I just finished up having my fourth cup of coffee and student check-in of the day, and if I am honest, I gave the same talk…all four times. More and more of my students are seriously struggling with anxiety and worry. My phone is endlessly vibrating with students texting about meeting up to talk about their worries. They worry about grades, their majors, their faith, their church, their parents, their siblings, their friends, what others think about them, what others are saying about them, their futures, their love lives, their work, their finances, government, laws, and, well the list could go on and on.
This past fall, our university held an in-service for the faculty and staff to educate us on our student mental health services. The information they shared showed a dramatic increase in students seeking counseling and help due to worry and anxiety.
I feel like one of my primary jobs with students during their collegiate season is to help them discover how not to worry, but how to have peace and a proper relationship with all the various “things or emotions” we encounter. Ultimately, peace is found and accomplished through our relationship with God, rooted in Christ.
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, HCSB)
If you have students who are struggling with worry and anxiety, here are some reminders for them:
- Worrying is wasteful.“Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that we should be thankful in everything, not for everything. Helping my students have an attitude and posture of gratitude is vital. I make them list what they are thankful for—even if it seems cheesy.
- Worrying will harm us. My grandmother used to say that worrying never solved a problem, but it often created more. Worry impacts our body, faith, emotions, and perceptions. It is contagious, and it spreads to our relationships and the way we interact with others. It harms them. It harms our view of God. It always skews our perspective on people’s reactions and interactions with us.
- Worrying is sinful. Growing up, my mother always told me that life is 10% circumstance and 90% the way we react. When we worry, we are not putting our full trust in the Lord. “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matthew 6:31-33). We need to pray about all things. God wants all our problems, even the little things. This will help us learn His voice.
- Worry impacts your thoughts. Set your mind on things above. “So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God.Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth.For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). We must control our thought life. Dwell on the good and right. You can choose your thoughts. Taking captive our thoughts is a spiritual discipline for Jesus-followers and takes active will and practice.
I always wrap up the “say goodbye to worry” talk with: Do the right thing…always. A lot of worry is due to actions or perceived actions. So, a cure for worry is to maintain integrity in all areas of our lives. The more you strive to be a person of integrity and right motives, the less that worry and anxiety will impact you.
When we learn to trust God in everything and in every season, we will know peace that surpasses all understanding—a peace that Jesus brings.
Sarah Farley is the Associate Campus Minister at LSU Baptist Collegiate Ministry. She loves burgers, SEC football, and spending time with her students. Oh, and she loves coffee…a lot.