I have two nieces who are college freshmen this year. One is my niece by marriage and the other has been stuck with me since birth. The two nieces have never met. They’re going to different schools and studying different majors.
But over the summer, I saw their excitement for graduation slowly being overshadowed by a little nervousness about the unknown days that were before them. There is just so much they haven’t done yet. Some of that is fun, and other parts are a little terrifying.
I’m having trouble fighting the temptation to offer my advice to them because in my mind, I was in college yesterday rather than 20 years ago. In fact, I was still a college student when I became an aunt, so I pulled out my 20-year-old journal to give myself a little dose of my firsthand experience.
And I found this: “If all of this is supposed to build character, then I have ENOUGH character. I’m good, thanks.”
Prior to writing my snarky journal entry, I had been spending time in Romans 5, and I’m pretty sure I was a little exasperated at Paul. Were it not for this little purple book, the afflictions I was dealing with that day would be long forgotten. But in 1999, they mattered.
I was clearly not interested in signing up for more afflictions even if it would make me into a mature adult! Even though at 19-ish there was just so much I hadn’t done yet: I hadn’t learned the value of endurance, the soundness of proven character or the power of hope.
We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. - Romans 5:3-4
In fact, most of my life I haven’t actually liked the idea of being hopeful. Hope is great for other people if that’s what keeps them going, but I prefer feeling prepared … which is really just another way of saying I would rather be in control. Hope feels like opening myself up to disappointment.
It seems not much has changed in the human heart in 2,000 years because Paul understood this desire to have control. Instead of encouraging the illusion of control, he reminds the church to be willing to hold some hope in our hearts.
This hope will not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. - Romans 5:5
If I could tell the college version of me anything, it would be the same thing I’m still reminding myself of today: allow these present afflictions to draw you nearer to the heart of the father.
Keep going (endure).
Keep letting him work on you (character).
Keep hoping in the promises of God.
Written by Susan Simmons, manager of development communications for the Development team with Buckner International.