I believe it is to break them. In his book ‘The Blessings of Brokenness: Why God Allows Us to Go Through Hard Times‘, Charles Stanley explained it perfectly with his analogy of a wild horse:

I love to go out West and roam around in the wilderness. I like to sleep in a tent when it’s cold and to photograph nature or hunt. I enjoy the solitude and beauty of the mountain wilderness areas of our nation. On most of my wilderness trips, I contact an outfitter who assigns me a horse for the trek. Sometimes I’ve had very gentle horses who, with the slightest movement of the reigns, have known exactly what to do. Such a horse obeys instandly. Sometimes merely a spoken word will do.

I’ve ridden other very independent horses! I could pull on the reins, jerk the reins, kick with my stirups, speak sharply, and nothing happened that I wanted to have happen! These horses supposedly had been broken, but as far as I was concerned they were not broken very well. At times, these independent horses have put me into dangerous positions — lunging forward down a hill, balking through narrow passageways. Believe me, I’d much rather have a gentle, well-broken horse anytime, in any situation.

What happens in the breaking of a horse? Contrary to what many people believe, the horse’s spirit isn’t broken. A well-broken horse remains strong, eager, quick-witted, and aware, and he loves to gallop when given free rein. Rather, it is thoe horse’s independence that is broken. The breaking of a horse results in the horse giving instant obedience to its rider.

When a child of God is broken, God does not destroy his or her spirit. We don’t lose our zest for living when we come to Christ. We don’t lose the force of our personality. Rather, we lose our independence. Our will is brought into submission to the will of the Father so that we can give instant obedience to the one whom we call Saviour and Lord.

Now, we can’t insist on having our way. God doesn’t strip us of our free will either before or after our accepting Jesus as Saviour. We can “do our own thing” no matter what God says to us or how he may direct us. But when we act independently, like an unbroken or partially broken horse, we put ourselves into danger. His desire is that we not experience the consequence of our own willful wandering into sin and the dangers of evil.

Brokeness is the condition whereby our will is brought into full submission to his will so that when he speaks, we put up no argument, make no rationalization, offer no excuses, and register no blame, but instead, instantly obey the leading of the Holy Spirit as he guides us. The end result is one of blessing — it is for our good both now and forever.

I started my job hunt a day or two after the examination results were released, and very shortly after, was called for interviews, and was offered a job at a Japanese manufacturing company. Among my peers who had graduated, I was the fastest to receive a job offer. Praise the Lord! He is Faithful and had kept His promise to me.


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