Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. -Matthew 6:31-33
It is encouraging and helpful to consider Christ’s instructions not to worry about tomorrow. But how does this practically play out when tomorrow includes a math test, soccer game, and inevitable encounter with a bully? How do we prepare for the future without worrying about it? Students have many anxieties and stressors that can creep in and take over head space, threatening to overwhelm and drown out the peace that Jesus offers. It is important to find balance and rest, and to prioritize what elements in life are worthy of time and attention. As the school year continues and pressure seems to mount from all sides, it is essential to focus on how God is our source of strength and comfort, and how He will care for each and every one of our needs.
Everyday life as a student includes a tremendous amount of stress. Academically, there are classroom responsibilities, including time-consuming homework and tests to prepare for. If high school is nearing later stages, there’s the added worry of looking at the future and considering whether to go to college or enter the working field. It builds up quickly.
Strain can also develop from the demands of extracurricular activities. Sports, jobs, and clubs add to the workload and responsibilities. When the juggling act of life becomes too frenetic, even church activities can feel like a chore or be forgotten altogether.
On a personal level, though, there are also social pressures. We want to fit in, but not give in to peer pressure. We want to make and keep friends and be liked, but sometimes the “in-crowd” landscape shifts easily and is challenging to navigate.
So how do we deal with all of these internal and external demands? Calm comes in the continual return to God’s presence. As the psalmist reminds us,
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble. -Psalm 46:1
Despite pressure and uncertainty, God calls us to be still and to know that He has our lives under control. Sure, it’s still important to take care of personal responsibilities, turn in assignments, and fulfill obligations. But we do that because God gives us the ability.
Resting in His power also means that sometimes we can let things go. It’s okay to not take up every activity that comes along, if this causes chaos that drowns out the Lord’s voice. Jesus is our refuge and strength who defeats sin and temptation in our lives. Thriving as a Child of God means we can be secure in our Baptism, secure in Jesus’ love and grace.
As days turn into weeks and stress increases, check in with spiritual habits. Am I in worship every week? Has homework eclipsed prayer time? Are sports taking precedence over Bible study groups? Re-commit to putting faith first and foremost. Our relationship with God is not just one of many compartmentalized commitments. It should be the central engine that drives all other activities. It might be helpful to find an accountability partner or two who can check in and support you when things become overwhelming or we drift from the places God promises to be.
Planning, preparing, and following through are necessary. Sometimes, though, the best we can do is to return to living one day at a time. Seek first the kingdom of God, and all the rest will be added.
Lord God, thank you for holding my life in your hands. Please help me to trust in you when life is uncertain or challenging. Guide me through each day, and allow my life to honor you, in and out of school. I praise you for who you are and the comfort you provide. Amen.
- When do you find it most challenging to have peace or focus on the Lord?
- What helps you calm down when you are under a lot of stress?
- Who can keep you accountable in your prayer and Bible Study habits?