Final Year Panic (Be Still and Know)
Third year of university is hard. To the (proper) adults who may be reading this: yes, I know. Real life will be much harder. To the other final year students who are flourishing at this point: you have a supernatural power that I don’t want to hear about, thank you very much. To those who have yet to get to this point: good luck, brave soldiers.
Yes, I am being melodramatic. I’m afraid that’s my default position when I’m surviving on only a couple of hours of sleep a night. At least you know that this post will be entertaining and full of suspense! But, I do still think that this is a bizarre, and exhausting, period of life.
If you ask any of my friends, they will tell you this; I am a planner, a pretty great one at that. When I was younger I would formulate these extravagant five year, or even ten year, plans. I knew where I wanted to be, who I wanted to be with, and all that life would hold for me. Since then I have learnt that it might not be the most fruitful idea to create such vast plans, since God very rarely follows my detailed schedules.
However, planning and the comfort of knowing what is to come still remains my favourite sanctuary. The thinking goes that I can face anything that comes my way… as long as I know in advance.
This is where the end of university signals all kind of problems. Among my friends at university, we have affectionately named next September “The Great Abyss”.
For most of us, with no real job security or funding for further education, September is a black hole of the unknown. For the girl who heavily relies on the known, this thought regularly keeps me up at night, with fears echoing inside my head. In the storm that is this transition between education and adulthood, I feel surrounded by waves that mock my doggy paddling towards some far-off land.
And yet, this can’t be right. The Bible brings with it a mandate to “Fear not!” In fact, the scriptures include between 360 and 365 commands to set aside my fears. And yet, I find myself drowning in the doubts. I’m fairly certain that this is not what Jesus meant when he said that he came to give us life, and life to the full.
There is a passage in Matthew 6 when Jesus addresses these fears:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
I don’t know how many times I have heard this passage, but I’m going to guess that it’s been quite a lot. Now for the brutal truth, until recently, I had never found it any reassurance.
I have never been particularly worried about what I am going to wear, although I think my mother would prefer if I stopped thinking that pyjamas were an acceptable attire for a trip to the supermarket, and I am incredibly fortunate in the fact that I have never had to worry about there being food on the table.
The phrase, “Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” has a tendency to ring hollow in my ears. I’ve never believed that my fears are logical, so if I could rationalise them away then I would have already done so. All in all, on previous reflections, this passage has had the tendency to leave my frustrated, irritated, and wondering about how I can tap into this “peace” that Jesus speaks of so much of.
It is because of my human tendencies, such as this, that I am eternally grateful for God’s patience and pursuit of me.
It was the last sentence that caught my attention:
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Again, not very reassuring, but why sugar coat it? Life is difficult. We live in a fallen world, with any good being an unadulterated gift from our Heavenly Father. We will have trouble - that is the price of original sin. So how do we learn to set aside our fears? By knowing that God has provided all that we need for this day ahead of us,
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”Lamentations 3: 22-23
No matter what the next 24 hours hold for you, God has made a way. He has provided you with the people, resources, and supplies that you need to emotionally make it through this day. And that is all we can focus on.
Tomorrow is another story, with more needs, more difficulties, and, thanks to God, more mercies. Today we do not have the ability or the resources to face tomorrow. But we don’t have to.
Our God has already gone before us; He is in tomorrow, drawing together all you will need to face that day.
For me, it is about learning to trust and let go. God has got tomorrow, the following month, and the next year figured out. He has already woven Himself into everything that I will face.
Don’t we know this to be true? Many of us have faced unspeakable things in this life already. Days when we barely knew how we would make it through the next hour, never mind the next day. Yet we are here. Speaking from personal experience, it was only when the darkest days of my life so far were over that I could look back and see the many ways God had provided for me in those moments.
So I am learning, slowly and with friction. When my fears feel like they’re sucking all the air from my lungs, I take a deep breath and remember that today is all I have to face right now. Jesus is right, tomorrow does have enough problems; so let’s keep our eyes on this day. Let’s enjoy all that God has gifted us with, here, in this moment.
If we are constantly craning our necks to get a glimpse of what’s over the wall, then we miss what has already been laid at our feet.