If you’re in college or have gone to college you know that it’s an interesting time in life. You’re growing up, discovering yourself, and finding out about the world and how you relate to it. Staying strong in your faith during this transitional period can be very tough, but it is definitely possible.
Before we start talking about how to honor God in college, let me be really transparent from the jump. My college years were not very Christ honoring. You know when they say people go to college and go wild? Well, that was me, kind of…in the most conservative sense of the phrase.
Although, I can say that now in hindsight, when I was in college you couldn't tell me that Jesus and I weren’t BFFs! I was one of the more “saved” ones on campus; or so I thought.
The truth was that I was double minded and doing a very poor job representing the kingdom. There are some pictures of me…well, never mind. That’s a story for another day, but let’s just say I’m forever thankful to God for his grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
As I look back on my college years with a bit more wisdom, clarity, and experience, I recognize some personal habits that made me susceptible to faltering in my walk with Christ. Had I known then what I know now, here are a few safeguards that I would have put into place to keep me on the right track:
1. Be intentional about developing friendships with people who are also passionately pursuing Christ. Have you heard the saying you are the sum of your five closest friends? It’s cliché, but it’s also true. In Proverbs 27:17 it says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another.” Not only do your closest friendships encourage you in the direction of growth by providing you with safe place to discuss ideas, they also provide you with strength during hardships.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reads, “Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up […] Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
If the majority of your friendships or your closest friendships are with people who are or not chasing after God, you probably won’t be able get the biblical wisdom, encouragement and support that you need. Once this happens, the possibility of your judgment being clouded and you beginning to waiver is not that far behind. This isn’t to say you can’t have friends who are not believers or who are at different places in their Christian walk than you are. It’s actually quite the contrary.
We are in the world to be a light and to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we can’t do that if we never hang out with people who don't know Jesus Christ. But it is vital that you have close friends who will hold you accountable according to God’s Word and encourage you in the way of Christ.
2. Get a mentor who knows the Lord. Now, I’ve always considered myself wise for my age, and I’ve been known to give pretty solid advice. But I know that the wisdom I possess is limited based solely on the fact that I haven’t been on the earth long enough to have certain experiences. Experience provides wisdom, and there are some things your colleges friends won’t be able to advise you on because they haven't been through it before.
This is where having an older mentor — a teacher, a youth pastor, a relative, etc. — who knows the Lord becomes vital. Having someone that you know and trust will not only make navigating the tougher times in college more bearable, it will ensure that you get sound biblical direction for those situations you and your friends just can’t handle. The bible says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)
3. Find and attend a Biblically sound church. Trust me, I know it can be hard to get up in the morning and go to church. With busy class and work schedules, exams, and papers, church is often the thing that gets sacrificed for the sake of time. But with YouTube, Podcasts, and virtual campuses, there are so many options available that don't require you to leave your dorm room or apartment. (Although I do encourage you to go to church whenever possible to get to know other believers and experience corporate worship…Ain’t nothing like corporate worship!)
I know during college my belief in God never wavered, but my reverence for God’s holiness did. I began to do things that were not God honoring and my heart became hardened to sin. I truly believe that if I’d gotten planted at a church regularly, (whether in person or virtually) where sound, biblical doctrine was continually being poured into me, it would have helped to keep my heart and mind in tune to the will of God. You know how I know, because the bible says it: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
4. Invest in your own spirituality. This may be the most important safeguard to put into place, but it’s also the hardest because it requires discipline; and, ultimately your success falls entirely on you.
Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
The truth of the matter is, while others can assist you in your walk with Christ, either through advice, encouragement, or teaching, your relationship with God is something that you have to take initiative to cultivate. Whether that means taking a few minutes before classes or before bed to pray and read your bible, or taking a social media fast and replacing it with Bible reading and prayer, or skipping out on weekend activities to refocus, it’s vital that you develop a habit of taking time for God and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak in your life.
Call to Action
If you’ve had the opportunity to go to college, embrace it and enjoy it. It’s one of the more special times in life. Some of my favorite memories and best friends are from my college years!
But also realize that there are new pressures and challenges, and as Christians, we are not exempt from any of them. The good news is that you have the power of the Holy Spirit working in you to help you navigate these experiences and give you victory. By incorporating some safeguards in your life that keep you on track, I am confident you’ll be able to look back at your college experience years from now with pride!
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as a Christian in college? How have you managed to keep your relationship with Christ alive while in college? Let us know in the comments below.
Born in Monrovia, Liberia, Williette is 20-something year old writer from the Chicago-land area. She gave her life to Jesus at the age of 8 and has been walking with Him imperfectly ever since. She is a writer, photographer, singer, traveler, foodie, amateur philosopher, and passionate about growing in the love and knowledge of the One whom died to save her soul. She is also a proud member of City Church Chicago and invites you all to attend if you’re ever in Chicago!