University sometimes lives up to its name. Sometimes we truly are a “community of truth seekers.” Then we embody one of our most idealized visions of university life. Truth seeking will direct us into the big questions of life. When that happens most of us are likely to experience a disorienting wave of not knowing. This dis-equilibrium is often a necessary part of learning: knowing that I don’t know; knowing that I must seek; knowing that I must ask.
Truth brings us into spiritual questions and a spiritual quest. Many people panic, ignore, and coverup these questions. We are not in the habit of leaning into spiritual questions. Consider our avoidance of reflection and consideration of death is one example of our efforts to avoid spiritual struggle.
Spiritual Struggle and University
The Huffington Post reports on recent studies examining the spiritual lives of university students. The conclusion regarding spiritual struggles and its dis-equilibrium are not encouraging for our current generation of students.
“Findings in this study suggest that spiritual struggles are a significant factor in the health and well-being of college students,” researchers reported in the latest issue of the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. “These results suggest that students may be utilizing unhealthy patterns (e.g., addiction) as one way to cope with their spiritual struggles and other life stressors.”
The finding is consistent with a developing body of research revealing the complex nature of religion and mental health. The assurance of a loving God concerned with their welfare helps many people deal with life’s stresses, but individuals with a less secure attachment to the divine may face greater problems with anxiety and depression.
The challenge for caregivers and religious individuals and communities is to help people through their periods of struggle with doubts that can be part of an active spiritual journey.
The mind has little patience for ambiguity and mystery unless there is a framework speaking to it. As a follower of Jesus I know Christian faith must become my own. The process of owning faith often involves struggle. Struggle is part of faith.
Knowing Jesus has not been the end of spiritual struggle. Rather Jesus brings me into the challenge to learn and grow in my faith. Following Him brings me directly in contact with the darkest aspects of our brokenness.
Knowing I am Loved
But what has been steady, is a clear and enduring attachment to God through Jesus Christ. I know I am loved. And its this confidence I wish for all our friends in Origin Church and in the UBC campus community. Grace, the unmerited favour of God, for the forgiveness of sin through Jesus’ work and the promise of ever-present and on-going life in His presence, has allowed me to live loved. Meaning and purpose for life, for studies, for virtue and morality, and for hope is found in Him. We believe you were born for more than existential despair or bondage to your passions.
I do remember times and seasons of my life when my questions have sent me reeling. Its too easy to seek a temporary restoration of a shallow happiness by turning to people, my achievements, my appetites, or my ambition for wealth as a salve. These are easy and available. They are championed by many as ready-made solutions. Yet, they were never meant to bear the weight of our souls. We will be crushed under them and in turn we will crush others up on whom we lay our souls, unless we lay our soul on Jesus Christ. He is the champion of God over sin, disillusionment, and even death. I have come to believe only Jesus is sufficient. I believe Jesus cares.
So who cares when you are reeling over your questions of life?
Jesus cares. I care. And there are others in communities of faith in Christ who care. Chaplains from a variety of perspectives at your university care. I encourage you to enter into a circle of hope, faith and love built around the person of Jesus Christ. I invite you to come and see what our life with Jesus is like before, after, and even during that period of life with the questions that spin our souls and leave us reeling.
University can be a period of intense growth. You can become a person of courage, humility, love, and integrity. University can be a season when faith deepens and grows not in despair but in joy!