The Pressures of a College Graduate During COVID-19 By Shelby Abbott
You had it all planned out. You were doing your research and fine-tuning your resumé. You were preparing for the future: graduation in May, summer internship that would go through August, saying “yes” to the dream job where you knew you could make the most impact, earn some money, get married, buy a dog, raise a family, change the world, die peacefully in your late 90s while holding hands with your great-grandchildren.
You know, normal life planning stuff. But then…
Then, this virus came along and changed everything. Classes got moved online. They closed campus. The interview you had set up got cancelled. Instead of moving at the end of the semester to a new town, you had to move back home with your parents. Maybe you got to stay in your apartment, but the whole area around campus is like a ghost town. The job you had waiting tables that was helping to pay the bills got nixed because the restaurant has been shut down indefinitely.
Nothing about your life is going according to plan right now. It’s not fair. What is God doing? What’s going to happen during this prolonged season of quarantine? How will you recover from all this once the world starts spinning again?
These are totally justifiable questions and concerns to have during a time as unpredictable as this. The unexpected stresses you’re currently experiencing as a graduating college student are normal and undoubtedly plentiful amongst you and your peers.
The great unknown you were prepping for has suddenly morphed into a much larger great unknown because nobody has walked this path before. It’s kind of hard to get wisdom about how to proceed when the entire world seems to be shrugging their shoulders concerning questions about COVID-19.
But where humans fall short, God is always there with wisdom from his Word. Yes, the pressure points in this season seem more intense because of our current circumstances, but I’ve found that adulthood in general is in the regular habit of throwing us curveballs. The unpredictable will always be a part of your life.
Knowing that, here are three specific pressures you might be experiencing in present day, and how to use them to construct a deeper sense of maturity and godly character for the future.
1. Wondering what God’s will is for your life in all of this. Finding out what God wants us to do in life has to begin with asking the right question, and What is God’s will for my life? is simply the wrong question to ask.
There’s an assumption within the question itself that we want God to bless us with what will make us most happy because it’s all about me. The question is asked through western cultural values that place control, comfort, prosperity, individualism, and safety above all else (many of which are being stripped from us by the pandemic).
Truthfully, the more appropriate question should be, During this unique season, how does my life fit into God’s will? This is how to ask the question correctly because it’s taking into account the bigger picture of how God is working in the world. It assumes the plot of the story isn’t about you, but about him. He is the main character. He is doing something amazing in the hearts of people, and we should want to know how we can be a part of what is already happening as he is moving.
Let me give you an example. I believe that now, more than ever, people will be more naturally inclined to talk about God and spiritual subjects. No doubt, your fellow students are bored on their devices because of school closures, so why not invest this time well instead of just spending it?
You can record yourself talking about what God has done in your life, how Christ has changed you, or what you’ve been learning lately. Encourage people to DM you, respond with a comment, or post a question in relation to what you’ve shared. This time can open relational doors unlike any time before because there’s a more captive audience.
People are scrolling, so what would it look like for God to use you and bring the light of the good news into your friend’s lives? Now, perhaps more than ever, is a great time to talk with someone about God’s love for them in Jesus Christ. This is just one extraordinary way you can proactively use your life to fit into God’s will.
2. Wondering what to do with all of this “slow time.” The coronavirus has forced all of us to stop our regular daily routine and slow our lives down. Many people welcome this, and yet for some it’s excruciating to operate at what seems like a snail’s pace.
I’m reminded of Psalm 62 that says, “For God alone my soul waits in silence,” (62:1 ESV) and then followed closely by, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence” (62:5). Verse 1 seems to be stating a fact, and verse 5 seems to be a personal pep talk from King David to himself, reminding him to absorb the truth that he just stated in verse 1.
I love this because it’s so easy to relate to. In times like these, our minds have the tendency to ping-pong back and forth between hope and despair, peace and anxiety, godly comfort and fear. Apparently, we’re in good company with David. But the subject matter of Psalm 62 is even more compelling—wait for God in silence.
As an American college student who’s graduating and getting ready to go out into the world, I’m guessing you struggle just a smidge with waiting in silence. Honestly, I do too.
Slow time can be soothing to our often-agitated hearts and minds. And since the virus is forcing us to slow down, let’s not get more agitated. Let’s practice proactive waiting in silence for God.
That can look like a number of different things during this time of quarantine. You can hand-write out a journal to capture your specific thoughts and prayers. You can download a prayer app to your phone (I use PrayerMate) and routinely pray for your friends, family, school, future, country, and planet. You can pick a Scripture and meditate on it for an extended period of time…time where you don’t speak or let your mind wander, but instead listen to God through his word. And I’m sure there are many other ways to wait in silence on God. It’s a great time to be doing so.
3. Wondering how you’re going to take care of yourself, both now and after this is over. One of the obvious benefits from COVID-19 for me has been that the pandemic itself opposes the illusion of human self-sufficiency and autonomy.
Paul David Tripp once wrote, “The development of spiritual maturity is a move from independence to great dependence on God. Exposing our delusion of self-sufficiency is a painful thing, but a good thing.” I love this because it’s so obviously true, but also completely counterintuitive to all my humanly instincts.
As people, we like to believe that we are so sophisticated and competent. Yet all evidence is to the contrary right now—it only takes one microscopic virus to stop the entire world in its tracks. You should let this be a reminder that you cannot take care of yourself now or after the dust settles from this event. You were created to live in great dependence on the Creator.
* * *
It’s in these moments that we must point out to ourselves that the Lord is upright and there is no unrighteousness in him (Psalm 92:15). He is good and sovereign over all things (Ephesians 1:11). He can do all things, and no purpose of his can be thwarted (Job 42:2).
Learning to lean on these truths now as a young college graduate during a worldwide pandemic will begin to mold and shape you into the man or woman God wants you to be. Don’t waste your pain in this time. Use these unique pressures in such a time as this (Esther 4:14) as a means for God to show you how much potential exists in you when you submit to his skillful, loving work in the world.
About the author
Shelby Abbott is an author, campus minister, and conference speaker on staff with the ministry of Cru. His passion for university students has led him to speak at college campuses all over the United States.
Abbott is the author of Jacked and I Am a Tool (To Help with Your Dating Life). His latest release is Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress. He and his wife, Rachael, have two daughters and live in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.
This humorous, poignant, and conversational guide invites young men and women to practically apply gospel solutions to all of life’s pressures, big or small. From navigating failure, roadblocks, and spiritual warfare to tackling relevant, hard-hitting topics such as drinking, sex, dating, pornography, and the fear of missing out, Pressure Points by Shelby Abbott encourages college students to consider Jesus in the midst of everyday struggles.
With twenty years of experience in college ministry, Shelby Abbott is keenly aware of the pressures young men and women face. Used for biblical reflection, group discussion, devotional reading, or large group Bible study discussion, Pressure Points is full of rich gospel hope for all readers. This flexible resource points to Scripture and Abbott’s funny, easily digestible reflections to help modern-day college students maneuver their early years toward the gospel, challenging young adults to see their struggles through a biblical lens.
By addressing relevant challenges and practical hardships with gospel advice, Pressure Points guides readers to see and lean on the person of Jesus, reflecting on important issues in light of the gospel. From waiting on the Lord with patience, learning to fellowship with him in his sufferings, to wrestling with purpose, relationships, and the growing challenges of today’s culture, Pressure Points is a timely and refreshing voice for young people pointing to a bottomless pit of grace.