It’s the start of a new year. For some of you, this is your freshman year while for others, you are going into this year with experience from the years before, but either way, this new year brings with it uncertainty and change. As exciting as this time can be, let’s just be real for a second, it can also be terrifying. For freshmen, you are starting a brand new life stage with new friends, a new home, and new freedom. Pretty much there is newness all around you. Everyone else, you are now on the clock to know your future. One of the most asked questions to college students is, “What’s your major? Oh cool, so what do you want to do with that?” And every time that question is asked, we tend to become more stressed because the honest answer is, “I have no clue. I’m just trying to get through the classes I’m in right now.” With all of these emotions swirling around in us, we tend to never express them. We always hide them away and keep them to ourselves, so everyone will think we have it all together. As Christians, this is a dangerous place to be. We think we have to have it all together and show no weakness. But Christ calls us to something completely different.
We have been raised to think like this. Our culture has taught us we must look tough, keep our emotions tucked away, and not let anyone see our weakness in order to be successful. But as Christians, we find a teaching that combats this thinking head on. The world tells us our strength is found within ourselves and in our own resolve while the Word tells us our strength is found outside ourselves and in our own surrender to Christ. We find this truth in 2 Corinthians when Paul tells the church at Corinth, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). [I bet you’ve never seen that on a bumper sticker!]
But why did Paul say this? This is so backwards to our thinking today and even then. Well, if you aren’t familiar with Paul, God worked greatly through this dude by planting churches, discipling believers, and spreading the gospel throughout the world in his time. On top of that, he wrote 13 books of the New Testament, and we now know him as one of the most influential Christians to ever live. He had a lot going for him. He could have easily looked within himself and the fruit of his ministry and thought, I have done this all in my own strength. But God would not allow him to think that way. He kept placing trials in Paul’s life to reveal to him that without the Spirit’s strength he was able to do nothing.
So this period of weakness, maybe its loneliness, anxiety, stress, or whatever it is for you, is an opportunity for you to lay down your own strength and rest in God’s strength. For some of you freshmen, there are going to be some nights that you sit in your dorm by yourself with nothing to do. That is okay. Take it from someone who has been down that road many times, it will be okay. Instead of letting yourself get down, take that time and spend it with God. Those moments should be cherished honestly. Looking back over the past three years of my life, I can’t remember another time where I had that much down time to spend with God. These are the first couple of weeks of school, everyone will have times when they feel they don’t have many people to hang out with, but trust me when I say it will all pan out. God will provide incredible friendships. When I look back on the beginnings of my greatest friendships now, I see how God perfectly placed them in my life. The same will happen for you.
Now for those of you who have been in college a year or two, life is starting to get real, real fast. You are having to start looking for jobs and decide your future, and with all of that comes a lot of stress. I want to challenge you to truly lay it down before God. Just as Matthew 6:27 says, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life,” in the same sense, worrying about your future is not going to make everything fall into place. Instead, we must stop worrying and start praying. Allow God to take your anxiety and replace it with peace of mind knowing that He is in control of your next step and every one after that. We should take the necessary steps to prepare for our future, but we should never let our future control us where we are now. God is sovereign, and that means He has a perfect plan for your future. Let go of the worry and embrace God’s transcendent peace.
As believers, we must not keep all of this bottled up inside. God has called us to be in community with others, and one of those reasons is for us to share our weaknesses and struggles with one another. Unlike the world, which says worry only about yourself, God calls us to, “Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). This means when we are to share about our hurts with other believers. During my freshmen year of college, I told no one about how I was feeling for a long time. I thought I had to be tough and tell every one college was great, but in reality, it sucked for the first couple of weeks. Finally, I met up with one of my older buddies and just shared my heart and was open about how I was feeling about everything. After I got done, he said he went through the same thing. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was alone in feeling this way. I thought I just wasn’t good at making friends.
So I want to challenge you to see that it is okay, to not be okay. If everything was smooth sailing, we would have no reason to lean upon God for our strength. Francis Chan says in his book Forgotten God, “Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable.” God is using these times of weakness to build you up in His own strength. The key is to stop trying to be perfect, and rest in His perfection.