I’m sure we’ve all wrestled with our faith at some point in our respective walks with God. As we get older, less naive and more cynical, we start to see the world in a very different way. Yes, we may get wiser and more mature, but what impact does that have on our faith?
I think everyone has struggled in some respect with the question, “What if none of this is true?” How we stick with our faith for the rest of our lives is a massive issue and there is no one answer on how best to approach it.
Everyone has different experiences and ways of dealing with these feelings. This post shares some experiences and thoughts from various people going through university – one of the most transformative experiences we can have as young adults. But the thoughts aren’t just about uni – they are about faith changing as we grow. If there’s something you feel has been missed out or there’s a piece of advice that you found particularly helpful, please do let us know.
‘I have become increasingly cynical since coming to university. I think this is probably a natural part of becoming an adult as we start to carry more baggage and understand what the ‘real world’ is like. However, I think that this has the potential to become a barrier to our faith as we start to question whether Christians around us really have pure motives for the ‘good’ that they do. The way to overcome this, I have found, is to be reminded constantly of the fact that Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like children, not like cynical adults. I want to be more like a child today.’
Jon, 2nd year Bio-medical Science student
I believe that the way we see other people’s faith is inextricably linked to the way we see our own faith. If we have a cynical view of those around us and we begin to question their beliefs then there’s no doubt that our own faith will end up being called into question as well. How can we combat this? Well, as As Jon put it, “Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like children, not like cynical adults.” To be childlike is to approach everything without prior judgement or preconception. Seek the GOOD in everyone, not the worst. Actively and obviously encouraging them will not only strengthen them and their faith, but yours also!
“I was conscious that I was the only Christian there, and it made me feel claustrophobic.”
It can be so easy to forget about God in the business of life. The strain and stress of work and study can ultimately get to us and God can easily take a back seat. What can we do when we feel this setting in?
“I certainly found this happening when I went into the workplace for the first time on my placement. Going from a place where I could surround myself with Christians to quite a secular environment reduced my fervour for living as God wanted me too. Work took over my life and my worldview. At first, I spent time reading my bible at my desk in the early hours, but this soon changed when my colleagues decided to turn up before me. I was conscious that I was the only Christian there, and it made me feel claustrophobic.”
David, 4th year Economics student
I’ve heard a lot of stories about people’s faith taking a back seat when they came to university. This could be because they feel claustrophobic being the only Christian in their friendship circles, because of the stresses of work or simply because of the other commitments they may have at university. Whatever causes it, the results are never good. How do we make sure that God is at the centre of our life? David has offered up two helpful pointers:
1. Commit your work to God: I should have realised that God had placed me in that office, rather than my own efforts. Knowing that I was there to glorify him would have made me more vigorous in opening up to my colleagues about my faith.
2. Put God and church above your work: I was blessed to be near my home church during this year, but that didn’t stop me from deeming it less important at times. Putting God first not only helps you stay rooted in those Christian circles, but also makes your faith the centre of your life throughout your career.
Despite this tendency to relegate God to the backs of our minds when we’re struggling, we can be comforted in knowing that although we may forget him, he will never forget us. He will help us along in our walk with Him no matter what our current situation. I think that by knowing and accepting this, we can stick to God more easily in both the good times and the bad. As Imogen puts it:
“Sticking to God in your 20’s is a daily choice. It is a decision that you make, each and every morning when you wake up, to give the day to God. It is an active step that you take to live faithfully, directing all the glory to our Creator and good, good Father. I stick to God in the doubting, sometimes dark, days because He sticks to me. He never lets go and He loves us as we walk along the rocky road of life.”
Imogen, 4th year Politics student
Choosing to live a life of faithfulness and love towards God makes it so much easier to stay with Him in the dark and desperate times. Needless to say, we shouldn’t be discouraged when we forget to make that choice, when we forget to commit our days to him or when we forget that he is there sharing in our struggles. God sticks to us no matter what our situation and he sticks to us whether we’ve asked him to or not! But how do we combat forgetfulness? Surely there’s no remedy for that?
“The Israelites had a tendency to lose sight and forget what God had done for them and then soon drift away from Him. I also have a tendency to miss or forget what God has done in my life. I believe our forgetfulness as humans is (one of) the reasons the writer of Hebrews urges us to “not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)… God made us for healthy relationships with each other as well as with Him. If we are sharing our struggles and doubts with each other then they can be addressed and dealt with rather than being left to fester. Sometimes we just need someone to look us in the eyes and remind us that God is good, God is great, and He loves us more than we can possibly imagine.”
Simon, 1st year Maths student
“I also have a tendency to miss or forget what God has done in my life.”
Fellowship, meet-up, whatever you want to call it, togetherness with other believers is is one of the best ways of staying strong in your faith. As Simon says (pun intended…), being the imperfect humans that we are, we have a tendency to forget about the security we have in Jesus and thus try and do it all by ourselves.
By meeting together and encouraging one another, we can show each other that we aren’t alone and we don’t have to do it all by ourselves. Aren’t we all encouraged when we hear what God is doing (or has done) in someone else’s life? Don’t we all need reminding at some point in our lives that God is there?
When you are struggling with your faith, don’t suffer in silence. Don’t try to tackle it on your own. Because you are surrounded by brothers and sisters who could well be going through exactly the same feelings! Instead, “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and you will certainly feel the difference.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance, the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”