I left home in 2012 for college in upstate New York, not expecting to ever return to the small town in Wisconsin I grew up in. But once COVID hit, all I could think about was being at home with my family. Being alone through all of this would be too difficult on me emotionally and psychologically, so I road-tripped from California to Wisconsin to my parents’ house. After eight years, the four of us, my dad, my mom, my little brother, and I, were now all living under the same roof again.
After the initial excitement of being together wore off, the differences in our lifestyles started to cause tension. I’m used to washing all my dishes within a 24-hour period, but the guys in my family had no problem leaving dishes in the sink for days on end. Once the dishes were in the sink, they forgot about them. To me, it was important that they do their part in helping my mom and keep the kitchen clean, so it wasn’t all on her to do the cleaning. I brought this up to their attention, but each of us could only see things from our own perspective, and we weren’t willing to see things from the other side. This resulted in some fights and tears.
But the biggest problem was that I was trying to be a fair and proper daughter apart from the Lord. I was enforcing my “laws” upon the members of my family, and this was causing us to be estranged from one another. It was at this point that some verses in Philippians came back to me.
Phil 4:11-13 says, Not that I speak according to lack, for I have learned, in whatever circumstances I am, to be content. I know also how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to hunger, both to abound and to lack. I am able to do all things in Him who empowers me.
These verses reveal the key to finding satisfaction in any situation. Christ is not only our power, but He is also our secret to know how to be abased and know how to abound. To abound is to be rich, and to be abased is to be poor. You might view going back home as an abasement, the lowest of the low. For me, I viewed having to clean more than the other members of my family as an abasement. But Paul knew how to handle any situation: The secret is to be “in Him.” In Christ we are able to do all things.
So how exactly do we do things in Christ? I realized that it was by having many sweet conversations with the Lord. I prayed something like this:
Lord, I don’t know how to be with my parents anymore. I don’t know how to live at home again as a college student. But I’d like to invite you into my situation. Lord, lead and guide me. Thank You I am able to do all things in You. Lord, I’d like to learn how to be the proper daughter/son in You.
I hope all of us, like Paul, can learn the secret of doing all things in Christ. May our winter breaks be filled with conversations with the Lord!
Right about halfway through the semester, I hit a low point where I just did not have the strength to go on. In the midst of struggling both inwardly and outwardly, I started to feel that I was never going to make it through this Christian journey. Such a feeling worsened as the days went by, and at such a low state, the enemy was quick to attack me with this thought:
“Do you really love God? How can you still say that you love God when there is not a single bit of love in you? How can you call yourself a Christian if you don’t even love God?”
On one hand, I knew this was an accusation from the enemy, but on the other hand, I was defenseless to this attack. I saw that I was short of love and that I kept failing, but I was stuck here. I did not know how to bring the Lord into my situation.
Frustrated, I went out for a walk and opened myself to the Lord, just as I was. I told the Lord, “Lord, I’m stuck. I don’t know what to do, and I have no strength to go on. I see that I have no love in myself, but I don’t quite see You as the One who is love. You need to reveal Yourself to me. Be so real to me in this situation.” I didn’t realize how frustrated and desperate I was feeling until I started crying out to Him. Of course, nothing immediately changed in my being or in my environment, but I felt that as I was pouring out to the Lord, I was letting go of all that I was “trying” to do, even to love Him.
A couple days later, the Lord gave me the answer to my searching while I was listening to a message. The message was about loving the Lord with our first love (what great timing) in the context of Revelation 2:4, and halfway through, a verse spoke directly into my being. It was 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.” When this verse was spoken, all the confusion and frustration within me just dissipated. Up until this point, I was basically demanding the Lord to tell me what He wanted me to do, and the answer was, “We love because He first loved us.” It was as though He was telling me, “Allow Me to love you. You can only love when I love you first. Stop trying to love, just let Me love you. Just keep opening to Me. I am love.” All this time, the Lord simply wanted me to let Him love me first. Every day, He was waiting for me to open and be infused with His love. With this love, I could love Him and those around me.
The lover in Song of Songs 1:4 said, “Draw me; we will run after you.” We run because He first draws us. We love because He first loves us. On our part, we simply need to open and let the Lord love us. God has poured out His love into our hearts (Rom. 5:5), and it is this very love of God that constrains us to live to Him (2 Cor. 5:14). Our Christian life is a life of being constrained by the Lord’s love!
That day, I was subdued, drawn, and freed by the Lord’s love all over again. My confused and frustrated prayers were simply turned into, “Lord, draw me. You need to draw me so that I can run after You. I only love because You loved me first. Because You love me, I love You. Thank You that there is no other way and there is no need to try. I simply open to let You love me. You are the source of my love. You are the love with which I love You and Your household.”
Whenever we feel defeated because we do not love the Lord, I hope we will remember that we love because He first loved us. We also overcome the enemy’s accusing us for our lack of love by letting Him love us; Romans 8:34 says, “In all these things we more than conquer through Him who loved us.” To love the Lord and to conquer the enemy, we just need to allow the Lord to love us, and be drawn by the Lord to love Him.
We can even declare this to the enemy as the word of our testimony (Rev. 12:11), “You’re right that I have no love in myself. But God who is love has poured out His love into my heart. I love because He first loves me. I run this Christian race not by my own effort but because He draws me.” Satan will always point fingers at us, but we can redirect him and also ourselves back to the Lord. The more we look at Him and tell Him, “Lord Jesus, I love You,” the more we are drawn by Him to love Him more.
Protests over the death of George Floyd have spread across the nation. This instance of police brutality has garnered unprecedented coverage and has ignited anger and fear in those who see themselves and their loved ones in George Floyd. The pent up frustration of Black Americans has been met with solidarity from some and unease from others, and the issue of systemic racism is coming to the forefront of American discussion.
Racism, intentional or not, has been around for centuries. In fact, the Bible records an incident akin to racial discrimination in Acts 6. In the early days of the church, when many were becoming disciples of Jesus, “a murmuring of the Hellenists against the Hebrews occurred, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily dispensing” (v. 1). The Hebrews were Jews from Judea who spoke Hebrew and embraced Jewish culture, while the Hellenists were Jews from the Diaspora (the Roman Empire) who spoke Greek and embraced Greek culture. From the very beginning of the church, there was a cultural clash; the Greek Jews felt that their widows were not being adequately cared for. To address this, the apostles appointed “seven well-attested men” who were “full of the Spirit and of wisdom” to serve tables (6:2). Why was being full of the Spirit a requirement to serve tables? Because the Lord, who is Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17), genuinely cares for each member. The Spirit doesn’t discriminate.
The Apostle John addresses a shortage of love in his epistle: “Little children, let us not love in word nor in tongue but in deed and truthfulness” (1 John 3:18). Love in truthfulness. It’s possible to outwardly profess love, yet still hold on to judgment and criticism. “Beloved, if God has loved us in this way, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11). God has loved us in an unbiased and unconditional way, so we should love one another in the same way. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:21). When we love God and experience God’s love for us, we cannot help but love our brothers. The love in the world may be preferential, biased, or selfish, but it cannot be so among Christians.
Before going to the cross, the Lord Jesus prayed “that they may be perfected into one, that the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them” (17:23). Genuine oneness is lacking in the world, so much so that actually seeing it will cause the world to believe in Jesus and realize that God loves them. As Christians, this should be our testimony – that we love one another and care for one another, just as much as we care for ourselves. People are longing for this kind of love, and the church should be there to provide it.
There should be “no division in the [Body of Christ], but… the members should have the same care for one another. And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member is glorified, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:25-26). We care for the members, suffering with those who suffer, and rejoicing with those who rejoice. But our goal is not just to temporarily show outward support and solidarity with those who are suffering. While only a few commit crimes egregious enough to make headline news, the seeds of racial bias and mistrust are in all of us. Our prayer is that God would fill us with His own love, expose and uproot any discriminatory feelings, and gain a testimony of love and oneness in His Body that will glorify Himself.
I grew up playing sports. My academic calendar revolved around football, basketball, baseball, and golf. It’s how I tracked the seasons. But the system of high school athletics soured my enjoyment of competing on organized teams. By the time I got to be a senior in high school, I was so ready to start a new life — my life. For years, deep down, I had wanted to play music. I started hanging out with people who didn’t play sports but loved a certain kind of music. Underground music.
So on the day I graduated, I bought my first bass guitar. I taught myself the basics and formed a band with my friends. We were not deep in talent, but we made up for it in sheer determination, grit, and love for what we were creating together. We started spending a lot of time in the local music scene, and we met people wanting to give us a leg up in our quest to make an impact on the Dallas musical landscape. After playing for a while in our small town, we recorded some songs in hopes of getting them into the hands of the right people. After some really exciting developments in our quest, I remember thinking to myself, “We are really doing this. Most people never get the chance. Everything we have been working toward is coming up. It’s so close. It’s all so close.”
I had no idea that it was all coming to an end so soon.
No one did.
At the apex of my stint as an underground artist, I wasn’t looking for a change. However, an unforeseen sea change was coming to one Jason Hall.
It happened over a period of a couple of months the spring and summer of 1997. One of my coworkers at the supermarket caused me (without saying a word, I might add) to slowly realize there was something missing deep inside of me. This was somewhat strange because my life was pretty exciting at the time. Seemingly a lot more exciting than the life of my coworker. I had everything a 20-year-old could ask for — I was performing live, writing songs (we were singing words I wrote!), I had great friends, and we had respect in our music community. But I found myself wanting to spend more time with this common dude who exuded a peace that I couldn’t register. He was also 20 years old. But no one else in my life had what he had. Funny because he was just an average guy. I knew he was a Christian because he carried a small pocket Bible in his pocket, but he never tried to outright preach to me. Probably good, since I had no reference point in that world, and I was used to people barking the fire and brimstone gospel at me from afar while in Deep Ellum. At the time, that did nothing but make me more defiant.
Unintentionally, I found myself interested in what my coworker friend was all about. It was a mystery why I was drawn to his lifestyle. I grew up in a system of dead religion, and it played no practical role in our lives at all. In fact, I did not know a single verse in the entire Bible.
One day, we were in the break room together at work, and these words just came tumbling out of my mouth — seriously, these words had never run through my mind before. All of a sudden, I heard myself say to this guy, “Garon, can you tell me about the Bible some time?” I think I was more shocked than he was. I could not believe I had just said that.
Some weeks later, he invited me to his church youth group. It was an hour away in a hole-in-the-wall town called Vernon. I have no idea why I said yes. No way was I doing that under normal circumstances. At the time, my band was gaining a tremendous amount of momentum. We were getting ready to open a big show, and I wasn’t looking for anything like this at all. In fact, I was going full speed in the other direction and seemingly very happy doing it. But under the surface, my inward parts were longing for something real.
Anyways, we got to this group in Vernon and, of course, I knew no one. I felt out of sorts. But later on, someone began to speak about God in a way that was personal, not distant. I was hearing that God in Christ Jesus was actually the Desire of the nations. In other words, people were seeking all sorts of things, but what they were actually looking for was for Christ Himself to come in and fill up the deepest part of their being. We were made to be filled with Him. All of a sudden, deep within me, a zip file of thoughts started unzipping…
I realized deep within, he was right. This living Person was real. He was not a historical figure or a cartoon character or a curse word for when I was angry. He was the One who came as the hand, to fill me as the glove. He was the One I had been looking for my entire life. He had an eternal purpose, and I was being called into that purpose.
The speaker invited anyone to come forward to pray and and receive Him right then. Immediately I found myself climbing over people who were kneeling to get up to the front to pray. I have no idea what happened, but when we were done, I knew someone came inside. The God of glory came in, and my whole vessel was full of His shining. I was very sober, but so full of joy. I had never known such deep joy in all my life. I was so released, and I intrinsically knew, without a doubt, that not only was God real in the universe, but that I was filled with someone real. Finally.
I was so unburdened, you wouldn’t believe it. I didn’t know that so many things were hanging on me. All of a sudden, the weight of all of my sins was lifted off of me. I was light. I was forgiven. I didn’t know how or why, but I knew deep down that I was saved. I really didn’t know what that meant either. I knew nothing, but I did know that Christ really was the Desire that every man was seeking. And I found it! Whoa…
I think my friend was pleasantly surprised because I was such a stubborn case. But I was… I was subdued by the love of God. How could He love me? How could He forgive me? I was so awful!
All of a sudden, the next day, I had a new desire. I had a real hunger and drive to read the Bible. Lol. I had never had any thought or notion of doing that before. No one told me I should read the Bible. I had received no counsel from anyone after what had happened the night before. I received my first Bible from Garon and proceeded to tear through the New Testament. The more I read, the more I underlined. The more I underlined, the more the light shined in me and my joy increased. I didn’t understand much, but I was learning who this Person was. The Word was living, and through His Word, He was speaking.
Everything changed that night. It took a while to figure out what had happened and what it all meant, but it changed my life forever.
Of course, that was only the beginning.
Meet the author
Jason Hall serves on staff with U of I Christians on Campus. He loves coffee and Kansas City barbeque. Follow him on Twitter.
I first learned what Unofficial Weekend was in the early days of Portuguese class this semester: “It’s a weekend where people go to parties and drink a lot,” one of my classmates informed the class. As a freshman on campus, I had never heard of this tradition, but I was intrigued.
I didn’t anticipate being interested in parties when I initially came to the U of I because I’m not really a big crowds type of person. But when the first friends I made on campus were very interested in alcohol and parties, I said, “what the heck?” and went out with them, walking around at 2 or 3 AM between houses and apartments filled with dancing and drinking.
But the Friday night before Unofficial Weekend, we talked about something during my small group home meeting that really affected me. We discussed how Jesus is inside of us as the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when we do something that makes him sad, we will be able to feel his sadness, and when we do something that pleases him, we will feel his joy. It’s like a kind of intuition that we gain through following Christ, but we have to tune into our spirit to hear what he has to say to us. Although I already understood that through the Spirit, we inherit Christ in our spirit, it never occured to me to listen to the Spirit as we experience life. Since that meeting, I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling I had about choosing to attend a few parties with my dormmates during the upcoming weekend. I decided to tell my friends, “I can’t go partying anymore.”
This could have been the end of the story, but it’s not because Saturday night of Unofficial, I went out to a party anyways, completely ignoring that uneasy, foreboding feeling I had before. Seeing my friends go out and have fun the previous night made me feel like I was missing out on some real fun. Full disclosure, that night did not go well for me – while we were in line for the party, a drunk guy came out yelling the N word, which as a Black person was extremely unsettling, and the people hosting the party stopped letting people into the apartment, so we ended up leaving. That was also the night I learned that alcohol makes my mental health go off the rails, and I realized that I definitely should not go out anymore. Some of the bad consequences of engaging in party culture really punched me in the face.
Temptation is hard to deal with, and for me, it’s extremely difficult not to succumb to it, especially because I’m just now starting to realize my faith like I haven’t before in my life. The people I spend most of my time with on campus aren’t Christians or aren’t that religious, which I don’t necessarily perceive as being bad, but it certainly makes it harder to be led by the Spirit and not the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:17 shows that the Spirit and the flesh oppose each other).
Now I’ve come out on the other side of Unofficial standing on a couple of lessons that have helped me to overcome the temptations I’ve had (and will continue that have) since that weekend. First Corinthians 10:13 says, “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.” It is comforting to know that God allows temptations that are not beyond my control and that I can absolutely handle. The cherry on top is knowing that God has my back.
Even more intrinsically, this experience has taught me how to listen more to my spirit. After that particular home meeting, I started to have feelings about my decisions that were deeper than my emotions. Throughout my life going to church, I always heard of people being able to communicate with and listen to God, but I never really understood what that meant outside of obeying what the Bible has to say. Learning to listen more to the Spirit within me has provided more opportunities for me to connect with God personally because I’m listening to how He feels about things as I journey through life.
It’s a little strange to finally write about being pulled into the party scene at school, especially because it’s not something I would bring up to my friends in Christians on Campus. However, I decided to open about my experience with the party scene at U of I because taboo topics such as this are real things that Christians experience and struggle with. Sharing about them can help and encourage others who are dealing with similar predicaments.
Part of life is making decisions and experiencing the consequences of those decisions. These are the experiences through which we can really build our relationship with God as we connect to him through our spirit with His Spirit. God is faithful and the Spirit is willing (1 Cor. 1:9; Matt. 26:41). We just have to choose to listen to our spirit, be prayerful, and have faith that God has us in his hands.
About the author
Alexis Baldwin is a freshman at UIUC majoring in English and Latin American Studies. She is from the south side of Chicago.
Yesterday I used Walmart’s grocery pickup service for the first time. It was a pleasant experience – an employee confirmed my name, then efficiently loaded the trunk with my order, which included a comical amount of frozen vegetables. When I got home, my husband asked with a concerned look on his face, “You got some meat, right?” I did, but I may have slightly overestimated the greens-to-meat ratio when filling my online shopping cart. Which just means that we will have plenty of fiber in our diet while we sit through the developing coronavirus outbreak.
The Wednesday before Spring Break, U of I announced that all classes would be online indefinitely due to COVID-19. Some students expressed disappointment over having to learn from home, while others expressed disappointment that ‘indefinitely’ meant that there was a possibility they’d have to come back to campus. (Indefinitely later turned into the rest of the semester.) That Thursday and Friday, there was a palpable uneasiness all over campus. For many of us, the University’s announcement indicated that the coronavirus was no longer just a distant threat in China or California.
As Urbana-Champaign was emptied of all its students, I began to be filled with restlessness. What was I going to do for Spring Break? What was I going to do for the rest of the semester? I can’t just stay home and be a potato! Just seeing the words ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-quarantine’ made me antsy. As I considered a hundred different scenarios, I was reminded of our Bible study from that week on Romans 8.
Romans 8:28 says that “all things work together for good to those who love God” (RcV). What does for good mean? The next verse clarifies: God predestined us, those who love God, “to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brothers.” God wants us to be conformed to Christ’s image so that Christ, who is God’s Firstborn, could have many brothers who match Him. As Christians, we’ve already been born of God (John 1:12-13), but we still don’t look that much like the Firstborn.
Romans 8:28 says all things are working for this. This means that whatever happens, good or bad, God is using our circumstances to help us be conformed to the image of His Firstborn. Even as Satan tries to wreak havoc on humanity using COVID-19, God wants us to come out looking more like Christ.
So how can we be conformed to Christ’s image? Paul tells us in the same chapter that it’s by walking according to the spirit* (8:4), setting the mind on the spirit* (8:6), and putting our old practices to death by the Spirit (8:13). The problem is that our flesh is warring against the spirit. We can react to COVID-19 in one of two ways: in our flesh or in our spirit. Living by the flesh might mean anxiously stocking up on canned beans and toilet paper because everyone else is doing it. Or it could be nonchalantly living life from the comfort of home, glad that there’s finally a legitimate excuse for being antisocial. On the other hand, living by the spirit is asking the Lord, “Lord, I’m not going to leave my house for several weeks. Which items should I stock up on?” Or, “Lord, I’m bored. What should I do?” Or, “Lord, stop the spread of this virus and keep us safe.” The key is to turn to the Lord and talk to Him.
The difference between walking according to the spirit and walking according to the flesh is not outward. It’s a difference in the source of our actions. Do we react to life based on instinct, social pressure, or careful deliberation? Or are our eyes on the Lord, waiting to see how He is reacting within us?
When we invite the Lord into our daily life, the Spirit is able to lead us and replace our old habits with a manner of life worthy of the gospel (Phil. 1:27). Gradually, as we allow Christ into our thoughts and our feelings, He imparts more of His own thoughts and feelings into us. Our minds get renewed, which transforms us and conforms us to Christ, rather than to the pattern of this age (Rom. 12:2).
As an incentive to turn to the Lord, the Bible promises that “the mind set on the spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6). As we engage the Lord Jesus in conversation, we are filled with a peace that surpasses man’s understanding (Phil. 4:7). The world around us may be in chaos, but inwardly, God Himself is our peace. Our anxiety, restlessness, dissatisfaction, and even boredom, are indicators that we have left God, who is peace. These feelings should remind us to turn back to Jesus.
So schools have closed their doors, and restaurants will not be seating customers. As we transition to online grocery shopping and video conferencing (including for Bible studies, hopefully!), may the Lord remind us to talk to Him and experience Him in new ways, so that we could be conformed to His image bit by bit. If the Firstborn could gain more brothers who match Him during this unprecedented time, what a glory it would be to God!
* Translators disagree on whether these verses refer to the human spirit or God’s Spirit. In our experience, it is both – the divine Spirit in our human spirit.
About the author
Rebecca was involved in U of I Christians on Campus when she was a graduate student, and she is now serving on the staff.
The Tuesday before my first college finals, I found myself in a crisis: a draft of a 10 page final paper for one of my classes was due the next day and I hadn’t started or thought about it at all. I had known about this paper from the very beginning of the semester; it was constantly lurking at the back of my brain and I had planned to finish the draft during Thanksgiving break, but my plan failed. I kept putting it off until the very last moment possible, and now it was due the next day.
Tuesdays at 7:30 PM were also when I attended weekly prayer meetings. I went every week with my spiritual companions, two other freshmen that I ate with, studied with, and hung out with almost everyday. Towards the end of high school, I had become a little distant from God, and although I attended Sunday meetings and Saturday youth groups regularly, I felt like I was just going through the motions, partly because it was expected of me. But during my first semester of college, my companions accompanied me to all the church meetings, Bible studies, small group meetings, game nights, and even meals with those in the Christian community.
However, this Tuesday night I was planning on skipping the prayer meeting to finish the draft of the paper. I felt really bad about it, but I decided that the paper was more pressing. All I had for my paper was the topic, which I had chosen during the car ride back to campus after break. Upon starting my research, I realized that the topic I had chosen, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, was actually much more complicated than I initially expected, with many archaeologists and experts speculating about its elusive existence and location. I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish before the prayer meeting and that I would have to miss the meeting that evening. I didn’t really want to miss the meeting either, but my anxiety about the draft, about every minute that seemed to fly past, each quicker than the last, and about my unshakeable procrastination and its consequences, caused me to decide for sure that I couldn’t go: I told my companion that I couldn’t go to the prayer meeting that night, but she would not let me off the hook so easily. She told me the meeting wouldn’t take so long, that the Lord would honor the time I gave to be in the meeting, and that after the meeting she would stay up with me while I wrote the paper.
Reluctantly, I decided to go to the prayer meeting (which I later knew was the right decision because I felt peace and rest in my spirit). Afterwards, we went straight to the library where I started my draft. I spent a very long time writing. It was way past midnight, and although I told my companion that I could finish by myself and that she could go back to the dorms, she kept insisting on staying with me until I finished, even falling asleep while waiting for me to finish. I finally finished around 3:30 AM and woke my sleeping companion up, after which we walked back to the dorm together. This really touched me. The fact that my companion would actually stay up with me just so I could go to a meeting and enjoy the Lord, even dozing off while waiting for me to finish my paper, touched me so much. I felt my companion genuinely cared for me and even went out of her way to do so.
I realized that this is what I was missing before coming to college: companions with whom I could pursue the Lord with, not just once a week, but daily. “Going to church” was no longer just a formal, weekly or biweekly event; I was now living a day-to-day church life.
I once heard some really good guidance from someone concerning the difference between a friend and a companion, which really helped me. He said that if I’m not able to pray with a friend or open up to them about my spiritual condition, then they are merely a friend, not a companion. This is the difference between a spiritual companion and a friend: a spiritual companion is someone who encourages and strengthens me to go on in the Lord, who helps me to grow and mature spiritually, and who runs after the Lord with me.
I am thankful to have gained two companions that I can pursue the Lord with. Even when we’re doing homework, studying together, or procrastinating, I have a comforting sense of life and peace (Romans 8:2). My companions and I pray for one another’s burdens. They hold me accountable: there are a lot of times when I don’t feel like going to a church gathering because I have a lot of homework or because I feel like I’m too tired. However, my companions strengthen me to keep pursuing after Christ. Since we all are freshmen in college, they’re in the same situation as me and can understand the things that I stress or worry about. I know I can always fellowship with them about my problems, sing Christian songs in the dorms together, and study the Bible with them.
Just as Daniel had his three companions, we also need spiritual companions in the Lord to flee from temptations in the world. Second Timothy 2:22 says, “But flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Our companions are “those who call on the Lord out of pure heart.” Ecclesiastes 4:12, says, “And while a man may prevail against the one, the two will withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” By ourselves, we are too weak to withstand the enemy, but “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” When problems and difficult situations arise, our companions help to support us when we fall.
Whereas before, my daily life and my church life felt like two separate lives, I feel like now it is one life – the church life is my life. It’s hard to go on in the church life by myself, but with the right companions, I can pursue the Lord and flee from the enemy and his temptations. May the Lord give each of us a spiritual companion, to ground us in the church life, to encourage us, and to go on with us in the Lord.
About the author
Esther is a freshmen at UIUC. This semester, she hopes to enjoy the Lord even more than the last.
When I first came to college, I was afraid of being alone. I have a brother at the University, but I knew that he was busy with responsibilities that would make it hard for him to be there for me at times. I know that I prayed and that others prayed. Then through some seemingly random events and a first-semester schedule that just so happened to work, I ended up with Christians on Campus (COC).
My first semester, dorm food gave me food poisoning. I was sick and in immense pain. I sent out a mass text and a GroupMe message asking for prayer. Many prayed for me, and my parents asked me if I could get to the health center. Two students at COC were able to work around their schedules to get me there and to bring me food I could eat, plus anything else I needed. While I was sick, they took care of me.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus speaks of the coming judgment on the nations. He deems some righteous and others unrighteous. He says that those who are righteous will help Him during His times of struggle and tribulation. They ask, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?” His answer can be found in verse 40:
“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (NKJV).
“The least of these My brethren” refers to the believers, meaning when anyone, saint or sinner, helps believers, they are helping the Lord. Here, in this community at COC, people help each other, thus rendering service to the Lord. In verse 36, Jesus says, “I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”
I can genuinely say that getting food poisoning was somehow a highlight of freshman year because it showed me that although I’m many miles away from home, I have a family here in Christ. This is a great part of what Christian brotherhood is about. Being there for each other shows that we care for Jesus Himself.
In my second semester, I got a job on campus. Our small group met in a family’s home on Friday evenings, but my Friday shift ended at 8pm, an hour after our group meeting started. One of the members in my small group would leave the meeting to pick me up so I could come to the meetings. (At first he didn’t tell me that he was leaving from the meeting to pick me up, but I figured it out and confirmed it with him.) This may seem small to some, but this was a big deal for me. That semester wasn’t the best academically, but I still had a friend who went out of his way to ensure that I could experience the joy and peace that only comes from Jesus.
My third semester was a real turning point. One of my second-semester grades was disappointing, to say the least. Most of the plans I had for my life were gone. I had to rethink what I wanted to do with my life (a question I was often asked in varying forms), but now, I couldn’t answer. In the midst of this outward uncertainty, I still had inward joy and peace. Whereas I wasn’t able to meet with my home church in Chicago more than once a week (we were too spread out and our schedules were too different), I was now able to spend more time with believers than ever before in my life (outside the believers in my household). Even though I didn’t have the answer to that question, I was able to be with the people of God so consistently that I no longer worried (although I still cared).
I also learned an incredibly important lesson. This is from the book of Lamentations, which takes place after the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon:
All our enemies / Have opened their mouths against us.
Fear and a snare have come upon us, / Desolation and destruction.
My eyes overflow with rivers of water / For the destruction of the daughter of my people.
My enemies without cause / Hunted me down like a bird.
They silenced my life in the pit / And threw stones at me.
The waters flowed over my head; / I said, “I am cut off!”
I called on Your name, O Lord, / From the lowest pit.
You have heard my voice: / “Do not hide Your ear
From my sighing, from my cry for help.”
You drew near on the day I called on You,
And said, “Do not fear!”
Lamentations 3:46-48, 52-57
According to Google, lamentation means “the passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping”. This is definitely one of the most sorrowful periods in Biblical history, yet in this struggle and affliction, the author calls on the name of the Lord, who responds, “Do not fear.”
Throughout my first three semesters, I realized that even at the lowest depths of my human experience, the Lord is with me. No matter what dungeon I’m in, whether it’s something at work, classes, group projects, finals, or illness, I know the Lord will be with me, that I don’t have to fear. Not only has my experience here brought me closer to others, but it has also strengthened my trust in the Lord.
A new semester has begun. As I reflect on the three semesters I have been here, I can’t help but think about Christians on Campus. In those three semesters, I have had experiences that have shown me that the Lord is with me through these brothers and sisters in Christ. My prayers were answered, and though I’m far from home, I’m even further from being alone.
About the author
Samuel Mesa is a second-year student at UIUC, who, as of the time of the writing of this article, has not decided on a major. However, this uncertainty does not cause him anxiety.