Abide | Top Tips For Having A Quiet Time At University
Making time and space for God when you're a student can feel like a big ask. Emma reminds us why it is so important and the key to finding time in God's presence at university.
Some time ago I heard a story about an art competition. Entries had to be submitted with the title ‘A Stormy Night’. The judges were expectant of paintings of rough seas, vivid blues and greens, and tropical islands devastated by hurricanes. Yet there was one painting unlike the others which caught their eye… It was of a bird perched upon the branches of a tree, against a backdrop of a storm. The judges came to the conclusion that whilst this painting did not necessarily capture the essence of a stormy night mid-storm, it highlighted that even during stormy nights, there are windows of peace and calm – represented by the bird seeking solace amongst the chaos of the storm.
When I started to think about how I do quiet times with God at University, I was reminded of this image of the bird seeking some refuge and quiet amidst the busyness of its surroundings. All too often it can feel that our time is getting slowly taken up by meetings, essay deadlines, church events, sports, music rehearsals or even just coffee with friends. What I have come to realise, however, is that it is the quiet times we spend with God which can shape our attitude and effectiveness in all the other tasks and challenges we take on.
So why is quiet time so important in our walk with God? Well we only have to look at Jesus to see that this pattern of life was integral to His relationship with the Father. As Rick Warren points out,
‘This was a habit with Jesus and it needs to become a habit in your life’.
Moreover, I have come to learn that Jesus continually practices what he preaches rather than set an impossible ideal.
In Mark 1:35 (NIV) we see Jesus go to find a solitary place to spend time with His Father,
‘Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.’
We see from this example that Jesus was active in finding time to spend with God – he ‘got up’ and ‘left the house’. Perhaps for us, this illustration acknowledges that we need to be intentional with finding time to spend with God and if this means physically leaving a place to be elsewhere then we should do that.
I have also found it useful to find a place where we know we can find peace and quiet to talk with God. In Habakkuk 2:1 (NLT) it reads,
‘I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint.’
For me, my ‘watch tower’ is a walk along the river near my University or a bench in a park. When we find our secret place, where we can spend time with God away from the busyness of life, we are called to wait to see what the Lord says. This implies that quiet time with God is two-way and therefore conversational. I also love that the writer is convinced that God will converse back with him – ‘I will wait to see what the Lord says’ and ‘he will answer my complaint’. This demonstration of faith has been a challenge during stressful times at University but we are assured that His faithfulness is constant.
In the song ‘Yes and Amen’, we are reminded that our confidence in God’s promises is in His faithfulness – the faithfulness He has already shown us and the faithfulness He will deliver.
‘I will rest in your promises
My confidence is your faithfulness’
As a final thought, it is important to check in with each other with quiet times. All too often we ask each other how are weeks have been or what we have been up to recently. My prayer is that we will continually seek to create a culture with our friends where we can ‘check in’ on how God is moving in our lives. I found that when I have asked friends more openly ‘How is your Bible reading going recently?’ or ‘How has this week been for solid quiet times with God?’, I was encouraged that it is something we can help each other with.
Ultimately we have the opportunity to deepen our relationship with our Heavenly Father when we spend time with Him. If we commit to quiet times in the same way we commit to coming to church every Sunday, we allow more opportunity to hear from God. Whilst this can be done anywhere and amidst noise or in the silence, we can trust that when we intentionally sacrifice time to spend solely focussing on Him, His voice can be louder.
Emma graduated from Durham last year and is passionate about combining her love for Jesus with her academic studies in Theology. This upcoming year she is excited to study a Masters in International Relations and get alongside new Freshers at her church (as well as plan a wedding to her fiancé James).