Dear Graduate

A significant journey is ending for you. No doubt you are eager to get going on the next one. But go ahead, savor the moment. Such clear rites of passage don’t come often in life. And thank God. Education is a profound gift.

And on behalf of your parents (as a parent of a graduating child myself), be gracious with their nostalgia and tears. It’s rite of passage for them too.

You’re probably receiving a lot of advice. But before you set off down the winding road before you, here are a few travel notes from my own journey. They may help you navigate what lies ahead.

The Road to Joy Is Hard

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13–14)

This road of life you’re gazing down is a road to life, but only if you follow the Way (John 14:6). The road is going to get very hard at times. Other roads will look very appealing to you when you are weary, discouraged, confused, angry, tempted by some desire, or grieving. They will appear much easier. Beware. The path of least resistance is the path of least reward. Jesus goes much further: A path like this leads to destruction.

“The path of least resistance is the path of least reward.”

Don’t let anyone tell you that life is all about the journey. It’s not true. The journey is all about the destination. What matters most is where you end up. You will have to forego many short-term pleasures and refrain from many “life experiences” in order to reach “that which is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19). Go for joy. Be a thoroughgoing Christian Hedonist. Seek the greatest treasure which gives the highest pleasure. Even though the road to it is hardest. Don’t settle for piddly pleasures. If God is your treasure, you’ll gain everything. If he’s not, you’ll lose it all.

Trust God’s Promises, Not Your Perceptions

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5–6)

Know the Book. Do not neglect the Book. Memorize the Book. Store the Book in your heart (Psalm 119:11).

Daily Bible reading has nothing to do with your performing a ritual for God’s approval, but has everything to do with your spiritual survival. The Book will keep you sane, because the Book tells you what’s real. What you perceive with your senses, how you interpret your perceptions, and how your emotions respond are unreliable indicators of reality. They will frequently not tell you the truth. And when they do, their reports will often be faulty because they are based on a very thin slice of reality. They can’t tell you the big picture. You need to know what God says is true and stand there.

“Life is not all about the journey. The journey is all about the destination.”

Many, many times it will look to you like God’s promises are not real or will not come true. At those moments — I can’t stress this enough — don’t trust your perceptions. I have learned this lesson over the past 30 years in many different, and at times severe, ways. I tell you the truth: Not once have God’s promises failed me, but my perceptions have failed me again and again.

So, live in the Book and it will help you live.

Pray “Whatever It Takes” Prayers

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)

Ask God for everything. The world tells you that you are the master of your fate and must fend for yourself. But God wants you to believe that you “cannot receive even one thing unless it is given [you] from heaven” (John 3:27) and that “apart from [Jesus] you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Jesus invites you to ask, seek, and knock. Take him up on it.

And when praying for your own heart, don’t be afraid to pray, “whatever it takes.” God loves those kinds of prayers. He takes them seriously and answers them. You will not always recognize the answers initially, because they will come in ways you don’t expect. And they will often be harder than you expect. Because of this reality, some people fear praying in this way. Don’t be afraid. You will not regret such prayers. Through them God will reveal himself in ways you never knew before and you will receive some of the best gifts of this life.

Be You

“Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!’” (John 21:21–22)

Always remember, Jesus wants you to be you. He wants you to become a more sanctified, excellent you (1 Thessalonians 4:3). But he doesn’t want you to be anyone else. You bear God’s image in a unique way. You have a unique calling on your life.

You will be tempted all along the way to compare yourself with others. Sometimes you will feel the pride of superiority; sometimes you will feel the pride of inferiority. In all your comparisons, Jesus’s word to you will be, “What is that to you? You follow me.”

At the end of your journey, the status and achievements the world most admires will mean nothing. All that will matter is whether or not you faithfully stewarded what Jesus entrusted to you.


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“Graduate, if God is your treasure, you’ll gain everything. If he’s not, you’ll lose it all.”