All this week we’re focusing on the preparations to leave home and head off to university, and are delighted to feature a guest mini-series of articles from Katie Macintyre – a youth and student worker in Manchester. Enjoy the series and get sharing!
Three pieces of advice for those headed to University
So you’re heading to University in September. Congratulations! You have three of the most exciting years ahead of you. Perhaps you feel completely relaxed about this new chapter, or maybe you have a few questions or worries buzzing around your head. Well, after chatting to some freshers to be, we put together 3 pieces of advice for you as you prepare for University!
1. Pursue Peace
Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.“
There are so many uncertainties before you go to University. Who will you be friends with? Where will you hang out? Will you find a church you like? Will you go to church? What’s your course going to be like? Will you like the teachers? Will you like your course mates? Will you have enough money? Will you enjoy yourself? If we’re not careful our brains can runaway with questions and we can find ourselves spending the summer before we head for the adventure that is University, worrying.
But God didn’t and doesn’t intend for you to be worried, he wants you to be excited.
Paul encourages us in Philippians, ‘Do not be anxious about anything’, anything, your finances, your friendships your future. It’s written as a command, because anxiety robs us from enjoying the present moment, by speculating and guessing about the future. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus tells us plainly, “Can any of of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Of course we can’t. But that doesn’t stop us.
Worry is what happens when fear is driving our dreaming.
Worry is what happens when fear is driving our dreaming. If you can imagine what might happen in your future then you can dream about what God wants to do. If we let God drive our dreaming, then we’re confident that whatever happens will be good, and we accept the invitation to partner with God in making those things happen. We worry when it all depends on what we can do or who we have to be but we dream when it depends and is anchored to our Good God.
God’s promise to us is clear as Paul writes in Romans 8:28 that “God makes all things work together for good to them that love God and who are called according to His plan and purpose.” So, there’s nothing that could ever happen that would be under God’s radar, or out of his sight and that he wouldn’t work together for your good. So our anxieties over our future have no place! God has an incredible plan for your time at University and anxiety is only there to distract you from all God wants to do.
There’s nothing that could ever happen that would be under God’s radar, or out of his sight and that he wouldn’t work together for your good.
So what does Paul suggest? He tells us to take our anxiety to the Father. Our concerns about our futures are best given to the Father, the one who created the Heavens and the Earth and knitted us together in our mother’s womb. By thanking Him for what he’s done and trusting that He hears our prayers, we can give every every anxious thought God and trust they’re safest with Him.
Pause: If you’re feeling apprehensive about University try writing down your questions, put them in a letter to God and give them to Him. Knowing the answers to all of our questions isn’t ever going to satisfy us – as soon as one is answered another appears – but knowing that the One who knows all is good and has good things for us is the only thing that will satisfy.
2. Set The Tone
Although we can’t control the future we can make a decision to set the tone for our time at University.
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
What do you want to be when you grow up? A question we constantly get asked when we’re kids. Throughout our childhoods we give answers and make decisions that shape who we are and how people see us. University offers the beautiful adventure of pausing to ask yourself not what but who. Who do I want to be when I go to University? Who do I want to be to my new friends?
If we don’t stop and take the time to ask ourselves this question, someone else will answer it. Your friends will try and answer it, your parents, Social Media will even try and present you with an answer. But it’s important you take the time to take that question to God. To consider your desires, because God is a good Father who gave you the gifts, talents and passions that you have. He has an original design and plan for you and he wants you to get involved. So as the world around us tries to tell us who to be, Paul’s encouragement in Romans is clear, don’t conform, but be transformed by asking God what He thinks, inviting Him into the decisions of your life and then by setting your mind on what He says.
Consider your desires, because God is a good Father who gave you the gifts, talents and passions that you have. He has an original design and plan for you and he wants you to get involved.
If the idea of chatting to God about who you are scares you, don’t be afraid. The perfect place to start is with the Bible and there are clear things God wants to speak over you.
- You are a Son/Daughter of God Romans 8:15-16
- You are known Psalm 139
- You are chosen and accepted Ephesians 1:4-5
Pause: Read each of these and then spend some time in prayer asking God what He loves about you. Write down at least five things – they could be personality traits, gifts and talents. What are you passionate about? What about the world do you find frustrating and want to change? If you struggle with this, invite someone else, that you trust, to help you.
Once you’ve spent some time thinking about this with God, write it clearly in a journal. As the world and your new environment tries to influence who you are, what you think about yourself and how you behave, you’ll be able to hold on to what God has spoken over you. You can weigh up and hold each decision you make to the truth of who He says you are. From there you get to choose to make daily decisions that set the standard for your life, that set the tone for your time at University. You don’t have to bow to what your friends, housemates or course mates are doing because you’re living by the truth of who you were made to be.
Your identity shouldn’t then feel like a burden. Paul knows that All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23). We all make mistakes and fall short. There may be moments in your University life where you miss the mark and don’t behave in a way that matches your values and identity. That doesn’t disqualify you from having those values. That doesn’t mean you should give up setting the standard for your life. It enables you to display the grace that Jesus died for. The beautiful, costly grace that means when we make mistakes, we can take them to cross and know that we are fully forgiven. That’s not a free pass to choose to live another way but an invitation to display and amplify the grace Jesus paid for, and your faithfulness and gratefulness to Him.
3. Run The Race
So you’ve calmed your anxieties by trusting them to God, and set the tone of the standard you want to live by, now how do you sustain that?
John 15:4 remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
We were made for connection, with the purpose of connecting to our Creator and to everything and everyone around us, but if we’re no longer connected to the Source of our life and joy then we can feel lonely, anxious and inadequate. We were made for connection and will find something or someone to connect to. But no other person, hobby or social media platform can sustain us.
The whole point of Social Media is connection, that’s why it’s as popular as it is. It means I can see what my best friend had for breakfast and what my favourite celebrity does on their weekends. If I spend more time on my instagram feed than with my Father, then my instagram feed is going to speak into who I am. As each photo of a beautiful face reminds me I don’t look like that, and each photo of abs reminds me I don’t workout that much and each outfit of the day reminds me I can’t spend that much, I’m left with little that makes me feel worth while.
As I spend time reading the Bible, I am reminded that I’m a daughter, as I spend time in His presence I’m reminded that I’m loved and as I spend time with friends from church, I’m reminded that I have infinite value.
But as I spend time reading the Bible, I am reminded that I’m a daughter, as I spend time in His presence I’m reminded that I’m loved and as I spend time with friends from church, I’m reminded that I have infinite value. But that doesn’t happen by accident. I have to plan, to stay connected. I have to choose to do those things. To say no to distracting myself from how I’m feeling with Netflix and YouTube and say yes to being intentional with how I stay connected to God. Sometimes we need help to remind us to do this. That’s where being connected with others who love you and love God is so important. Our Church Family do just that. It’s where we see people who live their lives connected to God. Who remind us who we are, and point us back to the One we need. They’re not perfect people but neither are we, and at church we can come together with our imperfections and choose again to connect with one another and God.
When we’re disconnected from God we become insecure about ourselves, because we are the most ourselves when we’re with Him. Being disconnected leaves us checking what others have, who others are because we forget what God has done for us and who God says we are.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of rough and never fails to bear fruit.
When we’re connected to God the circumstances around us have no power over us. We don’t need to be worried about Social Media influencing us because we don’t give it enough time to do so. We’re constantly connected to the Origin and Source of love which means there’s no room for fear or insecurity. The world around me might change, my friends and family might change, but the One who is constant, who constantly and persistently loves me is the One who I spend the most time with, so is the One who influences me most.
Pause: What do you spend the most time doing? What impact does this have on you? Where do you need to swap out what is influencing you for spending more time with God? Practically, how can you plan do this?
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