“But I don’t feel God, right now.”
How many times have college ministers heard a student say something like that? Students may be in a rut, may have come off an amazing spiritual experience, or may be in a season where their emotions are different, which means they don’t “feel” God like they used to.
When asked what it meant to “feel God,” a group of college girls described the feeling as safe, comfortable, and predictable. When God doesn’t feel like that, they think He isn’t there or isn’t speaking into their lives. As the conversation continued, and they processed what they were verbalizing, the girls realized that just because something new or different is happening in their spiritual lives doesn’t mean God isn’t close or at work.
So, how do we as college ministers, help our students when they don’t feel God? How can we point them to Jesus when they aren’t sure He is present? Here are four things to consider.
1. Point to God’s Word.
Before everything else, we must remind students of the truths found within Scripture and point them toward spending time in God’s Word. The Bible is filled with promises and reminders of God’s continual presence and work in the lives of His children. All in all, we must point them to Jesus!
2. Celebrate God’s faithfulness.
We can help students to “remember to remember” when they did feel God close and at work. The Israelites were told to pick stones and make an altar as they crossed the Jordan River, so they could point generations to come toward God’s faithfulness. We can help students identify stones in their lives that can be markers of God’s work and faithfulness. We can teach them the spiritual discipline of celebration and how to celebrate the anniversaries of what God has done in the past as a way to remember.
3. Share your stories.
Encourage students to ask those around them how they see God at work. When a student can hear someone else share a story or experience of God being at work, it can help him or her to see God’s work in his or her own lives. Often, when students don’t feel God, they have become isolated or don’t want to share what’s happening in their spiritual lives. However, we can encourage the sharing of stories and moments when God has been at work. As scripture says, we encourage one another to keep pressing into the Lord and keep at the journey.
4. Expect God’s unpredictable ways.
When students don’t feel God, they can look for Him in nature, music, art, physical activity, and so forth. One of those precious college girls said in the conversation, “When I don’t feel God, I look out the window and see Him.” We can encourage students to see God around them in different and unpredictable ways. When feeling God is equated to predictability, we as believers must look for the unpredictable.
If we’re honest, each of us as believers have moments of “not feeling God.” As college ministers, may we be found faithful to point students to God’s Word, to celebrate His past faithfulness, to share our own stories, and to expect His unpredictable ways.
Dr. Beth Masters works with college students at Mississippi College where she is the Director of Christian Life and Ministries. She also serves as a Ministry-Based Faculty member at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in the area of Collegiate Ministry. Beth loves young adults, baking, and coffee.