I have titled this entry "The Balance of Faith and Work", because this has been one of my constant struggles here in Cambridge. I think that balancing "Faith and Work" can take on two meanings. It could mean "Christianity vs Academics" in general, or it could mean "Trust in God vs actual hard work". Whilst these two ideas undoubtedly overlap, what I hope to discuss is the second interpretation -- practically speaking, how much do I have to strive in terms of actual hard work, before my desire to work is tinged with anxiety, consequently compromising my trust in God?
"The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord"- Proverbs 21:31
As mentioned, I hope to focus on the practicalities of balancing being a Christian with academic work in Cambridge. I think this is not measured in grandiose terms like the number of encounters you have with God, or the numbers of friends you have led to Christianity -- rather, it is measured in hours. Hours spent at the desk versus hours spent on knees, hours spent in a Christian setting versus hours spent socializing with friends (although not mutually exclusive of course). In this, I find the hardest struggle. The proverb quoted above clearly states that to get the victory, one cannot bypass the hard work of preparing the horse, albeit knowing the victory is promised by God.
The question then is, how much preparation is needed? Too much preparation and it spills over into anxiety and by extension, a lack of faith in God's promised victory. Yet, too little also means that you neglect your part in God's plan. Personally, I felt this struggle reach its climax last year, in the area of job applications (a pain that many of you have felt, or will feel in time to come). Do I spend my time and hard work filling out one more application, or do I trust that God will be faithful in the ones I have already submitted? Does doing more translate into a lack of trust?
Indeed, as with all such open-ended questions there is hardly ever a straight answer, but the best way I've heard this dilemma addressed was by Pastor Bill Johnson, from Bethel Church. Drawing an analogy to trees, he observed that the hallmarks of a good tree (bearing fruit and growing tall) are contingent on them simply being plugged into a steady source of water. In much the same way, the fruits of our hard work will come, so long as we are plugged into the source of living water. Whilst completing a degree may be more complex than this, I think this principle still holds true. I think the best balance is struck when one calibrates the desires of self with the desires of God, which can only be ascertained through a dynamic relationship with God.
Of course, this then leads us to bigger, open ended questions, such as "how do I maintain a dynamic relationship with God?". In line with my attempt of translating this struggle into practical tips, here are some things which I have found useful in helping me "re-calibrate":
Listen to podcasts while cycling / walking from place to place. Some podcasts I've enjoyed are:
Listen to Christian music more (even Kanye is a start)
Set a designated time of the day for Quiet Time
Talk to CG mates about the dilemmas or problems that you face week to week
All the best for the year ahead and God Bless!