Hey everyone, welcome back to Serenity in The Spirit :)
As some of you may know I recently received my results for my final year at university and I know now that I will be graduating with a First Class! I am super happy and very proud of my achievements over the past few years but I know that none of it would have been possible without God.
I wanted to share a little bit about my university journey to encourage anyone who may have had a similar experience or who may be worried about going to university in September. God has brought me so far since September 2015 and He can do the same for you.
Since I knew I wanted to go to university, Aston was my first choice. I couldn't place my finger on the reason why, I just knew I wanted to go there. However, it was slightly out of my league...they wanted ABB and I was only predicted ABC and at some points while studying my A-Levels I doubted I would even be able to achieve that! But, God is good and despite earning ABC and not the ABB requested I was accepted into Aston University!
As I mentioned in my welcome post, I was brought up in a Christian household and attended church regularly for all of my life before going to university but I would not say I understood the real meaning of having a relationship with God. When going to university I definitely planned to find a church and join the Christian Union but, if i'm being honest, it wasn't a priority. I was pretty shy back then and the friends I had made during freshers were not Christian which made it all the more difficult to step out. At the time, I didn't realise that God cared about every part of my life so I didn't even think to pray and ask for courage or for christian friends.
After settling in, I can’t remember how, but at some point I exchanged numbers with a Christian and I decided to go to church. Whilst I did enjoy the service, I found it pretty difficult to feel at home there. Most people knew each other already and I imagined I would have found it very difficult to fit in. This put me off and once again, my walk with God took a backseat. If I remember correctly, I did still pray and occasionally read my Bible but I was mostly concerned with the academic and social aspects of university. Academically, I wanted to achieve a first even though it didn’t technically count towards my degree (I stand by this) but socially, I would say I definitely sought validation and acceptance from those around me. I now realise that the only acceptance we need comes from God.
Towards the end of first year I actually did try going back to the church I had visited but this time with a different friend I had made on my course. I went a few times even sometimes on my own but, despite answering a few altar calls, I still hadn’t grasped the concept that Christianity is more than a religion, it’s a relationship. (FYI: in summary, an altar call is when you respond to a pastor’s sermon and make the decision to accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour).
So we get to second year - probably the most juicy to read but a very dangerous time spiritually. Firstly, it was during second year that no longer had the intention of going to church and I began to believe that religion was made up. I felt that surely if there was a God, there wouldn’t be so much suffering. I felt religion placed unnecessary restrictions on people and that we should just, essentially, live and let live.
Before this though, I met my first boyfriend. Despite both of us believing (distantly) that there was a God we did not include Him in our relationship. Despite saying ‘I love you’ to each other, we really didn’t always act like it. Since growing in my relationship with God, I’ve learnt that love is more than a feeling and simply doing nice things for people (which can be hard enough in itself), it is a decision. You have to choose to love someone every single day and, at times, we certainly failed to live out the biblical definition of love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) in that relationship.
Nevertheless, when we broke up, I felt heartbroken because I felt like I would never find anyone to love me again (the devil is a LIAR!). On top of this I had 3 pieces of coursework due in and my grandad was very sick and passed away. I’m not saying this for sympathy, I’m saying this to show that despite not actively pursuing God in this time, He was still with me and He still gave me strength. I was able to hand in all of my coursework a couple of days early and achieved good grades in all 3 - God’s hand was truly at work in my life. God was also definitely at work when securing my 1 year work placement at GE Aviation. Despite my interview not going as well as I had hoped, I got the job and moved to Cheltenham in June 2017.
At this point, I would say I believed in God but, to be honest, I just didn't want to live by the rules of a religion. During this time I was dating someone else but, again, the relationship did not include God which meant it came to an end after a few months.
It was after this I was invited to a church comedy night (shout out to Trinity Church, Cheltenham!) and I decided to go after being told it wouldn't be super religious. During the comedy night, they advertised that they were hosting an 'Alpha' course which introduces the Christian faith through talks and then a time of discussion/Q&A. I decided to give it a try as I had developed a number of questions in my time of doubt. These questions included 'If Jesus was a Jew, where did Christianity come from?' and 'Why is there suffering?' etc. After a few weeks, all of my questions were answered and I began to fall in love with God again. I started attending Trinity and it was here I learnt that following Jesus is more about relationship than religion. During this time, I also began to get to know the fellow GE intern who invited me to the comedy night and God's hand was at work in that relationship. He is now my boyfriend - this testimony is long enough for its own post!
In June 2018, my internship came to an end and I had gained so much more than a year's worth of experience, I had gained some amazing friends and restored the most important relationship of them all - my relationship with my Creator. July 2018 was another incredible month for me, I went to Canada and learnt even more about cultivating my relationship with God thanks to my amazing family. During summer 2018, I spent a lot of time with God, in His word, watching sermons, listening to worship music etc. and I truly believe this prepared me for my final year at university. Whilst most people feel stressed and apprehensive about the hardest year of their degree, I felt fairly relaxed knowing that, no matter what I faced, so long as I kept God at the centre, everything would work out.
Going into final year, I knew the importance of me finding a church and making friends who are Christians. At the time, I didn't really have any nor did I know what church to go to so it was a major prayer point for me. This time, I had the God-given confidence to go on my own and find the church that felt like home for me. I didn't give up at the first hurdle, I made it a priority to find a church family. God is faithful and after visiting a few churches, I found out about the Potter's House fellowship by seeing a sign outside one day on my way home (coincidence? Nah, I think God-incidence!). The first people I met when I entered the building was the pastor's wife and daughter who were coming in at the same time as me (coincidence? Nah, I think God-incidence!) and straight away they were so welcoming. PH provided the perfect church family for me and I thank God for everyone who made me feel so welcome.
Throughout the many deadlines and exams during final year, the pressure of finding a graduate job and the added stress of the year contributing to 70% of my whole degree, I felt considerably calm - something I couldn't say was true during my first and second years of university where stress was basically my middle name (my parents can testify to that)! I can only attribute this calmness to the presence of the Holy Spirit over me as well as the people that God had placed in my life, He truly deserves all the glory.
So, that is a shortened version of my four year journey to completing a degree in Business Computing & IT with a First Class Honours. I say this not to brag or boast but to thank God for the blessings he poured on my life and to give Him praise for all the things mentioned above and even the things I didn't include due to trying to keep the word count down! I would not have been able to succeed without Him. He has been so faithful to me even when I doubted and abandoned Him and that is true love.
THANK YOU, LORD!
As always, thank you for reading! I pray this post brings you encouragement and helps you understand a bit more about how having a relationship with God is truly life-changing. If you have any questions about anything I've written including more detail about how I overcame any challenges or how to have a life-changing relationship with God please leave a comment, get in contact via social media links below or send a message anonymously here. Have a great week!
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" - Romans 8:28
Song of the Post: Lord, I Need You - Matt Maher