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Pressure point: an area on the body sensitive to pressure.
It’s been eight years since I graduated from college, twelve from high school, but it feels like they were just last month (probably because I graduated from seminary last month). And I wish I would have had a book like this to read. The author, Shelby Abbott, has worked in student ministry for almost twenty years, and so he has been around students and in their lives long enough to spot their pressure points. What do most high school and college students find challenging about life?
How do I make friends at school? How should I look for work afterwards? What should I major in? What if I hate it? How do I do that, juggle part time jobs, bills, and find a spouse at the same time?
Abbott writes, “This season of life is uniquely stress-filled, and perhaps even more so than any other life stage because of the amount of decision-making that takes place in such a short period of time. Your decisions as a college student can and will shape your future reality, making college time potentially the most stressful of pressure cookers” (2).
Abbott divides his book into three sections dealing with areas life places the most pressure: our finding purpose, our relationships, and other difficulties. He writes about “where the ‘heat of life’ is applied to your reality, and how we as followers of Jesus Christ can appropriately apply the gospel” (4).
In part one, Abbott answers questions about whether God likes us, how to discover our life’s direction and God’s will, and how to handle the void (the “nagging feeling of emptiness” that we can’t seem to avoid no matter what we fill it with). Abbott’s comments here were particularly helpful. Instead of asking what God’s will is for my life, the student (any of us, really) should ask “How does my life fit into God’s will?” Asking this takes into account the fact that we live in God’s world, and he is doing something larger than what goes on in your life.
Christians are, first off, called into salvation by God. Whatever we do, wherever we work, whatever we study, we do as God’s imagers and representatives. No matter what our education ends up being, or where we work, what we drive, or whom we marry, we ought to live as those who represent Christ to the world around us. And that should relieve some stress on what exactly we must do. What if we choose “the wrong thing”? Abbott writes, “If God’s will were distinctly different from what I believed he was leading me toward, he would eventually help me arrive where he wanted me to go” (23).
The second section is the longest. The first two chapters talk about relationships and how they have become both more and less physical. Relationships head toward physical romance and sex much more quickly and in more numbers than before. At the same time, relationships are becoming more ambiguous than before. Instead of going through the pressure of asking a girl out on a date face-to-face, a guy will instead text her about going out for coffee, with some uncertain maybe’s added.
The world says that the Bible’s ethics are restrictive, yet to move beyond those boundaries (that is, to have sex outside of marriage) is like taking a fish out of its fish tank. “You’re free!” Except the fish isn’t made to live outside of water, and it will suffer. Sex creates a bond that cannot be easily removed; it is one meant for the marriage bed. There are physical and emotional consequences, but thankfully there is forgiveness too.
Abbott then covers how college students can navigate their relationship with their parents. Being in college, possibly away from home, students are no longer under their parents’ roof, though they are still in charge of you to some degree (possibly), and there is a “limbo” period that needs to be worked through. Along with this, Abbott guides students through experiencing true friendship, community, one’s fear of missing out, and how to deal with enemies.
In part three, Abbott looks at other difficulties in life, how to work through them, and how they shape us. There are four chapters, and he first writes about how challenges shape our character. We want microwave success, but true character is formed in a crockpot: it takes a lot of pressure for a long time. Abbott writes, “What’s my point? Well, the good things in life often take time. There is no substitution for character, and character in a person is almost always born in the crucible of time. Character cannot be rushed, and to try to do so is futile” (125).
We also need to be aware that there is a such thing as spiritual warfare (though we ought not think that the devil is behind every flat tire or bad Wal-Mart shopping cart). As well, we live in a 24/7 approval culture where we can get likes, loves, and comments on social media at all hours. Students should look to Christ, his sacrifice, his resurrection, and his mediation for us in heaven instead of looking to approval from all of our peers. In his final chapter, Abbott asks, “Where is Jesus in the hard times?” Jesus is right next to us. By God’s grace we are being drawn closer to him, to set our eyes on his goodness, to see the gifts he has given us in this world, to see that it all fails in comparison to him and the life to come, and to long to know him as he is.
This will be a very helpful book for many students as they and their friends experience these struggles. This is a book you can read and return to in times of pressure to be reminded that the challenges you will go through are common to most students your age and that just God has helped those others students so he will help you too. Abbott shows how Christ walks with you in your experience, leading you toward how things should be. Give this to your son or daughter as they enter high school or go off to college (or already in the thick of it). Give this to students in your youth group or at your church. Their life probably feels like a pressure cooker right now, and this book will help let off some of the steam for them and point them to Jesus who holds them in his hands.
- Author: Shelby Abbott
- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: New Growth Press (April 22, 2019)
- Look Inside: Read the first 14 pages
Buy it from Amazon or New Growth Press!
Disclosure: I received this book free from New Growth Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.