Results Day has always filled me with dread.
From primary school tests to my university finals this May, I’ve felt stomach churning stress every time that results are released. That feeling was probably shared by many of the 760,000 students who received their A-Level grades yesterday, while others await their GCSE results next Thursday.
For some, yesterday was a day of celebration as new horizons opened. For others, it was a day of huge disappointment. ‘I’ve failed everyone’, wept one of my friends, as she missed her university offer. Another despaired, ‘No-one wants me’, after three hours of phone calls through clearing.
Public exams bring with them a wealth of pressure, concentrating some of our culture’s most toxic messages: ‘Surpass others. Your worth is determined by what you achieve. Success will equal satisfaction.’
Against that backdrop, God says that true hope isn’t found in ourselves or what we do, but in him and what he has done: ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no-one can boast’ (Ephesians 2:8-9).
None of us is up to God’s pass mark. We’re not even close to the grade boundary. And trying to find identity, fulfilment, or our primary purpose in our own achievements – academic or otherwise –will never be enough. A royal flush of A*s or 9s, a promotion at work, or glowing entrepreneurial record, won’t bring life in all its fullness.
The Bible also stresses the place of hard work, of stewarding the talents that God gives us, of seeking to honour him in our approach to everything that we do. Working hard for exams is a part of whole-life discipleship. But whilst we’re prone to critique outward results, God looks at the heart.
In the midst of results season, why not reach out to any young people you know and point them to the one who offers true fulfilment? A well-timed text, email, visit, or offer of prayer can make a huge difference while the world shouts, ‘Achieve! Compare!’
And for all of us, perhaps Results Day is a moment to marvel afresh at a God who gives not as the world does. The God who looks at the scrappy, ink-stained exam paper we make of our lives, yet through his grace grants us his own unconditional offer of acceptance.
Katherine recently graduated from Cambridge and will be working as a parliamentary assistant in London.