Spiritual Care for Students Delaying Dreams

How long is your list of cancellations this year? Each month of 2020 seems to try to bring back one thing we lost and also takes away something many of us were looking forward to. A majority of my day is spent helping high school students who are transitioning to college. One of the most disappointing pieces of news that I have to deliver over and over again is telling a student that he or she waited too long to take advantage of an opportunity. Yes, deadlines are clearly stated, but additionally, some things “run out” if you do not jump on them quickly enough. In my job, this happens most often when classes fill up, when dorms reach capacity, or when scholarship money is used up. As if these missed opportunities were not difficult enough, many students in 2020 are also encountering cancellations from the world as well—through no direct fault of their own. We struggle in this together.

What Happens?

Our Lord tells us in Psalm 31 that our times are in God’s hand. Why, then, is the email box full of notices telling me that my trip, reservation, scholarship, opportunity, appointment, and on and on have been CANCELLED? Our times are in God’s hand. There is an old saying that if we pray for patience, then we will be given experiences that test our patience. Our limitations this year are testing our patience.

For those who teach college students, who are college students, or who care deeply for college-age students, here are some Scripturally based thoughts to inform us of how to treat the times we are in. My eighth-grade teacher loved two things and shared them quite openly with our class at St. John the Evangelist Lutheran School in Brooklyn, New York. The now peacefully at rest Ms. Carolyn Hupe loved (1) quoting Luke 16:10 and (2) asking the question, What happens to a postponed dream? Many of our young people are feeling this at the moment. Many people across generations are feeling as if some of their dreams have been deferred, at least this year. Imagine planning on starting your college journey, or studying abroad, or picking the perfect roommate to spend the next nine months with, and BOOM—cancelled. A dream postponed indeed.

What God Says

In Luke 16:10, we hear our Lord respond to what happens to these delayed dreams. In the parable of the shrewd manager, we all learn that which we think we own we indeed do not. Our time is not ours. Our plans are not ours. Our dreams are not solely ours nor are they entirely ours. The Book of Ecclesiastes teaches us that our time is not our own. In the familiar hymn “We Give Thee But Thine Own,” we hear this echoed as well. Our time, our plans, our dreams, and our futures rest in God’s hands.

This is not to be flippantly given as advice to a student feeling defeated or disheartened from being robbed of the experiences of youth but rather to serve as a backdrop for how to finish out our year. What can we do? How can we spiritually care for those entrusted to us? How can we make use of the time that happens between delayed dreams and desired realities?

How We Give Care

Luke 16:10 states, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” This is our call to be faithful through the very opportunities we have that seem to push our patience a little harder this year. Here are a few suggestions on how to use the “little” we have in preparation for the bigger and greater things to come, in God’s time and from His hand of bounty.

  1. Pray, fast, and read. Use the time to learn to understand the Shepherd’s voice.
  2. Connect even more deeply with the people around you, and resist the temptation to be engrossed with things.
  3. Seek out ways to serve others—remember, there are people who could benefit from being loved more fully in your own family, immediate community, and congregation.

Finally, remember the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” There is a spiritual discipline to be strengthened through God’s power in the waiting. Our time is not being wasted; we are being prepared by the Maker.

Scripture: ESV®.

Help yourself and others find comfort in Christ during times of unrest.

Read Faith in the Shadow of a Pandemic

Picture of Deaconess Janine Bolling
Janine Bolling is a Brooklyn-born-and-reared Millennial who is passionate about practical education and connecting people with resources. She works full-time as an admissions recruiter for SUNY, part-time as an adjunct professor of theology at Concordia College New York, and part-time as deaconess at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Brooklyn. The rest of her time is spent in EdD studies at Concordia University Wisconsin in the Leadership in Innovation and Continuous Improvement Program and with family and friends. Janine is a foodie and WILL fight you about why New York pizza is better than all other pizzas.

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