'The Fear'

It seems at this point in term, with an insurmountable pile of revision, deadlines on their third extension, and everyone comparing last year’s marks to work out exactly what percentage they need to scrape the grade, that people are terrified.

You walk around TESCOS and students are in a perpetual state of nervousness; comparing the hours they have been working with their friends as they hunt out the yellow-stickered items in the reduced section, on their third microwave meal of the week as they can’t justify the time spent to cook.

The library is even worse: with the expectation that ‘if you don’t arrive before 6am- you will not get a seat and you will definitely fail”. Try to open a packet of crisps for fuel, and the chances are you will receive death stares from at least twenty people who simply cannot take the noise.

 It is clear. Tensions are running high.

 And then there’s the question: “Have you got ‘the fear’ yet?” 

If the answer is yes, then head down, earphones in, let’s work until we physically can’t work any more, sleep, then do the same again.

If the answer is no- well that’s even more terrifying: why haven’t I got “the fear”? Why haven’t I reached that stage of utter panic? What’s wrong with me? If you didn’t have ‘the fear’ before, you certainly will now…

Then comes the inevitable stream of questions that follow exams: ‘what’s next?’ ‘What happens over the summer?’ ‘What’s your life plan?’ ‘Have you got a job?’ ‘If not why not?’ ‘How are you going to afford to go to this place/live there/do that?’

I just don’t know and I’m scared.

 And still the  black cloud that students up and down the country have labelled “the fear” is just hovering, causing bad sleep, stress, a lack of personal hygiene and the on-set of panic.  Quite frankly, it’s crippling. 

I would like to present to you what Jesus says about this “fear”. Out of the whole of the Bible, the instruction “DO NOT BE AFRAID” is the most common commandment we find.

Fear is the enemy of ambition, telling us that we’re not good enough, we won’t make it, and that we might just fail. It seems that when we are thinking from a place of fear, our dreams get paralysed: we cannot see the bigger picture. 

However, when we choose to step out of that attitude even for a short time, to look at Jesus not the dark cloud, we are released to consider our God-given purpose, our passions and our desires which go beyond the outcome of the next few weeks. This helps us to be set free from the time pressure and the crushing weight of expectations: the fear.

Do you know that God has a purpose for your life? In Jeremiah 29:11 God says: “For I know the plans I have for you… They are plans to prosper and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” That is a word given to every single one of us, no matter where we are at.

So over the next few weeks, I would really like to encourage you to take hold of this message: to allow yourself to dream again- maybe you’ve lost sight of the bigger picture and what you’re aiming for? 

Have the courage to look up and consider your purpose. 

Nelson Mandela said this: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.  The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” 

Whether you know it or not, God has an awesome plan for your life. He knows you and where you’re at, so lets conquer “the fear” through realising that whoever you are, wherever you’re from, you are capable of achieving great things through Jesus.  To return to Jesus’ words: “take heart, do not let your hearts be troubled and DO NOT BE AFRAID.”

 Final year student Esther recently gave a talk in her college chapel at Durham University. Her words capture where many students are currently living and this blog has taken extracts from her talk. We believe the message Esther brought should be heard further. 

Miriam Swanson

Global Student Mission Leader

Miriam helps equip the church for student mission internationally. She's based in the USA and hungry to see young adults follow Jesus with all of who they are. 

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