By Kassondra Gooley
Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” yet sometimes the struggles of college can cause one to question if this is truly God’s plan. College brings late nights and tough classes, and causes you to question your choices and beliefs. Failures and fears often leave college students wondering if God equipped them.
Sometimes it is difficult to remember that God’s definition of success, his definition of prosperity, can be different than our definition. What do you do when God laughs at your plans? That is one of the questions college students must discover the answer to.
When I started college, I didn’t think I would add a theology minor or make the friends I did. There are many things I never thought I’d do, perhaps because I wasn’t open to the idea that these things were part of God’s idea of prosperity and hope for my life. I never thought I’d make the friends I made either, but it was these people who provided me with trust and hope in God’s word when I found myself wondering if God truly planned for me to flourish.
Keeping the faith in college is difficult mostly because of time and friendships. College students are strapped for time with activities, homework, exams, work and other tasks that lend to forgetting God patiently waits for our hearts to quell their chaotic shouting long enough to rest in his arms.
This is why I felt overwhelmed at first; I forgot that God was always waiting to hold me like a little girl, hugging me, saying, “It will be alright. Just breathe and then we can talk.” I felt like I had to do it all and the girl I spent most of my time with felt the same way. It was easy to forget God amid a world that fails to acknowledge his presence, and in company of someone who has yet to meet him.
So, I stressed over tests, prayed semi-regularly, and served at Mass. I was doing enough, right? The answer was no.
My second semester, I realized my life needed to change. I switched roommates, created a prayer routine, and shed friendships that were not leading me to Christ. Once I did, I realized my stress was only partly college; part of my stress was coming from a lack of faith. I was missing a relationship with God. However, that soon began to change.
I began to grow in fellowship with people who were strong in their faith, and we all began to discuss Christ in our lives. Whether talking with my prayer partner, Sister Jacqueline, or to friends, I began to be aware of God in my life. The more I stopped to notice him, the less stressed and out of control I felt.
This realization led me to join Professor Jason Heron’s new group, part of the Catholic movement Communion and Liberation, during my freshman year. Studying God from an intellectual perspective and in a fellowship setting forced me to think critically about God. Is he real and, if so, what does this mean in my life? How does this shape the way I interact with others and the way I use my mind and imagination? Pursuing these answers with friends helped me to renew my relationship with God. Praying together, my friends and I discussed our questions, fears and doubts and sought council of those wiser than us when we could not find an answer on our own.
This pursuit of truth, beauty, justice and love as signs of God’s hands weaving the fabric of my life remains with me today. In fact, this is how I commune with God during my time as a college student. Because of this group, I realized I am currently not called to hours of prayer every day, and that most people never will be. I realized I am not called to grand, public displays of holiness.
It is through these groups and my studies that I realized most people are called to build a toolbox for holiness in their everyday experiences. Each ordinary moment creates habits that will define us in the pivotal moments of our life here on earth because these tools will be what we grab to fight spiritual battles.
In essence, there is no one way to keep your faith in college and keeping the faith looks different for everyone. The common elements for faith preservation are in my story and are even more prevalent in the lives of the saints: fellowship and relationship with our all-loving God. If you do this, your faith shall never extinguish, even if the flame blows in the winds of life.