Everyone in college faces challenges to their beliefs, inclinations, personalities, and interests. I’d like to start off by normalizing the concerns you may have about college with this simple but very real fact. Christian students aren’t the only ones wondering how they will handle things once college starts and they’re certainly not the only ones that belong to a “controversial”, “targeted”, or “unpopular” group. But no doubt, some issues in college that are controversial will be targeted at your faith.
Additionally, there are others like you out there who will also need to learn how to overcome the many challenges that college brings along and that will find themselves going through periods of questioning, loneliness and emotional stress. These things are normal and rather than being afraid of them, you should learn to be ready to accept their occurrence and know how to handle them.
Although a Christian student can find their faith and patience tested anywhere in college, it’s usually students in the humanities, social sciences and sciences majors that find themselves having a hard time balancing college life and their faith.
As you read this article, don’t see the issues listed here as bottomless pits of despair you won’t be able to get out of, focus instead on what you’ll plan to do to avoid or overcome the challenges.
Your faith will be questioned. Frequently.
This is probably one of the biggest concerns every Christian has when it comes to college. It’s true that there’s a lot of students and professors that are more than willing to jump into heated discussions about God and religion, but there’s also plenty of people that won’t bother targeting you because of your beliefs.
Learn to notice the way someone talks to you, the tone in which they approach you when they pick up religious subjects and try to avoid these arguments that are meant to try to confuse you and make you feel like your faith is based on nothingness. Many of these debates are endless anyways and they are being argued to make you feel dumb, not because the person actually cares about the topic.
When faced with situations like these, I constantly reminded myself of the scripture in Mathew 7:6
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”
More often than not, it’s just a matter of ignoring these people and their comments. You shouldn’t ever deny your faith because of what people will think. Jesus himself, knew when it was a waste of time to talk to certain people and engage in heated arguments about things that weren’t going to benefit anybody.
The wrong approach in these situations would be to get angry and defensive. This often what they expect and what they want to see you do to be able to reinforce their arguments and stereotypes.
You will be judged based on stereotypes and widely misinterpreted beliefs.
Over the course of time, Christians have gathered a lot of stereotypes and a very bad reputation. While a lot of stereotypes and rumors about Christians are based on history or actual people, they’re as harmful as every other stereotype out there.
A lot of people hear the phrase “I’m a Christian” or any other variant and they immediately picture you as a hateful, angry individual that is waiting for the opportunity to declare that they’re all damned and going to hell.
I always try to set an example for the better by showing them through my actions that I am exactly the opposite. Rather than talking to them about sins, hell, damnation or Satan, I focus on being the polite, kind and loving individual I know God wants me to be.
Going with this course of action often results on people expressing how relieved they are that I’m “not like the typical Christian”. It helps give them a little perspective and show them that “Yes, not all Christians are angry and bitter!”
Temptation will knock on your door frequently, but it’s all about the people you choose to talk to.
There will be a lot of people that might argue about your Christianity, but they will undoubtedly try to invite you to all sorts of events and you will almost always find yourself saying: “No, thanks”.
This can lead to you feeling quite lonely or like you’re not in the loop of things, but it’s also all about the people you surround yourself with. It’s good to have non-Christian acquaintances, friendly classmates and even close friends, but you’ll also need to find Christian friends to hang out with and people that will be on the same spiritual ground as you are.
The best way to do this is by joining some of the Christian groups and organizations at your college and/or keeping in touch with friends you may have from Church, high school, or before you entered college.
Remember that: He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20)
You don’t have to exclusively talk to fellow Christians but you need to choose carefully who you spend time with frequently, how do you let them influence you, and how their presence in your life benefits you on a spiritual level.
It can be a lonely road but it’s one worth walking.
In my time in college, I saw a lot of classmates that spent a lot of time by themselves. In fact, I was one of them. I preferred to eat alone and spend my free time between classes hidden away in certain spots. I’d go out for lunch or chat with friends and classmates on occasion but that wasn’t often.
The reason for this is that sometimes you’ll find yourself in deep need of reflection, quietness, or you’ll feel like your religious beliefs and your college life are continuously clashing. Maybe you feel like the Christian worship groups at college aren’t what you’re looking for, or you simply feel a little lost in your faith due to the information you’re being exposed to in college.
Whatever the reason is, you’ll need to understand that these are normal situations almost every student goes through in College. There’s a point in your College life where you start to question a lot of things about yourself, your future, and your plans.
Be kind to yourself when you feel like this, reflect on the bible and the scriptures that have helped you overcome trials before, and pray. You’ll learn new thing about yourself and you’ll come out stronger.
Your church or Christian activities may turn into obligations.
College is a demanding environment and you’re constantly expected to complete a great deal of work which is why other areas of your life can become hard to keep up with. For some people, this results in seeing church events under the same light they’d see a test or a homework: something they might not want to do or willingly choose to do but something they have to do nonetheless.
You’ll find yourself wanting to skip on Church to catch up with reading materials or simply to get a few hours of sleep. While sometimes you’ll need to be realistic and say no to certain religious activities, you need to avoid turning it into a habit.
Remember that your faith and your relationship with God requires work just like any other relationship. Anything you do in service for God should be out of willingness and true desire to serve, not because it’s an obligation or because you don’t want to feel guilty if you don’t do it. Your faith needs to be based on the desire within your heart to follow God and pursue a deeper understanding of his purpose for your life, not on a feeling of obligation or fear of guilt or punishment.
You’ll need to keep an open-mind.
“Open-mind” is a phrase that can often spook some people in Church but it’s a quality that you’ll need to develop. Being open-minded doesn’t mean you approve or that you’d personally do the things other people do, lead the lifestyle they lead or support their actions.
Being open-minded in this case simply means that you are aware everyone is different, that you are aware not everyone believes in the same things, and that you’re willing to respect that.
Keeping an open-mind in college will keep you from judging others or focusing on the negative aspects of people. It will also help you accept the diversity of opinions, cultures and beliefs you’ll be exposed to without having to agree with them.
Exercising tolerance and patience is part of keeping an open-mind and these are both qualities that every Christian is meant to develop as they grow in their faith.
You will also find a lot of open-minded people who will be willing to accept your beliefs and respect them regardless of their personal opinions. You’ll find these people to be refreshing and easy to get along with which is why you should also try to exercise the same level of acceptance and respect that they’ll extend to you.
Regardless of what you face in college, you need to remain focused on your goal and your faith in God. See your future years in college as learning opportunities, as a chance to hone your abilities, and develop new skills in different areas of your life. Don’t see it as a scary and daunting experience, because that will only immobilize you and make the process harder for you.