A new school year is upon us, and for many of us that means feelings of excitement—as well as anxiety. Newness is around every corner. Additional responsibilities start to pile up.
In our family, we meet the start of school with conflicting feelings. By the time my daughter turned seven, she had moved four times. As the new kid, the first days of school were always a mix of joy and worry. Would the other children like her? Would they be kind to her? Would she have anyone to sit with at lunch? Many of us have asked these questions even when we’re not the new kid because the start of the school year means navigating responsibilities, relationships, and peer dynamics in a fresh way.
Whether we’re returning to school or shepherding a child as they head back to school, there are truths about God’s character and faithfulness that can help ground our hearts in his peace, no matter what we’re facing. Here are three ways to stay focused on Christ as we head into the fall.
1. Remember that Christ is unchanging.
I remember the panic of looking over my schedule for the first semester of college—the multiple classes, different professors, and different campus buildings overwhelmed me, especially when I hardly knew where the dining hall was. Everything in my life was changing.
But what I was able to do, even in the midst of all of the change ahead of me, was to cling to the unchanging and consistent nature of Christ Jesus. Hebrews 13:8 declares that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” When the world around us morphs and shifts, we can lean into the beautiful truth that the Lord Jesus is still the same. His character never alters. God “does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17) but remains constant in his love for us.
If going back to school makes you feel off-kilter and worried about all that’s new, take some time to remember the constancy of Jesus. He is never going to lose his power or his strength, and his is a “kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28). Consider writing out Hebrews 13:8 and placing it in your locker, on your car’s dashboard, or on your computer as a daily reminder, and let this truth give your heart peace: Christ won’t change, even when everything else does.
2. Recall God’s faithfulness to you and presence with you.
When we’re facing new stressors, it’s easy to stay focused on what we’re worried about. Thankfully, God knows how we tend to look toward what we fear rather than focusing on him. That’s why, in the Bible, God often called his people to remember and recount his goodness to them in the past.
In the Old Testament, God’s people set up stones of remembrance to remind themselves that God had already helped them (see 1 Sam. 7:12), and they celebrated feasts to recount God’s faithfulness to them in the past (see Josh. 5:10, 2 Chron. 30:1). These stones and holidays helped them to recall that God had proven himself faithful and good over many years of their lives—and that he would do so again.
When we recount what God has already done for us, it gives us courage to move forward, knowing that he will go with us again. So if you’re having trouble remembering that God is always with you, start by looking back. Remember how God has carried you in your life thus far and celebrate that he will never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Consider throwing a mini “back to school” celebration and taking time to talk about the good things the Lord did for you in the previous year. By doing so, your heart will walk in peace as you trust his continued goodness toward you!
3. Expect trouble—but don’t fear it.
God knows that facing new situations can be hard for us—and that it can set off alarm bells of worry, fear, and angst in our hearts. This time of year, it might be because we’re heading back to school, but new circumstances and new tensions in relationships are constant for all of us. Still, it is into our stress and anxiety that the Lord tells us we don’t have to be afraid. Jesus’s words are true: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33)
Jesus knows that we will face “trouble.” But we can “take heart” because he has already won the greatest battle we could ever face by paying the price for our sin through his death on the cross—and then overcoming death through resurrection! This why we can have lasting peace: Our eternity is secure in him.
And in your day-to-day realities, God wants to give you his peace in place of your troubled heart. How? As you spend time in his word and prayer and worship alongside his people, the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Christ—will replace your fear with his peace. Are you feeling worried about the school year ahead? Are you afraid you won’t have any friends, or that you’re going to fail your class? Go to him in prayer and tell him honestly about your fears. Lay your troubles before him. And then ask him to give you courage to keep moving forward, receiving the peace that he freely gives you.
No matter what this new school year brings, God himself goes with you! You’re not alone. The Lord wants to meet you in your anxiety and replace your stress with his peace.