I began my college years ready to conquer the world for Christ. The reality of my journey, however, tells quite a different story. College, for me, was a roller coaster — from incredible joys to the most debilitating doubts I ever experienced. Recalling these years once again, I joyfully recognize God’s providence, even through the dark valleys I walked.
Although I had decided to attend a secular college with professors who were predominantly non-Christian, there was still a great deal of good to be found, and it came in the form of learning — both in and out of the classroom. Part of this learning was discovering who I was: I was introspective, always asking questions, and very interested in understanding how people think and how the world works. This led me to major in philosophy.
In the classroom, I continued to learn many profitable truths from the secular philosophers I studied: Thomas Hobbes taught me of the great wretchedness in man and the need for a remedy (for Hobbes, the remedy was government). Friedrich Nietzsche and Albert Camus taught me the folly of life without God and the utter despair that accompanies that worldview. And Blaise Pascal helped me understand these two truths in light of Jesus: “Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride. Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair. Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance because he shows us both God and our own wretchedness.” While the Lord gave me grace to understand some things right away, many struggles took years for me to finally overcome.
Not too long ago, I came across the following definition of Christianity on the internet:
Christianity is the belief that a cosmic Jewish zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.
This definition represents the majority view among the professors I encountered at college. This vehement skepticism is probably why 75 to 90 percent of high school seniors who profess Christianity abandon their faith by the time they graduate college.
The world I entered as a college student was a God-ignoring culture filled with more “isms” (pluralism, relativism, individualism) and more addictions (drug, alcohol, pornography) than I dreamed possible. More than that, college was a continual onslaught of objections to Christianity. Professors and students would ask: How could a book written by so many different authors contain no errors? Doesn’t science disprove God? Who would believe in a book that describes floating axe heads and talking donkeys and snakes? Doesn’t Christian faith preclude rationality? If God is so good, why is there so much evil in the world? Good questions. But not questions without good answers.
It was my junior year in college, and unanswered questions about Christianity were fixed in my mind. I began doubting the faith. At this point in my life, I had been heav ily involved in the church, teaching numerous adult Bible classes and ministering to the youth. Even with all that involvement, I was still sinking slowly into a mire that sought to consume me. To make matters worse, I was engaged to a wonderful Christian woman, and I was too scared to tell her or anyone else about my doubts.
At the end of my junior year, the doubts became too great for me to bear, so, by the grace of God, I went to my pastor to explain what was happening. I had many unanswered questions that seemed irresolvable. I unloaded some of these on my pastor. He responded: “It’s clear that you don’t want any part of Christianity if it isn’t true, so go find out — test it — and hold fast to the truth (1 Thess. 5:21).” His words gave me courage to ask the difficult questions and seek out the best answers. It was at that point that God began to turn my darkness into something very beautiful.
I sought out brothers to help bear my burdens (Gal. 6:2). These brothers spoke the truth of God to me and were the means by which God preserved my heart and mind throughout college. Just as a broken bone heals back stronger, so the Lord took my brokenness and strengthened my faith (Ps. 34:18).
Many of our modern universities are profoundly alienated from God; thus, struggling in college comes as no surprise. Let us remember that we are not alone (Heb. 13:5). For we have the Great High Priest who knows our struggles, who relates to us, and who has overcome the world (John 16:33; 1 John 5:4). Christianity is not to be lived in isolation: We must look to Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, and look to godly men and women to help bear our burdens.