For many students, the start of a new semester means the beginning of a new chapter – starting or returning to one’s academic career in college or leaving home for the first time. When we talk about a “new chapter,” what we are really saying is “a new beginning.” Some might say it’s a “fresh start,” or a “clean slate.” Similarly, these phrases apply to New Year’s when we set goals and make resolutions. We consider times like these “new chapters” because we are marking a significant and transformative period in our lives. It signifies leaving behind past hardships, hoping for a better future, and embracing the changes that come with it. But what happens when the new chapter doesn’t go well? What happens when you don’t meet your goals and expectations? Suddenly the fresh start of this chapter feels stained and ruined, and you wish you could start again.
I am writing this because I have experienced it. I have heard stories of people who had hoped that college would be a place of new beginnings, but then something happened — maybe it was due to their own actions, or maybe it was out of their control. For students who are feeling hopeless or let down in this new chapter, I hope to encourage you in this season.
What does the Bible say about new beginnings?
People hope to start their new chapter off well — no mistakes, no setbacks, just good things and blessings. But people — including Christians — need to understand that even in our spiritual life we will experience trials. Inviting Jesus into our lives signals the beginning of a new chapter.
Do you remember when you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Just because God is in your life does not mean it will be trouble-free. All new beginnings have their trials. When you accept Jesus, you are inviting the Holy Spirit into your heart. This is when a transformation begins. This is sanctification (the process of becoming holy). It is through the process of sanctification that we are convicted of our sins and develop the desire to be more like Jesus
Philippians 1:6 states:
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (NLT).
What does this mean? God begins a great work in us when we accept him, and He will complete that work. This work will not be finished until Christ’s return — and at that point, our sanctification becomes our glorification. That is why Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” On the Last Day, the glorious image of our Savior will be fully realized in us.
On this side of Heaven, no human is perfect; we are all bound to make mistakes. But that is why during sanctification, the Holy Spirit reveals our imperfections and gives us guidance as to how to work through them by His power. This process is life-long. In our rebirth in Christ, we will still have trials — but we will have the Holy Spirit through it all.
Paul himself experienced this:
“So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
Paul was known as someone who persecuted the Church, but then Jesus gave him new life! In this new life, Paul became an apostle and a preacher. However, even in this new chapter, he still faced trouble and persecution -– “a thorn in his flesh.” This thorn kept Paul from being prideful, and it helped him understand that God’s grace is sufficient for all of his needs. What might this indicate about the struggles you are having in your new chapter?
What do we have to learn about new beginnings?
I relate to Paul. Since coming to Gordon, God has shown me that my difficult circumstances are still here to help me grow and depend on His grace, and to keep me from pridefulness. Pride means “taking the glory that belongs to God alone and keeping it for ourselves. Pride is essentially self-worship.” Pride is the opposite of humility. It says, “I can do this based on my own strength,” or worse, “I can do this without God”.
Through my experience thus far at Gordon, I have learned that trusting in a new chapter of life to save you from your circumstances is idolatry. If we focus on our plans and not on God, we lose sight of who we are doing this for — and our plans and goals become our god. We must lay down our plans and trust that the Lord knows exactly what we need. We have to devote our new transitions to the God who gave us these transitions for our good and His glory.
Here are some truths to meditate on in this new chapter:
Truth #1: As Humans, we do not know the future. Only God knows. We do not know what tomorrow will bring. Proverbs 27:1 says, “Never brag about what you will do in the future, since you don’t know what the day will bring.” Believing this forces us to rely entirely on God because our lives are in His hands. God loves us. He watches over us and takes care of us. We have reason to depend on him daily because he has proven His great love for us over and over.
Truth #2: We can make plans, but God has the final say. We have our to-do lists. We have expectations and goals for the future, and that is not a bad thing. The problem arises when our overconfidence gets the better of us, and we begin to rest our hope on shaky ground. God knows our desires and He may allow or withhold them according to His will. As Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” We should never think that our ability to plan makes us sovereign over our lives.
Even James 4:13-16 says:
“Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.”
It is good to have plans and goals, but they will disappoint us if we leave God out of them. We must hold on to our plans loosely. If we put God’s desires at the center of our planning, He will never disappoint us.
I challenge you to give this new chapter to God, the one who gave you this new season of life. I challenge you to not depend on your plans but instead cling to the hope that God will get you through every step. I challenge you to depend on Him and to grow through the struggles with Him. I challenge you to trust Him and ask Him to show you what He wants you to do in this new chapter at Gordon College. Seek God and He will reveal Himself to you.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6).