For many college-aged Christians, summer is the most trying time of the year. It is easy to stay grounded in your faith when you are surrounded by Christian fellowship, but not everyone has a strong Christian foundation to go home to and many have family and friends that look down upon their faith.
Being involved in a Christian community during the school year helps us to stay focused on our faith with opportunities like Bible studies, weekly worship, social events and church on the weekends. Having strong connections with people of your faith can help both of you keep each other in check and give you someone to talk to when life gets rough.
During these hard summer months, it is easy to fall away from faith because engaging in time with God becomes strictly self-motivated. You aren't surrounded by your Christian friends and you may be more easily influenced or persuaded to do things that are against your better judgment.
We all come back from summer at different stages of our faith. Some people are coming back from summer missions and are on the best spiritual high of their life. Others haven't picked up a Bible all summer and have backtracked on the progress they made during the school year. If I'm being completely honest, I would fall into that second category.
As my summer came to an end and I started preparing to be a leader this coming fall, I received a startling jolt back to reality. I realized a little too late that I had put faith on hold this summer in order to prioritize summer classes and work. I didn't feel prepared to pour into the incoming freshmen because I hadn't been poured into at all over the summer.
I felt stagnant in my faith; I hadn't delved into the Bible or attended church. I had set religion on the back burner and the fire that was roaring inside me during the semester had dwindled to glowing embers. As I thought about how I was expected to lead freshmen in their faith, I got more and more nervous. I did not feel prepared or qualified to give any advice.
It wasn't until I went on my leadership retreat and I was surrounded by Christians again that I started to feel the energy pulse through me again. Hearing about how God worked in people's lives over the summer really helped me jump back into my groove. It was encouraging to hear that I wasn't alone in having a religiously challenging summer. Knowing that God challenges us so he can use us really helped boost my confidence.
After spending the weekend with my fellow Cru staff, I realized just how important community is to faith and that sharing and being present with each other makes a huge difference in the way we live our lives. Having a community of believers to lift you up when you are feeling low can be the difference between excelling in faith and losing it.
Don't feel discouraged if you are coming back from summer in a worse state than you entered it. You are not alone. Don't let this make you feel like you are unworthy of being loved or cared for. The journey through faith isn't easy and it's not an instantaneous change in your life. It's a continuous process of building and learning. Never be afraid to reach out for help because, as Christians, we love and care for you no matter what because God will always love you.
Remember that even with your busy schedules, there's always time for God. Even if it's just taking a quick five-minute break from what you are doing to spend some quiet time with God or a 30-second prayer before bed.
Make sure to be incorporating God into your daily routine, so that even when you find yourself in a position when you are spiritually challenged, when you aren't constantly reminded to be active in your faith, you have the habits and routine of talking to God because YOU ARE NEVER ALONE.
Religion isn't easy. I struggle a lot with my faith, and at points, I thought I had lost it completely, but it's the people that I have surrounded myself with that keep me afloat because you can't do religion alone. Having faith is a group effort and building people up to be the best Christians they can be is part of what makes us a loving and caring community.
I am lucky to have found people that make my journey easier, but many people out there are struggling with their faith and have no one to ask for help. If that is you, if you aren't sure of what you believe, if you are searching for something, but you don't know what, I implore you to reach out and talk to someone, whether it be a religious organization on your campus, a local church or a Christian friend.
Reach out to someone who might be able to help you talk through what it is you are feeling because trusting and investing our time into each other helps us to grow in our faith. The world is a challenging place filled with alluring things, but having a group to stand by makes facing these temptations exponentially easier.
And while we should never be afraid to reach out for help, we also need to be conscious of where help is a silent cry. Actively engaging in conversation with people and talking about your faith can be enough to plant seeds in their heart and a flame in their soul to help them find God in their lives.