4 Promises for your College-Bound Child

It’s that time of the year when parents whose kids are college-bound are busy preparing them for dorm or apartment life. It's a never-ending list of needs - purchase bedding, clothing, new electronics, update computers, phones, and a hundred other items that are necessary.

The shopping will eventually be completed and all the arrangements made, but most parents are also fervently praying that their children have been prepared spiritually for what lies ahead. College years can bring spiritual challenges. Can she withstand the inevitable temptations? Will she be faithful to church and/or a campus ministry? Will there be a strong Christian community to encourage her spiritually? These are all valid questions and deserve thoughtful answers. And I add - these promises are not just for students who are headed to college but certainly also for those whose immediate plans don’t include leaving home. These issues generally surface at young adult age, no matter where they are.

The Bible is full of promises for believers. Here are four that are especially relevant to young adults, as they move into the university culture.

  1. 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 not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

    Everyone is subject to temptation, it is the common human experience. Even Jesus had to overcome it, alone in the wilderness. Like us, He was tempted to fill a legitimate human need in an illegitimate way. How can we pray for this generation and encourage them as they face these tests? In light of this promise, there are two things to note. First, God is faithful. His nature is faithfulness and we see His faithfulness 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 through a mountain pass. The way of escape is provided, but the army (or person) being tempted, must take it. God is ready to help us, but we must be looking for His provision. There is another nuance to the “escape clause” in this verse. The “way of escape” may be the ability to “endure” and not give in to it. 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. God will be faithful to deliver from temptation.
  2. God will be faithful to those who struggle with their faith.

    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 seriously about it. Seeking answers to spiritual questions is a crucial factor in 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 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 exploring how to live out one’s faith. The key to working through it is found in having mentors, small groups, resources and campus ministries that can come alongside the student to thoughtfully answer his questions with respect, a sound knowledge of scripture and sensitivity. 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” (www.thegospelcoalition.org “My Christian High School Students Have Doubts. Here’s How I Respond”.)

    In Jude’s succinct epistle, he urges followers of Christ to “contend earnestly for the faith” (3) and to “have mercy on those who doubt” (22). As we pray for our skeptics, we can pray with confidence that God will walk with them through their season of doubt. And remember, “This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness!” (Lam. 3:21-23). God is big enough for their questions. He is faithful.
  3. God will be faithful in times of uncertainty. If we have ever lived in a time of unpredictability, it is now. Pandemic, racial tension, political divisions, financial crises - it is impossible to predict how things are going to play out in the near future. In this confusing season, young adults are especially vulnerable when it comes to making wrong choices. They face making the most influential decisions in their life, such as choosing a college, a vocation, or finding a marriage partner, and all in the context of unparalleled uncertainly regarding the future.

    I recently read an article that speaks to this very issue. Author Daniel Henderson, who was in a season of searching, 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 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 what was going to happen. For example, in Hebrews 11 we are presented with examples of those who trusted God, who had no idea of what their future would be. Abraham “went out, not knowing where he was going”. Moses, Sarah, and many 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.”

    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct Your path” (Psalm God will be faithful in times of uncertainty.
  4. God will be faithful to fulfill your child’s destiny. Psalm 20:4, a prayer from the Psalmist, puts it so succinctly, “May God grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans”.

    Young adulthood often brings the questions of “Who am I? Why am I here? What should I do with my life?” In seeking God’s will, this verse gives sure guidance. The key here is that our desires would be what God’s desires for us, meaning that we would desire His will above our own.

    This angst is perfectly expressed in Michael W. Smith’s song, “My Place in This World”:

    The wind is moving
    But I am standing still
    A life of pages
    Waiting to be filled
    A heart that's hopeful
    A head that's full of dreams
    But this becoming
    Is harder than it seems
    Feels like I'm

    Looking for a reason
    Roaming through the night to find
    My place in this world
    My place in this world
    Not a lot to lean on
    I need Your light to help me find
    My place in this world
    My place in this world

In a world that demands immediate gratification and success, finding one’s place can be overwhelming. There will be faltering steps and maybe an unwise decision here and there, but overall, God will give your child the guidance he or she needs. As a parent, our part is to wait, pray, and be ready with words of encouragement and wisdom.

Parents, you have prepared your children for their college experience, and you will continue to pray them through their young adult years. God is faithful!

Reading List

Developing Female Leaders
by Kadi Cole
Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved
by Kate Bowler
Nothing to Envy, Ordinary Lives in North Korea
by Barbara Demick
Liturgy of the Ordinary
by Tish Warren
No Little Women
by Aimee Byrd
Half the Church
by Carolyn Curtis James
Vindicating the Vixens
by Sandra Glahn
In His Image
by Jen Wilkin
Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention
edited by Williams and Jones
Unorthodox
by Deborah Feldman
Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Nelle Hurston