written by Lily Choi
Lily graduated from UCLA as an English major in 2015. She is currently studying for a J.D. at Harvard Law school. She enjoys reading, writing, and anything Korean. (안녕하세요!)
One of my principal worries when I moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts was the loss of my Christian community. GOC had been an instrumental part of my life and my faith during my time at UCLA. I imagined that starting over, making new friends, joining a new Christian group, and establishing accountability would take time and effort. I imagined that it would be hard.
For the most part, I think my fears have been realized.
Nobody is particularly interested in forming close relationships in the law school, even in the Christian community. Most people are busy studying like crazy, or applying for clerkships for Supreme Court judges or something. They have ‘better’ things to do.
It has been rather difficult dealing with the lack of close Christian communion that GOC spoiled me with during my undergraduate days.
As many of us are aware, we shouldn’t be relying on earthly relationships for emotional support. Jesus died for us, He is our greatest Savior and advocate, and He is our greatest friend. What need do I have for earthly friendships when the most perfect Savior has called me His sister, and the most high God has called me His daughter in Christ?
But if I’m going to be completely honest, earthly relationships did matter to me. The feeling of isolation during fall semester was quite palpable on campus. Worship on Sundays was a comfort, but God didn’t designate a day of worship to comfort us, but to glorify Him. I felt that there was something wrong, but I didn’t know how to go about resolving it.
In a sense, I think that mindset in itself was my first mistake. Trying to “resolve” my state of isolation got me nowhere. It also had the nasty effect of turning my attention away from God, and towards my own sense of self-worth and happiness. I paid more attention to my feelings, and less attention to what the Bible was telling me. Even as I prayed for God to provide me with answers, I began to realize that I spent so much time praying for a solution that I actually missed out on time spent with God as a whole.
In a nutshell, I only increased that unpleasant feeling of loneliness by:
- Letting my desire for a Christian community become more important than my desire for God. Of course, a Christian community is important for nurturing your faith and finding encouragement. I believe no Christian can earnestly seek God for long while neglecting the church (Hebrews 10:25). But centering my walk on the amount of participation I have in a church leads to trouble. I attend every Friday night. I attend every Sunday morning. I go to their community events. Focusing on these insignificant things essentially dethrones God in my heart and replaces it with Christian friends.
- Praying short prayers for fullness in Christ, without taking the time to contemplate what that is, and how it can be gained. Let’s think about this for a second. A prayer for fullness in Christ, in itself, is Biblical. Jesus is the fountain who alone can satisfy our needs; he calls on us to partake of it, to drink from his living water “will never be thirsty again” (John 4:14). However, for some reason, this prayer remained ineffective for me. Why? Because I spent all my time praying that the water be enough to quench my thirst, while never taking the time to actually drink the water itself. I spent very little time in the Word, spent very little time in prayer, and had the audacity to ask: “why am I still thirsty?”
The ultimate point of this post would be to encourage everyone to cling to the Bible as hard as you possibly can, and to pray, pray, pray – even if you don’t “feel” like it. I cannot emphasize enough that the temptation to ask for the benefits of a relationship with Christ, without making the effort to actually build that relationship, remains strong in my life every day. The obvious answer – spend more time with God – can be surprisingly hard to arrive at. Especially if I’m under the mistaken impression that I’m too busy with school. I’m certainly busier than before, but nowhere near busy enough to be excused from devoting time to the God of the universe.
One helpful, practical exercise for me has been to pray in thanksgiving, rather than in wishes or desires. Colossians 3:17 calls us to do everything while “giving thanks to God the Father through [the Lord Jesus].” This is not just sensible advice; it’s a way of life. Praying in thanks reminds us of the countless reasons why God deserves all the glory. It reminds us that we are not the center of our lives. It generates praise and worship in our hearts naturally. Thanking God for His attributes, His past deeds, His future plans, and His present help – these are prayers that leave me with no time to mope over my own loneliness. There is worship to be done.
Of course, it’s impossible to sustain this lifestyle by yourself for long. The Holy Spirit inspires our prayers (Romans 8:26), and the church has been specifically ordained by Christ as a source of encouragement for all of us. I hope and pray that we can all begin to foster a worshipful heart for God, or continue to water the growing buds of faith in our hearts, with the help of our wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ.