I have been doing my Master’s thesis for the past 16 months. I usually do it in the wee hours of the night since I have my corporate job and ministry schedules. When there is a deadline, I would only get around 2 to 3 hours of sleep in preparation for another day’s grind. So I would be lying if I told you that doing my thesis has not taken its toll on my physical and emotional well-being.
Around February, I came to the point of giving up already or at least considering an indefinite leave of absence from grad school. I reached the point of academic burnout. I lacked the motivation to do anything related to my thesis work. It suddenly became uninteresting and dragging. Just the attempt to review any of its chapters gave me a headache. I suddenly had a hard time communicating or listening to my advisor because I just could not focus. It seemed like my feelings of burnout outweighed my reasons to still go on. And if I’m being honest, I haven’t had a decent blog post here since February. I was just uninspired to write altogether.
It was only until April 25 when those feelings changed – four days before my extended second draft deadline.
Around April 22, I stumbled upon this verse during a Bible-reading moment.
“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” – Ecclesiastes 7:8
That verse just stuck with me. So I told God, “Okay, God. You want me to finish what I started. You do not want me to just give it up. But God, how? How do I finish this?” Of course, that all came with the admission that I attempted to deal with my thesis on my own strength.
Then on April 25, God answered when I came across James 1:5. I have encountered this verse many times before but there was just something different when I encountered it again last month. It resonated deeper.
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” – James 1:5
I needed wisdom. Specifically, God’s wisdom. And since I constantly need it, I am encouraged and reminded that I can ask God for it because He is generous and He will not find fault in me when I do. I needed God. I needed to ask God for wisdom or else I will fall into the pit of my own efforts.
Then I eventually remembered the story of Solomon when he asked God for wisdom (1 Kings 3). One night, the Lord appeared to Solomon and said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!” In response, Solomon answered, “Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”
The passage notes, “The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom”.
The Lord told Solomon, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies – I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!
Amazing, right?! God delights to give wisdom to those who truly seek it. Realizing all these, the Holy Spirit impressed in my heart to keep James 1:5 as my thesis journey verse. I prayed for it and claimed it.
That same day, April 25, I wrote this on my prayer journal and told this to God:
“And my Lord God, I struggle. I know You see me through, God. You see my every thought and the warfare within me to not look back anymore. God, I pray that You make me see more of You – to see what lies ahead of me instead of what I left behind.
Please be with me every step of the way, God. I am weak. I have thoughts of going back again. I can’t move forward on my own, God. I tried many times before but I ended up with a hundred failures. Kaya God, manaig po kayo sa akin. I want to choose You and Your love and Your affection every day. Help me to choose You over everything and everyone else every day.
When my thoughts and heart are falling apart, hold it Yours, God. Please let me see You more.”
On April 28, God answered me through a promise. A verse which every word was a word of assurance, comfort and hope from God to me. Again, I have read this part of the Bible before, but it resonated with me differently, deeper and more personal this time.
“But forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:18-19
The Lord wants me to move forward by forgetting my failures and shortcomings and instead, focusing on the incomparable things that He will do – not just in my graduate school journey but even more in my personal life. He told me that He is already working and He told me to focus on that.
That same week of April 25 and 28, in a span of four days, I was able to finish my data gathering and consolidation with more than 14,500 words in 52 pages! Then on April 30, I was able to submit my second set of revisions for Chapters 1 to 5! What seemed utterly impossible became possible because God generously gave me His wisdom. He made a pathway through the wilderness. He created rivers in the dry wasteland.
My mind would still drain of course but the work seemed light and I felt a sense of direction in every step. Since God’s intervention, my communication with my advisor became constant. Whenever I receive a set of comments for revisions and modifications, the Spirit would lead me to come to God first and admit that I cannot do anything on my own. God would draw me back to James 1:5 and His promise in Isaiah 43.
I would still worry about whether or not I’ll be able to graduate this year. But God would just plant this peace in my heart that as long as He is with me, I should not worry. He gave me the assurance that even though graduating this year is nice to have, He looks past that because He cares for me more than He cares for my thesis.
On May 3, I once again came across James 1:5. But this time, I was able to read as well its succeeding verse which left me in awe.
“But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.” – James 1:6
Not only should I ask God for wisdom, I should put my trust in Him alone – believing that He will deliver. I should not ask Him for wisdom and then still worry about where this whole thesis-writing will go. I should put my utmost loyalty to Him because unbelief will not get me anywhere.
On May 15, my advisor said, “This is good progress, Trudy”. And she wanted me to submit a draft manuscript already. Of course, going through preliminary chapters and revising again five chapters were not easy but I had this peace that God is with me. He will guide me.
On May 20, I was able to submit my draft manuscript. It had 109 pages and almost 25,000 words. Clicking the send button led me to tears of praise to God. I was tired and sleepless for weeks. But how God moved despite my feelings and circumstances just led me to praise.
All the feelings of burnout faded away and God’s wisdom sustained me. My circumstances did not change. The load of thesis work was still the same, but the process changed because God directed me to not make decisions according to my feelings but according to faith in Him.
I recently had a video conference meeting with my advisor. I am still unsure up to this point if I will still get a slot for a thesis defense this semester. I also still have to go through another set of revisions. But my God does not fail and He can be trusted. He is a generous God.