If I’ve learnt one thing from this term just gone at university it’s that if I’m going to see anything worthwhile happen I have to be able to trust God to do it. It’s a message that I’ve heard countless times in the past, and have continued to hear countless times over the term, that my strength and my will is not enough to get the job done. If I want to see God’s will done in the world around me then I have to be able to step back and let Him get on with it.
‘An exercise in trust’ would be one way to describe this semester. I went back to catered halls for the second year raring to go after summer conferences like New Wine and Momentum, but all too soon the repetitive mediocrity of halls life bled some of that passion away and my first weeks back ended up looking far from astounding. They were not without hope, however, and a combination of my church and the people that God had put around me from first year, along with a few newer faces, ensured that I wasn’t burnt out and that I continued to be encouraged when I needed it most.
I’m not telling you this as a sob story, or to make you think that I had a terrible few weeks, because I definitely didn’t. I just didn’t see God moving in the way that I expected Him to and I didn’t see myself living for Him in the way that I’d envisaged over summer. It wasn’t that I was doing a lot wrong, it was just that I was becoming more and more frustrated in my own efforts to actually do something worth doing.
The Bible passage that I kept going back to over and over again in that time and now was this:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
It’s that act of bringing every situation to God that makes all the difference. I can do nothing in my own efforts and in my own worry. As far as I’m concerned now, my role is to bring everything before God and to receive that peace that He promises.
This doesn’t mean that I’m absolved of all responsibility. The way I understand it, if I ask God to do something in prayer then I need to be prepared to be part of the solution if He wants me to be. I’ll use the example of someone coming to know God (I haven’t seen this personally at Uni but I’m hopeful). If I pray to God and ask that He comes into someone’s life and reveals Himself to them in order that they can come to a saving knowledge of Him, then I’m starting off the right way. I’m bringing it to Him in prayer and petition rather than struggling through on my own (which I’ve attempted far too often). In that prayer, I’m acknowledging that it is God’s responsibility ultimately to deal with the situation – in this example, He is responsible for the change of heart that leads to salvation – but I’m not resigning myself to inaction. In that prayer I am also handing myself over to God, not just the other person, by saying that if God wants to use me in that person’s salvation then I will let Him do so. I am still trusting God with the situation but I am not divorcing myself from it, because it is our privilege to be instruments of God’s will if He wishes us to be.
This process of prayer and submission has been something that I’ve had to learn over the last term and even now I know I’m still only beginning to grasp what it actually means. It’s still difficult to give everything over to God and not to worry about anything; it’s difficult to rely on His strength and not mine. But also began to see God work far more powerfully towards the end of term, when I was starting to learn this, than I did at the start. Suddenly conversations with non-Christians came far more naturally, and opportunities to do God’s will became more common. It’s bizarre, but I guess I’ve learnt that the less you try to do for God on your own, the more He actually gives you to do.
And so I’m writing this now in the Christmas holidays not exactly where I want to be, not perfect and not doing everything that I should be, but happy because I know that I’ve seen God work this semester, and happy because I know that He’s taught me some lessons that I needed to learn. If you’re in a position of frustration like I was, then I hope that this is an encouragement to you, and I would recommend that you read the whole of Philippians, which has some incredibly affirming and comforting verses in it. God works in mysterious ways, but He does work, and I’ve found that He works most when we actually let Him, and don’t crowd Him out with our own efforts that will inevitably fail. He’s got it covered, but we need to trust Him in that.