Going back to school can be a difficult time for most families. It is a time when our relaxed summer schedules get turned upside down and time for fun turns into time for homework and studying. Personally, I loved summer and I would dread going back to school every year. I would have to force myself to get excited about going back to school but once I was back for a few weeks and had reconnected with my friends and gotten settled in my new schedule my genuine joy would return. When I look back at my time in school I see just how blessed I was to have the opportunities I had. I can better understand that being in school gave me the opportunity to learn new things but it also gives me the opportunity to become a more rounder person.
There are so many opportunities and struggles that go along with the back-to-school season but for the point of this post, want to focus on the struggles and opportunities that going to college for the first time or going back to college after summer can give us. I believe that the college years are one of the most important times of our lives. So much of who we are as an adult is developed during those years we spend in college. College comes with so many new and incredible opportunities and one of those opportunities is to take your faith into your own hands. There is an immense amount of freedom that comes with being out of your parent’s house and that freedom is to be used in the right way. Galatians 5:13 says it this way, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Freedom gives us the opportunity to do what we want when we want to but that shouldn’t be an excuse to indulge in the flesh, or in other words it doesn’t give us the freedom to be young and stupid without expecting to pay the price.
The freedom we gain when going to college means that we will not have Mom and Dad reminding us daily to pray and they won’t be there to drag us to service on Sunday. This means we need to take that responsibility into our own hands and hold ourselves accountable for what we know to be right. College can be a time in which many believers completely stop believing or leave the faith completely. Unfortunately, I have seen this happen with my own eyes. Some of the most devout Christians from my high school went off to college and turn from the faith and never return. Of course, this is not always the case and many students question their faith in college but return to God after a stage of rebellion. Some believers, like myself, end up taking a short pause in their growth and become stagnate in their faith.
My experience entering college is not much different than many other students raised in a Christian home. When I went off to college I was no longer surrounded by my Christian influences and I stopped attending weekly church services. I tried to find a church and Christian group to be a part of but none seemed to fit so I just gave up trying after a few weeks. I told myself that that was okay because I still prayed sometimes and didn’t lose my belief that God was real. In hindsight, I allowed myself to become stagnate in my faith. I didn’t lose my trust in God but I stunted my growth in Him because I was not actively seeking Him. At the time I didn’t see how this would hurt my faith but in the long run, I believe that is precisely what it did. I allowed myself to live out my college years for me instead of for God. There are so many years of progress in my faith that I just allowed to slip out the window.
I tell you my story so that you can see just how easy it can be to drift away from the church. Even if we don’t completely turn our backs on God, allowing ourselves to distance ourselves from Christian advisors and influences can cause distance in our hearts. All it takes is a few missed opportunities where we should have made a different decision to find ourselves lost and alone. College is filled with as many good influences as it is with bad, we just have to be mindful of who and what we allow ourselves to be involved with. I believe that Hebrews 12:1-3 speaks to the college experience, when it says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” In my own words, I believe this verse is saying, If we surround ourselves with the right influences we can overcome the trials and temptations of the world. It will involve having endurance in the face of hard decisions but if we focus on Jesus who overcomes all the sins of the world we can endure. Jesus can and will give us the strength that is needed to withstand.
In closing, if you or someone you know is going off to college or returning to college in the next few weeks, please share this post with them and encourage them to find a church, religious group, or Christian advisor that can love them and support them through the struggles that are to come. There are many national groups on campus that you can get involved with as well as campus-specific groups. My personal advice is to make sure to do your research into these groups and get involved as soon as possible. (https://collegetransitioninitiative.com/resources/campus-ministry-groups/) There are also many other articles and post that feature advice on this topic if you just search google.
God bless and please know My Christian Walk is praying for your school year!
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