I never planned on taking a gap year. I never dreamed of deviating from the four-years-of-college-right-after-high-school path. I’m the kind of person who enjoys school and accomplishing things, one of those type-A high achievers.
That’s why, when I was forced to take a gap year due to health issues, I felt devastated. I went from several AP classes to a low-skill, very part time job. It was a far cry from the purposeful, exciting first year of college I had imagined.
Maybe you want to take a gap year, or maybe you’re not planning on college at all. Whatever your specific situation, I’m sure there have been disappointments and unexpected twists and turns in your life as well. I have enough of a vantage point now to look back and see the many good things God taught me during my own disappointment.
1. Experience is the best teacher.
Before my gap year I knew a lot of truths about God and the Christian faith. I’m sure most of you do too. But so often what we know in our heads gets stuck on the doorstep of our hearts, knocking and knocking but unable to open the door and step in.
For example, I knew that faith is not a checklist where you have to reach a certain standard but a relationship with a Person. I knew that Jesus’ cry of “It is finished!” meant that there was nothing more I needed to do to earn God’s favor. But I didn’t realize until my gap year that I was living like I believed there was something more I needed to do to be a “good Christian.”So often what we know in our heads gets stuck on the doorstep of our hearts, knocking and knocking but unable to open the door and step in. Click To Tweet
Through the lonely, empty hours of my gap year, God stripped away all the things I thought were making me “successful” at being a Christian. My pain caused me to cry out to him more than I ever had before. Slowly, I began to learn what it really means to walk with him. If I have been busy with school or a more important job, I would never have had the time or felt the need to reach out to him.
All the things God taught me during that year were doctrines I had heard countless times before. I had even preached them to myself. But it took life experience for them to walk through the door of my heart.
I don’t say this to make you feel discouraged, as if you can’t learn anything without a trial. Instead, if there is a truth you want to grasp that still feels like some far-off concept—take heart. God will open your spirit to the lessons he wants to teach you in the right season.Keep filling your mind with truth until your heart is ready to receive it. Click To Tweet
In the meantime, keep filling your mind with truth until your heart is ready to receive it, and remember that change can take a long time. There are numerous doctrines I have not yet fully grasped, but it’s exciting to know I have my whole life to do so. Like in C. S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, the Christian life is always further up and further in.
2. Trust God’s timing.
I know, this is one of those cliché phrases you’ve probably heard often. It’s one of those truths I was talking about above, one that you really have to experience to believe. But it’s worth saying anyway:
There are no detours in your life.
My gap year felt like a detour, but looking back, I can see that it was actually a necessary step along the way. What felt like going in circles was actually progressing forward.There are no detours in your life. Click To Tweet
If I had gone to college right after high school, I wouldn’t have been ready to handle life on my own in a godly way. Practically, I needed to learn how to navigate areas like my own healthcare, finances, and cooking. My gap year enabled me to improve my time management skills and gave me time to discover more about myself and what God is calling me to. As I wrote in the first point, I was able to work through lies that were hindering my spiritual growth.
For some people, leaving the house is what enables them to mature. For me, I can see how God graciously kept me back from rushing into something before I was ready.
Whatever situation you’re in, know that nothing is wasted. You are exactly where God wants you to be. It often doesn’t feel like that in the moment. But one day you will be able to look back, like I have, and understand the beautiful, vital things God was working in you.
3. The point of doing hard things is not doing hard things.
I read Do Hard Things as a young teen, and I was passionate about doing hard things for God. I understood that I could do so even in the small things, like doing my best in school. But I didn’t fully grasp the point of choosing challenges.
Taking a gap year because of health issues was something that was forced on me. It wasn’t a hard thing that I chose, whether big or small. I felt like I was stuck in quicksand. What hard things could I do for God now?
Slowly, God showed me the answer: He wanted me to to recognize my dependence on him. Doing hard things, whether it’s reaching out to a new kid at church or starting a nonprofit, is amazing and important. But the point is not really the hard things themselves.
The point is to glorify God.
What I learned in my gap year is that sometimes God is most glorified in you sitting on your floor, not doing a single thing but begging Him for help.
God ultimately doesn’t want your actions but your dependence on him. Of course, we can rely on him while doing hard things, which is why they’re so glorifying to him. But we can also glorify him by crying out to him in the hard, lonely, unglamorous times in our lives.God ultimately doesn’t want your actions but your dependence on him. Click To Tweet
Whether your life is going the way you planned or the road turned in an unexpected direction, take heart: Be excited that God is using your life experiences to help truth permeate your heart. Trust that he has you right where you need to be. And remember that you glorify him best by admitting you need him.