Whew. I finished classes over a week ago, but I finally feel like I can take a breath. As I have been reflecting over freshman year, my heart (and my fingers) have been itching to write out some of my thoughts over the fact that it is over. I have wanted, for several weeks, to give some advice to incoming freshman about the first year of college and what to expect.
However, I realized something, actually two somethings, as I was trying to get my words on paper: 1) the greatest advice does not come from an inexperienced college student, but the Lord, and 2) this advice that his Word gives is not just for college students. It applies to all life stages.
So, instead of giving you my top pieces of advice, I’ve picked out a handful of promises that the Lord gives in His word that really spoke to my heart and where I was this year.
You WILL have trouble in this life – John 16:33
I know that seems a little bleak, but it is the truth. My first semester of college was a prime example of this. In fact, I am not sure I met a college student who doesn’t say that their first semester is hard. I got homesick. I felt lonely and unsure of where I would find my community and my friends. There were so many new experiences that I felt overwhelmed and anxious. Constantly. I believe that this was the first time in my life I have ever truly battled anxiety. I felt insecure about my looks and my body. I turned to school and relationships and Netflix and even food to fulfill me when only the Lord can do that. I came home from my first semester for Christmas break in serious need of restoration.
This verse promises us that “in this world you will have trouble”. There is no doubt about that. As Christians, there is no way around it. The life we live invites trouble and hardship. But the verse does not end there. It continues: “but take heart! I have overcome the world.”
OH MAN. I needed that so badly after I finished my first semester. I was trying to overcome on my own, and it was not working. I needed a Savior who would do what I could not. This is a promise of God that I had to cling hard to, because trying to get by on my own was not cutting it.
Joy comes in the morning – Psalm 30:5
I found this to be literally and figuratively true in college. There were many nights were “weeping may stay the night”, but “rejoicing comes in the morning”. I would cry myself to sleep, and then wake up and feel a lightness to my spirit that I couldn’t have gotten on my own. Quite literally, I would have really bad day, and then wake up the next day refreshed and renewed. Figuratively, first semester was one big “weeping”. Not to say it was all awful. Football season was enough to make first semester the time of my life. But it was not until I came back second semester that I understood what it meant to thrive and “rejoice”. I am still rejoicing. Does that mean I will never have trouble again? Absolutely not. But the Lord is FAITHFUL to provide what we need exactly when we need it.
The Lord works ALL THINGS for good – Romans 8:28
I have never experienced this so strongly as I have in the past year and a half. I look back at my first semester, even my summer before college and see how the Lord was working everything intricately together for my own good. Things that were hard or didn’t line up first semester came together flawlessly throughout second semester. Hard times prepared me for blessings I did not even know were coming. And I have faith that as I type this, the Lord is working together for my good things I don’t even know I need. Because He is faithful. And He gives good gifts to His children.
Believers NEED a community of Christians – Hebrews 10:24-25
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
If there is something that I have learned more than anything, it is the need for a Christian community. People who believe the same things as you, doing life with you, rejoicing with you and crying with you. My first semester of college I looked for this, but it was not until I came back that I found it in abundance. The Lord was SO faithful to provide me with the amazing friends He did second semester. They love me despite the fact that I like to go to bed early. They rejoice with me when I do well on a test I thought for sure I failed, and they cry with me when I actually do fail (it happens people). We pray for one another, hold each other accountable, and I simply do not know where I would’ve been first semester without them. My heart was never fuller than when I sat having deep convos with my sweet friend, Caroline, who loves yogurt and peanut butter in Bolton for hours on end. I never laughed harder than when I was in 326. And I cried HARD in the Diablos parking lot, hugging and saying goodbye to these sweet friends for a summer. The Lord gave me an incredible community as a gift beyond what I ever could have imagined. He provided a church that I can serve and invest in and that want to invest in me. The Christian community I have found is so far beyond what I expected it brings me to tears. A believer NEEDS this. Trust me. The Lord will use these people to spur you on towards the Cross. I cannot be more thankful for the blessings that He put in my life.
Where sin abounds, grace abounds more – Romans 5:20
I cannot emphasize this enough. I cannot state this more times. I cannot write about this enough. I CANNOT REPEAT THIS VERSE ENOUGH TIMES. We all sin. We all fail. We all fall short. There are so many ways to fail in college: fail a test, fail a friend, fail in a job or internship, fail to eat healthy, fail to workout, fail your roommate, fail fail FAIL. Some days, I felt like one big failure. I was falling behind in school, I felt lonely and frustrated and was too busy to take a breath or get my life in order. I could do no right.
Then one day I learned, I can never “do” right. The Lord does right for me. When my sin and my failure is ultimate and a never-ending sea, his grace is an ocean that engulfs it. Because my sin is not the sea. It is an island. A small, tiny island SURROUNDED by an ocean of grace. If there is one thing I learned more than anything else my first year of college, it is that grace abounds no matter what is going on in my life. No matter how I feel, what my sin struggle is, what my latest failure was, Jesus is there, on the cross, stretching His grace out to cover my sins.
This is the breath of relief and fresh air that I need to wake up and remember every single day. This is the promise that I remember when I have a bad day and this is the promise that rocked my world my first year of school. This promise of God will change any life, not just a college student’s life. All of these promises are revolutionary, but this is the one that changed my life this year.
The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more… – Romans 5:20