The first week of my freshman year was a hug-your-knees-and-scream-like-crazy roller coaster ride. There was intense excitement. There was also a lot of adjusting, and a whole lot of questions.
Would I be able to find my classes? Would I be able to get the work done? Would I get along with my roommate? Would I die of loneliness? Would I flunk out before the semester ended?
Welcome to the question-filled, wild ride we call "college."
I'm convinced that the most octane-charged time for transformation is the freshman year. All that independence. No Mom and Dad around to guide your daily decisions. Everything is brand new. New friendships. New routines. New surroundings. So exciting.
And scary? Yes, scary. At times that adrenaline rush is tempered by doubts and fears. In your less confident moments, you can't help but wonder:
Can I handle this?
Hold that thought a moment and think about the Apostle Paul. His life was an example of major change, of big ups and downs. First, his incredible conversion to Christ (Acts 9:1-19). Then his exciting, risk-filled missionary journeys.
Then there were those arrests—including one in Rome.
He'd gone to the big city with big dreams for turning around the lives of so many people. He wanted God to use him in a huge way. Then he was busted for his outspokenness about the life-changing power of Jesus. His plans seemed crushed. His spirits must have wavered between confidence and uncertainty.
While in Rome, while thinking it all through, Paul wrote a letter to his Christian friends in a city called Philippi. He admitted his disappointments and struggles. He also knew the Philippian Christians—and all believers—faced their own struggles and disappointments. But that wasn't all. Paul hadn't turned into a complainer. He didn't wallow in his pain and uncertainty. In fact, Paul writes excitedly about the opportunity he had to talk about his faith while in jail. He realized God worked through and in the ups and the downs of life. And he told his Christian friends that God was completing—finishing up—a really wonderful thing in them. And in anyone who chose to follow Christ (see Philippians 1:6-7).
In the face of danger and uncertainty, Paul knew God had mapped out the future, and it was God's business to see it to the end. No matter what his situation or his circumstances, Paul believed God was in total control. So, with confidence, he and the Philippians could turn their worries and fears into opportunities. And into hope.
Can you handle college? Can you take all the ups and downs? Can you deal with all the newness and all the uncertainty?
Maybe those are the wrong questions. Maybe a better question is this:
Can God handle it?
Not only can he handle it, but he can do something amazing through it all. He can take your freshman year and use it to turn you into a more complete, more mature Christ follower.
What an amazing promise! What a roller coaster ride!
Winn Collier is a writer and pastor at Downtown Community Fellowship in Clemson, South Carolina.