4 Ways College Will Challenge Your Faith

I hope you enjoy Emilee’s post on faith and college as much as I did. College has definitely been a giant challenge in my life, and these points are so relatable. Enjoy!!


4 Ways that College Will Strengthen Your Faith

Since I started college in August, my faith has been challenged—and strengthened—by so many different aspects of typical college life. Here are the four that have tested me the most:

1. Time

Being a full-time student is hard! I decided to take five classes this semester, and even though they’re pretty general, I still have to spend hours each week on worksheets, essays, quizzes, and studying outside of class. When I actually do get all my obligations out of the way, I’d much rather collapse up on the couch and watch a movie than crack open my Bible or pray. It’s tempting to want to relax when you’ve spent a long day in class, but complacency makes your faith stop growing.

God isn’t meant to be last place in our daily lives.

When I started getting busy with schoolwork, I didn’t have the time for prayer and Bible study, and I didn’t make the time, either—I was tired, and I had to get up early the next morning, and, well, the excuses kept piling up. Days and weeks without God time can accumulate easily. And when you put Him on the back burner, living without the continual guidance of His word and presence, He suddenly seems very, very far away when you realize you need Him.

College is a challenging season, so don’t grow away from your strongest support system.

To keep the daily obligations of classes and homework from stealing your time with God away, be careful with how you spend your time. You’ll probably have to carve out a specific portion of your day just for Bible study and prayer. That could mean decreasing certain activities or just decreasing the time you spend doing them, or you could find creative ways to incorporate God into your day—Christian radio, lunchtime Bible study, or listening to scripture in the car.

(I discovered cassette adapters a few weeks ago—absolutely fantastic, since my Subaru is almost my age).

2. Stress

As earlier mentioned, curling up and watching Netflix is my favorite thing to do on those rare occasions when I have nothing to do. Curiously, it’s also my favorite thing to do when I have so much to get done! I have to defer everything for a couple hours or risk a nervous breakdown. And when I have those kinds of days, where I have two tests in four hours and three papers due by the weekend, I find myself so frazzled that I turn to Titanic and Chunky Monkey ice cream (no shame here).

Stress is pretty much inevitable for a college student balancing the workload of half a dozen classes, as well as countless other obligations with friends, family, work, and church. It’s how you choose to deal with that stress that demonstrates your maturity in Christ.

Although it’s tempting to cry, overeat, or watch your favorite movie for the 500th time, handing your stress over to God is a much wiser decision. Junk food, TV, smoking, drugs, or even aimlessly surfing the internet can’t help you at the very root of your stress. Worldly things like those are just distractions from the only One who gives us peace beyond all understanding—beyond your failed Biology test or upcoming research paper.

3. Professors

My community college is pretty conservative—Bibles and Christian literature are often handed out without much opposition, and Christianity is the only religion with an organized club on our campus. I’m glad to have a science professor who doesn’t try to convince my class of ideas Christians generally disagree with, but I have encountered one professor who makes daily snide comments about the Bible, Christians, Jesus, and Christianity’s conservatism.

Everyone has a right to their opinion, of course, and I’d much rather him voice it than be oppressed by Christians. However, biting comments can easily put a seed of doubt into your mind. When your very intelligent, respectable professor points out the flaws in what you believe, it’s tempting to begin to question for yourself.

At colleges where Christianity is not widely accepted (and sometimes even looked down upon), it can be hard to stand strong for what you believe and hold on to that. Recent statistics show that many young Christians abandon their faith in college, and I can honestly understand this—who wants to be a lone voice in a tsunami of opposition?

College can be a constant onslaught of a million voices telling you’re your beliefs are wrong, and the criticism can hurt, especially from professors or other respected people. This is why God is more necessary now than ever—He is our Rock and our Truth in spite of what others say to us.

4. Friends and Classmates

Socializing is a very important part of the college experience, and making new friends is so exciting!  A lot of the people you meet will be from places that seem a world away from your little hometown, and it’s fun to learn about a lifestyle and culture that is very different from your own. Being invited out for a group lunch or sitting beside someone new is a great feeling, but you have to be careful that your relationships always honor God first.

As much as I’d love to be friends with everyone, that just isn’t possible—or wise.

Hanging around people who swear a lot, drink and party, or don’t keep their grades up is probably not a very good decision—it’s generally true that you are who your friends are, after all. The relationships you make with others should give glory to God and be encouraging and positive.

You have enough going on in your life right now and you don’t need other people to hold you back from your faith!

And just like the challenge that some professors present, classmates can also test your faith. When all your peers around you voice their disapproval of Christian beliefs or religious ideas, it can be tempting to also doubt with them. Being in the minority is discouraging. But don’t lose your faith because of a few critics—God has shown his existence to you, and you have to cling hard to his truth. Sometimes it can be the only way to keep your sanity in college!

How has your faith been challenged in college?

What steps could you take to stay close to God in college or another new season?


IMG_1563 Emilee Hackney is a recent high school graduate living in the
mountains in Tazewell, VA. She is attending a local college
this fall where she hopes to discover God’s plan for her career. She
loves her grandma’s house, her boyfriend of three and a half years,
and anything with an unhealthy amount of sugar.


  1. says

    Your first three points are great. In many busy seasons of my life, including college, I’ve gotten a lot out of reading Forward Day By Day at bedtime; the readings are short but can really draw you closer to God, and when you have time you can read any of the scriptures that are suggested for the day–my experience with that usually has been that if I look up one of those, I’ll get “sucked in” to reading a lot more Bible than the few verses cited.

    Another way to work prayer into your daily life AND to reduce stress is to pray whenever you are waiting.

    About friends, though: If “you are who your friends are,” you’re doing it wrong! Draw upon God for the strength to be yourself and to let God’s light shine through you to reach others. Jesus was not afraid to hang out with people of different lifestyles and cultures, and I think we should follow his example.

    20 years ago this month, I graduated from a university that had a lot of outspoken atheist students, a lot of Jews, and a lot of people who just thought religion wasn’t worth the bother. I had a lot of friends from all of those groups, as well as several Christians and a Hindu. I found that explaining my faith when it came up, and being willing to listen to what others wanted to say about their beliefs, was good for all of us. Explaining WHY my beliefs are right helped me to understand them better myself.

    So yes, of course, “The relationships you make with others should give glory to God and be encouraging and positive,” but that doesn’t mean having relationships only with well-behaved people. Being encouraging and positive is more helpful to people who are struggling than to those who are already on a good path, and God is glorified when we reach out to others.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention attending church! For me, getting up on Sunday morning, getting dressed a little nicer than usual, and walking to church was an important way of prioritizing God over laziness and an important break from my schoolwork. Two hours sitting in a beautiful place hearing about God was a different experience from trying to pray alone in my room. Being surrounded by Christians, and having a chance at coffee hour to talk with some adults who had different perspectives from students, were helpful too. I did go to a campus Christian group several times, but it was not as inspiring to me as attending church.
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