College: the best of times and the worst of times. It's when friendships are created that will last for a lifetime. It's when the essential skills needed for your future career are learned and practiced. It's when you can be somewhat grown-up, but still go home on the weekends to free home-cooked meals and laundry detergent. College is also when reality slaps you in the face. It's when your parents stop paying for your every move. It's when time management skills become vital. It's when stress overwhelms you. It's when you realize that life really is an emotional roller coaster, throwing you around in every direction possible until you reach your breaking point.
How does one stay sane at the time of emotional turmoil, when the roller coaster takes its initial plunge? Or, how does one stay humble at the time of relaxation and comfort, when the roller coaster starts its slow ascent up the chain lift? Here's five steps that can help you synchronize the highs and lows of life with the steadiness of God's grace and love.
- Buy a daily devotional (and actually read it). It's amazing what a daily, five-minute quiet time could do for your sanity. Spending just a few minutes in scripture each morning or each night temporarily separates you from the stresses of everyday life. It gives you a moment of peace, where you can breathe easy and rest in the word of God. If you're a beginner in this area, I would recommend Sarah Young's "Jesus Calling." Each devotion is a short, yet convicting paragraph or two, and each devotion has a few related verses listed at the bottom. I've found that even something as simple as this devotional has improved my walk with Christ so much in just the past few months.
- Connect each devotion to your life. If you choose mornings for your quiet-time, be on the lookout for how you can apply what your devotion says to what may happen to you later that day. If you're more of a night-owl like myself, reflect on your day and relate what your devotion says to something that maybe happened earlier that day. Taking mental note of these connections helps you realize that God is carefully shaping every day of your life to help you grow, and it helps you recognize the little God-moments that you may otherwise overlook.
- Join a campus ministry. Any and every college student knows that there are dozens of ministries on campus that are just itching to spread the name of Jesus. These people are students, just like you, that want to make a change for the greater good. They want to spread the light that is God's power to anyone and everyone that they can possibly reach. So, next time someone approaches you in the student center and asks if you'd like to join him for a church service or small group on Tuesday night, don't blow him off. Listen to what he says, and give that Tuesday night a chance. You never know, that one service could change your life. Also, having a church family on campus is just another way to make a huge school feel like a loving home. These ministries are geared towards young adults, they're accepting of people in all stages of their journeys with Christ, and they're simply a fun break from a stressful week of classes. You'll experience church in it's most fun form if you join one of these campus ministries full of hipsters.
- Find a church and make your attendance regular. In your journey as a Christian, community is everything. Finding people that will walk with you in that journey, that will be prayer warriors in your time of need, and that will be there for you when no one else is around is a bigger blessing than you could even imagine. One of the biggest attacks on Christians is that we "talk the talk," but we don't "walk the walk." What could possibly make walking-the-walk easier than having like-minded people right there with you? Find a group that has the same end-goal in mind, and let them be your church family.
- More specifically, find an accountability partner. As Proverbs 27:17 states, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Within your church family, nominate someone that will hold you accountable for your actions, your habits, and your words. Choose someone who cares about you enough to pull you aside and tell you that what you're doing is interfering with your walk with Christ. Choose someone that will physically drag you to church on Sunday morning after you pull both the "I'm still in bed" card and the "I have too much homework" card. Choose someone that wants you to experience God's love just as much as she wants to experience it for herself, and be that same exact person for her.
All in all, college is a time of change. It's a time where hobbies turn into careers, habits turn into lifestyles, and children turn into adults. For most people, that change is scary and not always easy. These changes don't always end how we want them to end. With the five steps stated above, at least one change (where a life of darkness turns into a life of light) can surely be a positive change. The Christian journey is not by any means an easy journey, but it is rewarding. And goodness gracious, it feels good to live in the Light.