College years often bring challenges to faith and convictions held since childhood. Christian parents, who have worked so hard to prepare their kids for campus life, ask themselves: can my daughter withstand the inevitable temptations? Will my son be faithful to church and/or a campus ministry? Will there be a strong Christian community to encourage him? These questions are not just for students who are headed to college but also for those whose immediate plans don’t include leaving home. These issues frequently surface at young adult age, no matter where they are.
The Bible is full of promises for believers. Here are three that are especially relevant to young adults, as they seek to find their way and place in this world. These promises provide a prayer guide for parents, as we seek to support our children and grandchildren who are in this season of life.
- God will be faithful to deliver from temptations: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will make a way of escape” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Everyone is subject to temptation. How can we pray for this generation as they face a culture that is so antagonistic to Christianity? In light of this promise, there are two things to note. First, God is faithful. His nature is faithfulness, and we see that demonstrated repeatedly throughout scripture. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). Because of that faithfulness, he will provide a “way of escape”, due to the threat of being “overtaken” by temptation. The word picture here is of a battle with an army surrounded by enemies. Suddenly the army sees an escape route. The way of escape is provided, but the army (or person) being tempted, must take it. God is ready to help, but we must be looking for His provision. There is a nuance to the “escape clause” in this verse. The “way of escape” may be the ability to “endure” and not give in to the temptation. In this case, the way of escape happens due to the Spirit empowered endurance of the believer, as in 2 Tim. 2:17, “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me…”. Peter adds, ”… the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations…” (2 Peter 2:9). We pray that God would make the way of escape clear and give our children the strength to choose it.
2. God will be faithful to those who struggle with their faith“…[I] exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once and for all”,
“Have mercy on those who doubt,” Jude 3, 22
Students frequently go through a season of doubt and questioning of their faith. They are exploring how their Christian faith informs their life choices, vocations and direction. Do questions always indicate a loss of faith? Not necessarily. If a Christian has never been confused or asked serious questions, then I wonder how much he has even thought about his faith. Seeking answers to spiritual questions is crucial to spiritual growth, and often surfaces during the college years, as we all know. Those of us raised in the church were usually admonished, “Don’t doubt, just believe.” But for many, there comes a time when simple answers don’t satisfy and they must walk through what Daniel Silliman calls “The Valley of the Shadow of Doubt”. In his article in Christian Higher Education, Silliman says it is very common for students to go through a period of spiritual instability during the college years. These questions may be existential in nature, or just be exploring how to live out one’s faith. Strong campus ministries, mentors, and small groups are resources that exist for this very reason – to walk alongside students and encourage them in their faith. Wise leaders will thoughtfully answer their questions with respect, a sound knowledge of scripture and sensitivity. However, students must eventually own their own faith by knowing what they believe and why they believe it. Periods of doubt where one is honestly seeking answers to valid questions, can lead to a much more robust faith – although the process distresses parents to no end. J.A. Block, in his helpful blog, says “We shouldn’t view their questions and doubt as a crisis, but merely as the new normal in an epistemologically unsteady age“ (see article “My Christian High School Students Have Doubts. Here’s How I Respond”, www.thegospelcoalition.org.)
As we pray for our children, we can pray with confidence that God will walk with them through a season of doubting.
3. God will be faithful in times of uncertainty.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths,” Proverbs 3:5-6.
I recently read a story about author Daniel Henderson, who was in a season of searching, and traveled to Calcutta to work at Mother Teresa’s “House of the Dying”. One day he met Mother Teresa, who asked him what she could do for him. He eagerly replied that he was looking for direction in his life and asked her to “pray that I have clarity”. She laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So, I will pray that you trust God.”
The truth is, we all want details of how our choices will affect us. We want to see ahead and have assurances that we made the right call. But scripture is full of people who followed the call of God, without knowing their future. For example, in Hebrews 11 we are presented with examples of those who trusted God, who had no idea of their future. Abraham “went out, not knowing where he was going”. The other Old Testament saints listed in this passage had no “clarity”, except for the promise of God. In the New Testament, Jesus says to His disciples, “Follow Me.” Each one’s path would be unique and would take them to places they could never have even imagined. Daniel Henderson says, “Faith flourishes when we are trusting God at the deepest level with a willingness to let go of our insistence for clarity.” God can be trusted. He will be faithful in times of uncertainty.
So, we loosen our grip, open our hands and continually and prayerfully release our young adults into God’s providential care, having prepared them the best we know how. He is faithful. He will see them through temptations, doubts and uncertainties and He will see us through, as well.