An Encouragement to Students

Tsilavo Ratsimbaharison | March 23, 2020

Postponed. Canceled. Closed until further notice. As our country and our community continue to respond to the unprecedented season we find ourselves in, I’ve continued to grow more sensitive to what our students must be thinking and feeling lately– especially my dear high school friends. Spring break has been extended, classes are moving online, sports are taking an indefinite break, and friends have to meet from at a distance.

“How long is this going to last? What about prom? What about graduation? What about me?” There seem to be more questions than answers lately. I won’t pretend that I have all of the answers but I do want to offer a few words of encouragement.

Take a look at how Paul encourages the church at Philippi: “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:5-7) 

Hopefully, these same words will serve to encourage you now and whenever you find yourself in a season where there seem to be more questions than answers. There are 3 things I want to draw your attention to:

  1. God’s Presence – The first thing Paul does is remind us that God is at hand. God is near. The Bible is filled with reminders of God’s presence, especially in times of uncertainty, confusion, or even trouble (see Psalm 46:1). In a season of distancing, I hope you’ll be encouraged by the promise of God’s presence. 
  2. God’s Attention – The Bible commands us to not be anxious about anything, not even a novel virus. However, it’s important that you and I don’t take this command to mean that God is somehow apathetic towards us. God is not dismissing or minimizing our anxiety, he wants in on it. He wants you to cast all of your anxieties on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). You have God’s attention– so much so that, instead of being anxious, he wants you to let your requests be made known to him (v. 6). The things that are causing you anxiety or fear right now are not too trivial or unimportant to your Heavenly Father. C.S. Lewis put it this way, “God has infinite attention to spare for each one of us.”
  3. God’s Peace – The command to not be anxious comes with the promise of God’s peace. The peace that God offers isn’t passive or dull and it’s not “warm and fuzzies” either. It’s not a bumper sticker. God’s peace surpasses all understanding. God’s peace guards our hearts and our minds with an assurance of God’s presence and his attention.

As I’ve considered how best to encourage our students in these next days and weeks, the encounter Jesus has with the rich young ruler keeps coming to mind. Mark’s account tells us that “Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (Mark 10:21). I hope you’ll be encouraged by the reality that, in the same way, Jesus sees you and he loves you.