rebelling against low expectations

To the Drained College Student—Stop Avoiding Your Emotions


Six weeks into my first semester of college, I’m hunkered down in my dorm room with plenty of blankets and a lot of emotions. Panic dropped me off at the train station of college life. Now I’ve stepped off the platform to a wasteland of existentialism. Confused, empty, tired. Needy.

Those feelings I’ve always wrestled with edge their way back into my mind. I covered them well, the doubts and questions. The fears, the insufficiency. We can do a whole lot of things with our feelings. But what should we do?

Tonight I just want to talk real with you about where my heart’s wandering. Not the nitty-gritty details, but the big picture. I know I’m not special. I’m a college student, like any other freshman, dealing with the same human struggles of balance and schedules and focus.

I’m feeling tonight, and I think I know where those feelings are coming from. It’s a place called silence.

Our Response to Silence

I always thought college would be emotionally draining, and, well, it is. But I’ve learned a secret about those emotions: It’s deceptively easy to drown them. Schedule your classes right, pack in twenty-hour work weeks at the cafeteria, and you’ve set yourself up for the greatest path of emotional avoidance.

Here’s the bad news and the good news wrapped in one. We can avoid our emotions all we want, but we can’t get rid of them.

Why do we hide from that silence? We know emotions are normal, but we cram all kinds of business into our schedules, all kinds of preoccupations into our hearts. In a way, it’s easier to block out the real issues tugging at us by focusing on the latest campus activities or gossiping about somebody else’s drama.

It’s natural to hide from silence, but it’s not healthy. In an effort to stay sane, we pack our semesters so full of business we have no space to think. We look for satisfaction in our number of crossed out assignments. Spoiler alert: Homework will never make you happy.

What we’re really doing is replacing holistic growth with artificial success. We want to become mature, godly adults, and yet we ignore the gnawing desires that make us human. Click To Tweet

All the while as we’re chasing grades, paychecks, and soccer balls, our spirits are dwindling in a closet somewhere, waiting for the moment when we check back into reality. We have problems, opportunities, hopes, and hurts. Our feelings are a part of us.

Tune in to the Silence

I’m not telling you to clear out your schedule or quit your job. I’m telling you to stop avoiding the silence. Contrary to the opinion of college culture, it’s okay to eat a meal alone sometimes. Take a long shower before you go to bed so you have time to think or pray or breathe.

We’re always doing something, whether that’s checking Instagram or reading a book. What would happen if we took a little time to do nothing?

And when we start to feel panicked, overwhelmed, or disappointed, we can lean into those feelings and ask ourselves what’s really going on. We should tune our brains to recognize when something’s going on in our hearts. That way, we can grow.

As weird as it may be to think, Jesus created us with not just an outer being, a physical body, but also an inner person. That inner person is full of conflict because sometimes it loves and the love it felt for another person isn’t reciprocated. Sometimes we hurt because we don’t understand what feelings we’re feeling in the first place. Sometimes we just don’t even know. And that’s okay.

Our feelings can lead us to Jesus, by his Spirit. In themselves, feelings are deceitful masters. You never want to be ruled by them. Yet Jesus gave us all kinds of emotions as an expression of our spiritual state.

How are you doing today? What makes you happy? What are you looking forward to? What do you wish you could change in your life? About yourself?

These are tough questions, but real ones. Ones we ought to be asking our close friends, or at the least, ourselves.

Let’s be aware of our emotions, not scared of the silence. Believe it or not, Jesus is big enough to work through our feelings for good. He didn’t give us desires to be buried or hurt to be hidden.

One of these days, find a quiet corner on campus to be by yourself. Away from the noise, blocking out the distractions. Just your brain and your Bible. You and Jesus.

Pray for clarity. Ask yourself these questions, and work through the answers with the one who knew your every thought before you had formed it. Read through Psalm 139 when you need confidence that God knows everything about you, for good. Beg him for a clear picture of where you are now and an understanding of who he has made you to be.

As hard as it may be to acknowledge our feelings, it is better to feel now than to miss out on God's work in our lives. Be willing to be shaped for his glory. Click To Tweet

“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13

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About the author

Olivia Morgan White

Olivia Morgan White is a Ministry & Leadership major at Bob Jones University. A nonfiction writer turned novelist, she writes to connect with fellow introverts/hobbits. Olivia hopes that by connecting with characters and worlds, her readers will be empowered to impact the world around them. You can find more of her writing at her website.

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rebelling against low expectations

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