I am a 16 year old Junior. I have gone to a public school my entire life. I struggle in a few ways. Last year was the worst. I would constantly feel tons of guilt. This is because I have built up some sort of wall between school and my Christian life. I am terrified of sharing my faith at school, and I'm not sure why. It's almost like I get paralyzed when I try to. Even little things like praying over lunch. Every day I would go home and feel horrible because of this. I repented over and over, but I didn't really know what I was repenting for and I didn't know what I could change. I felt defeated and almost a little bitter towards God because it was too hard and I saw no way out.
Then I got sick. It got to the point where I could barely eat because my stomach was so messed up. After many months of tests and a surgery, they concluded that the acid in my stomach was eating away at it. The cause? Stress and anxiety. This was kind of a turning point; I realized that the guilt couldn't be from God. If I was literally making myself sick over this, then I was pretty sure this was some sort of attack from Satan. Before, I believed the guilt, now I know it's not true, but I still feel it.
I started school again today and I was pretty nervous. I didn't want to live that way anymore, but I'm not sure how to change. And I still feel terribly guilty that I can't share my faith. It's not like I do anything sinful at school, it's more like what I don't do... or a selfish mindset I get into. Today I realized I actually enjoyed school, but I found myself pushing God away throughout the day because whenever I thought of Him I felt guilty. This isn't right either, I know. I know I'm supposed to be a light and not be ashamed... and I also know that the guilt I feel isn't from God. I can't find a balance!!
I know you used to struggle with anxiety and you go to a secular university, so I thought maybe you could help. I want to please Jesus with my whole heart, but I feel like I can't. I'm really discouraged and frustrated with myself. I can't live in fear all year either; I just don't know.
It brings me a lot of joy to see someone in high school who is so passionate about pleasing God and being a light for Him. I also appreciate your honesty and vulnerability. I think a lot of Christians can relate to what you're feeling. It is scary and overwhelming to share your faith with people you see every day. I've definitely struggled with anxiety and shyness, so I get what you're feeling.
While sharing your faith and being a light for Christ is important, before we even go there, you are so right that the guilt you're experiencing is not from the Lord! He will give you conviction, but He does NOT give you shame. Let me share a few promises verses that will hopefully encourage you as much as they encourage me:
- Romans 8:1 - Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
- Isaiah 61:7 - Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.
- Galatians 5:1 - It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
- 2 Corinthians 3:17 - Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
- Ephesians 3:12 - In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
- Matthew 11:28 - Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
God has known the messiness of our hearts from the very beginning and loves us anyway. When you make a mistake, remember that's why Jesus died for you. He is offering you so much freedom from the chains in your life, not guilt and disappointment. You've been forgiven. Your repentance is a good thing because it shows that you have clear identity as a daughter of the Lord and that you are growing in Him every single day.
When it comes to sharing your faith, you are so right that it's important. It's encouraging to see the heart God has placed in you for the Gospel! But I also realize it's pretty terrifying to be bold. Ultimately, I encourage you to take the step to share your faith with someone at your school who God places on your heart, but for now, here are some ideas for you to consider:
- Be a light. Daily let the Lord's heart of love shine through you. When you are overflowing with love and compassion for people, they will see that, and they will wonder what makes you that way. Love through the way you live your life! It's a little less scary to share your faith when someone actually approaches you and says, "Hey, why are you so different?"
- Ask the Lord to bring conversations to you. I do this often, because approaching people intimidates me to this day. I'll pray, "God, I'm weak on my own and I'm experiencing so much timidity today. Please send someone to talk to me who does not know the Gospel." God is faithful! There have legitimately been times I've been sitting around on campus after praying that prayer and someone has come up to me and asked me straight up about Jesus.
- Ask God to give you the right words to say. I really like Isaiah 59:21, which says, "My Spirit, who is in you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips." Another great, great passage for encouragement is Jeremiah 1! The prophet Jeremiah was young and afraid, but the Lord offered him so much hope and grace.
- Put yourself in situations where you can share your faith outside of school. I really encourage you to volunteer through local ministries after school or during the weekends. I did this when I was in high school and it really helped me with my confidence and boldness in the Lord.
I hope this advice encouraged you in some way. I'm young and I don't have all the answers, but I do have encouragement, and that is: Your identity is that you are a daughter of Christ, greatly beloved and free from condemnation! God adores you and rejoices over you. He is not ashamed of you.
I'll be praying for you as you start your next semester of school!
To everyone reading this: How have you been able to overcome anxiety when it comes to sharing your faith? Do you have a prayer request about your own struggle to find boldness?
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