Finding Contentment in the Struggle

Sometimes the nights are short and the days are long in the lives of college students.

Sometimes we drink more cups of coffee than we get hours of sleep (I know I’ve done that one too many times).

Sometimes we struggle through tough courses, working, studying, and trying to be there for our families – and yet it often just feels like we’re sitting at our desks for too many hours, barely surviving on late nights and early mornings; probably guzzling too much espresso.

My current Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with memes and videos with captions about just wanting the semester to be over – and oh, I can relate so much. I’m sure you can too. It’s motivating to start new and exciting courses, or go to student events that we look forward to all year long, but those things don’t happen every day. But what about the lonely days, when it’s cold and dreary, and your phone isn’t buzzing with messages from friends? What about when you’re in the middle of a painful class that just. makes. no. sense. and it’s a battle to just get through the day? What about when real life takes priority over studying and you feel like you’re falling so far behind?

I get it – and I want you to know that this isn’t the end for us – but sometimes that’s just what’s right in front of us.

The ruts aren’t forever, no – but we might be in them now, experiencing the seeming agony. Instead of just looking to that next thing to give us relief, why don’t we foster contentment right here, right now? Instead of chasing satisfaction that we think will come ‘just as soon as I finish this CLEP’ or ‘when I can meet up with my friends again in a month’ or ‘once I take on this new student life project,’ why don’t we seek to love this life we’re living, even in the difficult moments, the difficult days, and the difficult months?

I’ve had many days where I sit down at my computer and smile, breeze through my REA guide, and rock my Quizlet flashcard sets – and I’ve had just as many days where I cry when I flip open my laptop, fail my quizzes, and bang my head on my desk because I just don’t understand what I’m trying to learn.

And slowly, slowly, through the ruts, the challenges, the pain, the stress – I’m learning that contentment starts in the little moments. That if I’m depending on my next achievement to make me content, I’m missing what contentment is: joy right where I am.

I don’t mean to trivialize any of this, act as though it’s easy to go through school easily and successfully. It’s not. But it is possible to find joy right now, at the desk, even when we’re sleep deprived and lonely. We don’t have to wait for the next exciting thing to happen, or our lives to ‘start.’ They’ve already begun, and it’s up to us to make the most of them.

Here are my tips to find joy in every situation:

1) Remember why you’re doing the degree in the first place. What is it allowing you to do that traditional college wouldn’t? What opportunities has it afforded you? How much time or money are you saving on such a valuable and necessary asset (your degree) in the working world?

(And if it’s any bit of incentive to you, with the amount of money you’re saving on your degree, you could buy approximately 20,000 lattes. Just keep that in mind if ever you’re wondering why you chose to do college this way. You’re welcome.)

2) Go out and enjoy life. You can do that. Whether that means working on a flexible schedule, going on spontaneous adventures, deepening your relationships with your family and friends, or spending money on things and people and causes and trips you care about because finances aren’t as tight – go do those things. Live your life freely.

3) Seek God’s strength. Most people think of this as some sort of hack to get the supernatural ability to memorize test answers – and that’s not it at all. Sometimes God’s strength in us is quiet, a little more motivation to keep going, a message from a friend offering tips on a test, the knowledge of random facts that comes in handy. Nothing is to be taken for granted – and when we seek God first above all else, He’ll point us to those things.

4) Take a break. Seriously. If you’re not doing well because you’ve been stuck on something for a while, or procrastinating on Facebook and YouTube – it’s okay. Start fresh, right where you are. Go do something that relieves stress, if only for ten minutes. Call a friend, take a walk, go on a coffee run and drop the drinks off at your friends’ houses, eat some chocolate, bake a cake, clean your room, read a novel – something. And when you’re rested, whether it’s an hour later or a week later, give it everything you’ve got. Then reward yourself for doing the work.

God doesn’t only promise contentment to the smart and successful students, the ones who get 78s on CLEPs without even trying, the ones who attend all the student events, the ones with incredible jobs, or a lot of free time. He promises it to us, too. That we can be content in whatever the circumstance – because He’s always with us, there to guide us when we let Him.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13, ESV

Unbound student, whatever rut you’re in right now, you’re not alone in this. You don’t have to simply “survive” college – you can thrive.

Meet Amanda

Amanda Beguerie is an English major, a writer, a musician, an artist at heart, and a coffee connoisseur (which she thinks sounds much nicer than ‘addict’). She seeks to encourage the world by sharing her words, smiling at everyone she can, and spending time getting to know people deeply. She loves pouring into her friends, and going on adventures, and if you talk with her, she’ll probably share a lot about her faith, Lumerit, and her obsession with New York City. Connect with Amanda over on her blog and read her regular writings at scatteredjournalpages.com.

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