As I stepped into church and made eye contact with my youth leader, Dave, my heart sank in sadness. I felt so bummed, knowing that this was my last Sunday before leaving for college.
I felt even more sad as I looked up at the large, wooden cross hanging on the sanctuary wall. I'd spent the past 13 years staring at that beautiful cross as I listened to sermons and sang hymns. I couldn't believe I wouldn't see itor Pastor or Dave or any of my other church friendseach and every Sunday. I fought back tears as Dave approached me.
"So, are you excited about heading off to college?" he asked enthusiastically.
"Not really," I admitted, choking back tears. "I like life the way it is."
"But you don't know how great college can be," Dave said. "God has cool things in store for you over the next four years."
I wasn't thinking about those things. Instead, I was afraid of moving to someplace new. I worried about making friends and finding a church.
"How can I be sure I'll be happy at college?" I asked.
Nothing could get in the way of the great plans God had in store for me.
"You've got to trust God," Dave said simply. "Trust that he has your best interest at heart."
Trust God. It seemed so easy for Dave to say, but it seemed so hard to do. I'd always felt better about going into an unknown situation if I had first done everything I could to prepare for it. But I didn't know how to get myself ready for college.
That evening, I swept my hair into a ponytail and laced up my Nikes. I thought a long run would help me clear my mind. As I ran, one verse kept going through my thoughts: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give hope and a future'" (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
The verse helped put my mind at ease and assured me of God's love for me. No matter what happened next year, nothing would get in the way of the great plans God had in store for me.
You may be facing similar fears, wondering whether you'll be able to handle college life. Perhaps you struggle to let go of the old and embrace new experiences, but that's exactly what God wants you to do. He wants you to open your heart, mind and soul to all of the great opportunities that he will create for you.
It's true that the unknown can be scary, but you can find hope and even courage in another promise from God's Word:
"The Lord your God will go with you. He will never leave you. He'll never desert you" (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIRV).
God promises that no matter where you go, he will never leave you, he will always love you. The Lord has shown the depth of his love by sacrificing his Son to cleanse us of our sins. There is no demonstration of love more powerful than that.
As you prepare to go away to college, try not to focus on what you're leaving behind. Instead, psych yourself up for all of the positives awaiting you: the great people you'll meet, the fun times you'll have, the knowledge you'll gain, and all of the excitement that comes with college life. So, pack your bags, rejoice and be glad. Your new adventure with God is about to begin.