A friend shared this verse with me prior to my moving away from home and starting university. The words were an encouragement just when I needed it, and this became "my verse" throughout my studies. So, I'd like to share it with you now. If you're applying for higher education at the moment, starting soon, or are going through it currently, I trust it will be the same blessing to you as it has been to me.
The start of my university story began with some bumps. I achieved decent grades in high school and fairly confidently applied to five universities to do Social Work. One by one, though, the applications began to come back with regrets that they were not offering me a space on their course. I was incredibly upset and anxious about my future. Thankfully, though, I had godly, loving people in my life who prayed for me and encouraged me, and a God who had a plan all along.
"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God." Corrie Ten Boom
I began looking at other options, then my final application was returned. I had been offered an unconditional place to study Social Work in Aberdeen. As you can imagine, I was very relieved! Looking back, God turned that period of unrest and anxiety into a lesson about waiting on His timing. It was just when I had come to terms with the situation and prayerfully left it in God’s hands that I was offered the place in Aberdeen.
God made sure that I was exactly where He wanted me to be. The coming weeks, months and years would prove this.
On my first day at university I hurried into the seminar room and grabbed the nearest available seat. I listened to the introductory talk and afterwards started making awkward conversation with the girl next to me. "Are you planning on joining any clubs, etc.?", she asked. I started racking my brains for a decent answer, other than the flat-out "no" which first came to mind. A thought about Christian Unions came into my mind and I found myself at a crossroads: do I take the easier road and use that flat-out “no”, or pluck up the courage to suggest a CU.
An unexpected spurt of confidence made me stutter out that I was a Christian so would probably join the Christian Union. "I'm a Christian too!", she replied, and the conversation took off from there.
There are small choices that you'll make as you move through university, as well as the obvious big ones. Much of the time these small decisions are just as important as the larger ones in shaping your experiences. Remember our verse in those moments – be strong, have courage, the Lord is with you.
This girl was the very first person I met and spoke to at university. Over time she became my best friend, our faith in Christ drawing us closer as we shared the same interests and values. Having a friend to challenge, encourage, and keep me accountable throughout uni was an invaluable experience for me. You may not have a Christian friend in all of your classes, but I really encourage you to foster and maintain the Christian friendships you do have for these reasons. They are precious.
"Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17 NASB).
What I want to stress to you from my story is that God provides. How He provides for you will undoubtedly look different from how He provided for me, but the fact remains that we are never left to our own devices to navigate the world, and, in this instance, university.
One way He provided for me was with a physical built-in friend to help me with the ups and downs of university. But God provides us all with a built-in friend – the ultimate Friend: Jesus! If there's just one piece of advice I could give to you as you go to university or are going through it at the moment it would be to cherish and nurture this relationship above all. Don't put it on the back burner. Classes, exams, assignments, even physical friends – these things are all important and have their place, but ultimately they are only temporary.
Being on the other side of university now I can truly say that, of all the friendships I formed during this time, my relationship with Christ is the most important. I became a Christian long before going to uni, but it was during this time that I developed a deeper relationship with Him, and I pray this is your experience too. Seek Him out, put work into this incredibly important and life-changing friendship.
I’ve found a Friend, oh, such a Friend!
So kind, and true, and tender,
So wise a Counsellor and Guide,
So mighty a Defender!