Staying Christian in College—Part 1
Each summer the Billy Graham Library and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) welcome a group of interns from universities and colleges across the U.S. Over the next few days we will be sharing three posts from some of this summer’s interns about how to stay Christian in college. We hope that their experiences will encourage the young men and women in your life who are preparing to embark on their own college journey. Please join us in encouraging the Library and BGEA interns and praying for them as they spend their last few weeks in Charlotte before heading back to school or off to the “real world.”
Today’s post is from Alyssa B. who is serving this summer as the promotions intern at the Billy Graham Library.
As you head off to college, you’re leaving behind the familiar and embarking on a journey full of new ideas, responsibilities, and expectations. Along with the joys of new friendships and classes you love, you are bound to face trials that may challenge your faith and everything you know to be true.
In the book, “How to Stay Christian in College,” J. Budziszewski addresses major challenges that students face throughout their college journey. He especially focuses on issues regarding social life, relationships, life in the classroom, and politics and how to keep Christ at the center through it all.
As a current college student, I have personally faced several of the aforementioned pitfalls. While a few of these occurred during my regular academic year, the most confused and lost I have felt as a Christian was during a semester abroad in Barcelona, Spain.
The fall semester of my junior year, I spent 4 months attending the University of Barcelona through a secular study abroad program. My first two years of college had been pretty mild in regards to struggles in my faith; I was constantly surrounded by friends, professors, and services that wanted to see me grow in my relationship with the Lord. When I left the country, however, all that support stayed behind. For the first time in college, none of my friends were Christians and I was living in an area that is generally unchurched. Not to mention that everyone spoke Spanish and it took me awhile to figure out how to literally navigate let alone spiritually navigate.
Budziszewski states, “The sheer weirdness of the new environment puts some students into what sociologists call ‘culture shock’ – taking the weirdness too hard and becoming deeply homesick and depressed. At the other extreme, some students adapt by ‘going native’ – losing their sense of who they are and plunging into the ways of the people around them” (p. 27).
While Budziszewski is talking about attending a university that may have a different ‘personality’ than expected, his statement accurately describes what I found myself going through. As I spent time in that environment, I found it extremely hard to maintain a healthy relationship with the Lord. Sunday church fell by the wayside as I traveled many weekends and all of my friends chose to party and engage in vulgar vocabulary. While I never doubted my faith or belief in the Lord, I did find myself struggling to live a life that was worthy of my calling; I felt like my path to God was paved with wet concrete rather than smooth asphalt.
The thing is, we are not supposed to endure these hardships alone – God provided the church. Budziszewski says, “You see, God made us social beings; that’s why we respond so readily to peer pressure. Peer pressure is good if it’s the right kind of pressure from the right kind of peers. Your true peer group is the fellowship of the saints, the household of God” (p.29).
As I began to realize this, I leaned more heavily on my church. I attended a college small group at an international church and sought the wisdom and peace of Christians from all over the world; many had been in Barcelona longer than I had and had previously endured what I was currently facing. They were able to point me back to the Lord in the midst of my trials.
I began to see the Lord shaping me and growing me through this process. I was better able to see my weaknesses in my faith and seek advice on how to become better for next time. The Church surrounded me in support and prayer; I was able to return to the states with a better understanding of my faith and of my God. I made it a goal when I returned to my university to spend time daily with Him and re-discover my personal faith. I had become so reliant on my consistent, Christian environment that I had lost sight of what my personal relationship with the Lord looked like. Spain shook up my faith so that I could recognize all of that – the Lord used my trials to better my relationship with Him. I think that as you prepare to go to college, keep in mind that even in the hardships He is still with you. He has created you and prepared you for such a time as this. He is shaping you and teaching you more and more about yourself (and Him) as you embark on your own. May you be blessed with peace and joy as you are sent out into the world for His glory.
As a special encouragement for graduates, receive a free copy “How to Stay christian in College” by J. Budziszewski when a newly graduated student or parents of the student visit the Library (while supplies last). Check in at the Guest Services counter at the Billy Graham Library when you arrive for your free gift!