Every June in America, many celebrate their educational achievement by walking across a stage to receive their high school diploma or college degree—a small piece of paper that signifies you really did it and it’s time to “launch” into the real world.
I remember fondly that hot June day when I received my high school diploma in the school gym. My parents and grandparents beamed from ear to ear.
That was 53 Junes ago (1965) and the times were much different. For me, it was a mixture of excitement and total terror. The next chapter in my life was unknown. College was a strange new word in my family.
My parents both grew up and graduated from high school during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Both came from very poor families in a small Iowa farm town where very few could afford to dream about going beyond high school. One of my dad’s goals in life for me, his oldest son, was to be the first person in our family to attend college. My dad helped make that happen, and I will always be grateful.
With time come the gifts of wisdom and perspective about life, and I realize now there was something missing in our home. God was not in any of the discussions about the future—not before, during, or after graduation. Yes, my parents both attended church most of the time and we grew up in Sunday school, but church was for Sunday and the rest of the week was for work and work alone.
I wish my father had taken to heart the sermons he heard on Sundays and shared some of those insights about life with me. I realize now you can’t share something you don’t understand or have not experienced. There are many lessons I wish my father had taught me about God’s abundant life—lessons that would have given me a greater sense of confidence as I headed off to college.
After a lifetime of varied work experience, God has led me to a calling today in which I advise high school and college graduates, as well as older adults, about finding their purpose in their careers and callings.* Out of my own experience and what I have learned from meeting with hundreds of individuals, I have discovered three important things graduates should keep in mind during this season of celebration.
1. God Never Wastes Our Time
In both the Old and New Testaments, God made us a promise that he does not waste time. In the Book of Jeremiah, he made this promise to the nation of Israel as they were held captive in Babylon,
I know what I am doing, I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you a future you hoped for (Jer. 29:11, The Message).
Again, in Romans, Paul reiterates God’s promise:
That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good (Rom. 8:28, MSG).
These verses are two incredible promises around which a family can build a foundation of faith that will give your grad encouragement when they become a bit hesitant about their next step. God wants us to flourish in our faith and be confident in his promises.
2. God Means for You to Be Where You Are
Although not an easy topic to discuss or thing to experience, God wants us to understand how to deal with tough times. In one of my favorite books, The Red Sea Rules, Robert Morgan reminds us that we can learn a great deal from the nation of Israel trapped at the Red Sea. In fact, he shares 10 God-given strategies for difficult times from their experiences.
Even in difficult times, God has much to teach us about faith and trust. Morgan’s first rule took me some time to ponder and accept, “Realize that God means for you to be where you are.” Yes, that’s right, God intended for the Israelites to be trapped at the Red Sea; it was all part of his plan.
Encourage your grad that even when they feel overwhelmed or unsure of their direction, they can trust that God has them exactly where they are for a reason. They should keep their eyes on God and remember that worry and fear cannot live in the same space with hope and action. When we stand on faith and take positive action, we evict worry and fear.
In the words of Charles H. Spurgeon,
The Lord will make a way for you where no foot has been before. That which, like a sea, threatens to drown you, shall be a highway for your escape.
3. “Stand Still” and Wait on God’s Timing
Today, many of us want everything to happen now, but that is not always God’s plan. Robert Morgan understands timing and states this rule, “Stay calm and confident, and give God time to work.”
In the Book of Exodus, Moses boldly proclaimed to the Israelites,
Fear not, stand still (firm and confident), and see the salvation of the Lord which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians you have seen today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest (Ex. 14:13-14, Amplified Bible).
This is what the biblical phrase “wait on the Lord” is all about: committing our own Red Sea situations to him in prayer, trusting him, and waiting for him to work.
C. H. Mackintosh summed up faith this way:
Faith raises the soul above the difficulty, straight to God Himself, and enables one to stand still. We gain nothing by our restless and anxious efforts…It is therefore true wisdom, in all times of difficulty and perplexity, to stand still – to wait only upon God, and He will assuredly open a way for us.
Understanding God’s true wisdom and learning to trust him, no matter what, is the greatest lesson your new grad can learn in this graduation season.
Do not leave God out of your conversations; welcome him into your discussions. He will bless your family for putting him first.
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