“God is good,” we mumble, as we stumble across campus after another all nighter for that one class.
“God is in control,” we chant, as the chaos at home bubbles over into everything else.
“God is faithful,” we hum, as we feel lost in a sea of expectations and duties.
I’ve caught myself muttering these things to myself in times of craziness and confusion (and, if I mutter loud enough, crazy and confused is exactly how I appear). But when the words fall off my lips not effortlessly, but mindlessly, I find myself slipping into a very dangerous place.
As college students, it is very difficult to find a line between the truths of God’s work in our lives and at times overwhelming aspects of reality. We repeat these truths of God’s steadfastness so mindlessly, we become numb to them.
At Vanguard, there can be a pressure to seem like we have got it all together, or, if we don’t, then we handle the mess with that “God’s got this” attitude that make people say, “I don’t know how she does it.”
But in reality, we often don’t know how to do it either. We can’t handle things alone, neither without God or without each other. And if we fail to be open about that, we stunt our appreciation of God and our intimacy with others.
When we give the answers we believe are expected of us, we limit our own spiritual growth, as well as stunt our relationships and testimony.
Life is not always sweet and yet God is always good. So how do we approach this in a way that is sincere? On a Christian campus, how can we find a way to be open about our struggles and yet appreciative of our God?
Well, I think we just have to start with authenticity and vulnerability.
And that’s hard, because that’s scary.
But no matter how difficult it may be, we have got to find a healthy way to balance our trials and our faith in an honest understanding, or we are numbing ourselves to circumstance and regurgitating expected responses without growing as people.
In our broken world, we cannot afford to blindly repeat “God is good.” By doing so, we either weaken the awesome power of this statement or hurt our perception of its truth.
In these four years, life will be hectic and stressful. It is important now more than ever to understand the reality of our situation: both in our relationship with God and our handling on our circumstances. We cannot casually accept God’s goodness as the standard response, with no other considerations. We need to see it, experience it, wrestle with it. We need to feel it. And maybe we won’t always feel it, and then we do have to fall on faith, trust and the recollection of his past deliverance. But in each moment, we must be seeking to remember how impactful each word we say is.
Whenever we recite the expected responses in our situations, we hinder our own self reflection.
We don’t need to be perfect to approach him. God has never asked us to be able to quote the perfect inspirational phrase at our situations or repeat the memorized Bible verse haphazardly into the air. Wisdom and scripture are powerful tools, but they are meaningless if we are not honest with God in our circumstances and inviting Him in to be with us.
Just as surface-level responses hurt our intimacy with God, they also disturb our ability to grow closer to other believers.
When someone sincerely asks, “how are you?” and you reply “good,” or should I say “God is good,” which seems to be the Christian equivalent, we fail to be vulnerable. It is this spirit of openness that allows for closeness. It is in this strong relationship that we find true fellowship. And those Christian friendships will be the ones holding us accountable and pushing us closer to God each day.
But how can this happen if we will not be forthcoming to begin with? Is it a fear that if we show our cards and they don’t show their hand, then we are left weak and at a disadvantage? For starters, God has never called us to be at an advantage in life, quite the opposite. And secondly, openness fosters more openness. When trust is shown, it will be returned.
At Vanguard, I know there is a tendency to encourage oversharing, but this is not what I mean by this. Rather, it is important to be transparent about your imperfection. With your friends, I encourage you to be truthful about the grittier struggles, and in sincerity, share the work or wrestles of God in your life, rather than brushing it off and saying, “everything is okay, Jesus loves me.”
He does love you; now let’s find a healthy way to incorporate that in our lives without discrediting our ongoing struggles in this world.
And herein lies another problem. When we are being truthful, honestly saying “God is faithful,” it sounds like it is being used to skirt the real issues. What good will it do us or God for us to be unable to convey our testimonies?
Time and time again this semester, I have tried to honestly discuss God’s tireless work in my life through a tough time. Each time I attempted to say it, it came off as insincere, as if I was saying it because that is what I am suppose to say as a student here.
We shouldn’t be saying what we think other students want to hear about our lives. We have to trust that when someone asks, they want to listen. We can’t hide behind vague phrases to shield ourselves from the loving enquiries of other believers.
This means on the opposite end, we must care to honestly listen when we inquire about someone’s well being. And when we find someone struggling, questioning, or angry, it means love and support and encouragement. If we are going to ask, we have to be prepared to hear them.
But overall, we have to remember there is nothing wrong with seeing God’s hand in the hard times. But God deserves appreciation for his work, so we must not use his promises and work as vague answers to one another.
And God is good, so let’s invite him into our trials and victories alike. Let’s be open with God, ourselves, and others about where we are at in life. And as God cares for us in each situation, let’s remember to honor and thank him honestly and intentionally with one another.