Until seventh grade, I struggled in math. My classmates seemed to be doing fine, but I wasn’t grasping what was being taught so I found myself in remedial math. In standard math, I had been making Ds, but in remedial math, my grade soared to an A. A happy ending to the story, right?
Thankfully, I knew that even though I was making good grades in remedial math, that class was not going to prepare me for standardized testing, for college or for life. The situation seemed fine on the surface, but there were underlying issues.
It was around this time that my father encouraged me to read Herbert W. Armstrong’s Autobiography. Mr. Armstrong talks a lot about ambition and setting goals. I felt that my actions—sitting there contently, getting good grades in a remedial class—were contrary to what Mr. Armstrong wrote.
I began to notice that some of the students in that class with me were the types to get in trouble. I realized that, though it wasn’t by choice, these were the people I was spending time with. Whoever you keep company with will influence you.
I prayed and talked to my dad about it. He agreed with my concerns, and he told me to pray and work hard. I talked to my teacher about it, but she told me that I couldn’t have handled a higher math course. I came to the conclusion that I would need to speak with the principal.
I was afraid to even ask the principal, but I prayed about it. It just so happened that one morning before school he drifted by and asked me how I was doing. I told him honestly that I was having trouble with math class and asked if I could talk to him about it. I could tell that he was genuinely concerned and happy that I wanted to talk to him.
He was glad I was concerned about my situation in remedial math, but he said there were certain standards for the higher levels of math classes. I pleaded that I could handle the regular math class—forgetting that I had been struggling in my regular math class before I was in remedial math.
When we came back to school after summer break, I was elated to find that I was no longer in remedial math for the coming year; I was in algebra! But how could I have gone from remedial math to being dropped into algebra? Sure enough, less than two weeks into that class, I was very stressed. I couldn’t do the math!
I had begged the principal to take me out of remedial math, and he had done exactly what I had asked, but now I couldn’t handle it. I discussed this with the teacher, and she told me I could come in for tutoring at 7 a.m.
This was a knock to my pride. I didn’t want anyone to see me go in for tutoring. I didn’t appreciate that God had provided me with this opportunity.
And it turned out, even with tutoring every morning and a private tutor twice a week, I was still failing every test.
Proverbs 6:6-8 say, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.”
I didn’t consider myself a sluggard, but I was. I hadn’t learned what I should have learned in elementary school, likely because I wasn’t paying attention. This lack of attention had set me back. I couldn’t blame the teachers or anyone else.
God expects us to work hard. We cannot afford be slothful—in anything, but especially if you’re struggling with a subject. We must pray about it, but God expects (us) you to do something about it. We must work hard to find where the problem starts.
When you work hard like there’s no tomorrow, then God will come in to make up for what you are unable to do yourself. God expects you to take action, and then He will match your efforts and help.
Even with all the help I was getting, I remember thinking that I had bitten off more than I could chew. I knew I needed to challenge myself more, but it seemed like it was over my head.
My dad encouraged me to set some goals. He even imposed some goals to help me out.
I went in for tutoring every morning, then met with a personal tutor twice a week. I stayed up late working on my math. I prayed about my math, cried about math—it was that stressful. I didn’t want to deal with it, but my father pushed me. He knew that math was what I needed to focus on rather than something that I was already good at. We can all learn to prioritize whatever subject that is a struggle.
Trumpet Daily presenter Stephen Flurry said: “If you think about it, preparation is one thing in your life that you can control. You decide if you’re going to put in the time or not. You decide how you set the schedule day in and day out. You control that. There’s lots of things in this world you can’t control: You can’t control external events outside of the home or outside of the office place”—or school. “You can’t control someone’s evaluation of your performance, whether good or bad, your grade on the essay or the paper. But what you can control is the work that you put into it, and if you’re doing that, the results are going to get better and better.”
I couldn’t control the grade that the teacher would give me, but I could control how much time and effort I put into it.
Just when I felt like I couldn’t go on any longer—just when I felt like giving up and going back to remedial—I began to see improvement. I didn’t fail the first grading period—the teacher gave me a D minus, but even that was encouraging. The second grading period was another D minus, and I didn’t even deserve that. But the third grading period, I got a C plus; fourth grading period, I made a B; and the last grading period, I made an A plus—in algebra.
I knew at that point that this was supernatural intervention. But I also knew that I had had to work like there was no tomorrow. I couldn’t just pray and expect those grades to come. I had to work tremendously. But it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. It didn’t happen overnight, or over a month. It happened over the course of an entire year, but God did bring me out of that.
How do you deal with trials that come? You need God and you have to work hard at whatever that issue is.
Here are some action steps to help you work hard so God can help you. He wants to help you, but he can’t if you don’t do your part.
1. Use your time wisely.
This includes putting God first in your life. If you waste your time, how can you expect God to step in and help you? You can’t ever forget that God comes first. All throughout that trial, I was praying; my dad was praying. I certainly wasn’t perfect, but God still helped me because of the attitude.
Use at least some of your spare time to study the subject your struggling in. That’s the only way to overcome it. To become good at anything, you have to practice it.
We are admonished in 2 Timothy 2:15 to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
This can apply to academics. God expects you to work hard and study those subjects—especially the ones you are struggling with.
2. Get counsel from your teachers and your parents.
Ask those in authority what they think the problem is. You have to be humble, because they may tell you something that you don’t want to hear.
3. Set daily goals.
Always be goal-oriented. Set goals daily that will help you overcome. Small goals will keep you moving forward.
In the article “Conquer Your Impossible,” author Julie Birkle writes to the youth: “Something that may seem impossible for you to achieve is earning an ‘A’ on a test in a subject that you don’t particularly like. Well, take small steps to achieve that goal. Study every night the lessons you find the most challenging. Ask questions. Get extra help from your teacher or parents. Talk your goal over with them so they know what you want to achieve. They will help you map out the steps necessary to achieve your goal. Doing these things will help make that “impossible” goal or situation seem less and less impossible.”
Go after that problem with everything you’ve got. You might not know everything you’ve got; that’s why you need to seek counsel.
Whether you’re struggling academically or not, you can apply this. Ask God for help, and work like there’s no tomorrow; then God will reward you.