“Even though we speak in this way, beloved, in you we feel sure of better things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust to forget your work and the love that you have exhibited for his name, serving, and continuing to serve, his holy people.” Hebrews 6:9-10
Dear Graduate Students,
Our family was having dinner the other night with a former grad student, and when I asked him what word he thought I should bring to you today, his answer was clear: encouragement. Encouragement in two seemingly contradictory truths:
There’s more to life than this — but also,
What you are doing here matters.
I hear the writer of Hebrews giving his readers the same encouragement in the verses above. After harsh words of warning in the early part of Hebrews 6, the writer went on to speak encouragement.
There is more to life than this.
The writer had confidence that those believers knew about the “better things of salvation.” The writer had confidence that they would remember that there was more to life than what they could see swirling around them.
It’s easy to get distracted here in grad school. Grades, papers, exams, publications, research. Qualifying exams, grant proposals, lit reviews, job hunting.
It’s easy to forget that this will “only” last for a certain number of years. It’s easy to become myopic, not seeing much of anything outside these walls. Not seeing much of anyone outside these walls.
So here is an encouraging reminder: There’s more to life than this.
You will graduate, someday, even if it feels like it will never come. With some degree, even if it’s not the one you were hoping for. In the here and now, you have friends, family, and a community out there who care about you. And it is your care for them — and for those within these walls of the university — that demonstrates “the love that you have exhibited for his name.”
When we trust God’s truths, when we remember to stop sometimes, look up, and see the world around us, when we trust God to care for us, allowing ourselves to be part of a community that cares for us, we show that we know the “better things that belong to salvation.”
What you are doing here matters.
It is only in that freedom — in understanding that God loves us, not because of what we do, but because of what he has done — that we can truly understand the flip side of the coin, that second truth, and find life and flourishing in this encouragement: What you are doing here matters.
It matters that you are using the brain that God gave you to learn about the law, sciences, music, literature, business, languages, art, religion. It matters that you are studying, perhaps harder than you’ve ever studied before.
It matters that you go to organizational meetings, study groups, professors’ office hours.
It matters that you are striving to get a really good externship, part-time job, teaching assistantship, research assistantship, internship, and that you are striving to do really good work there.
It matters that you are making friends, leading organizations, sharing meals and life together.
“For God is not unjust to forget your work.” He won’t forget the good work you’re doing. How could he, when he planned those works for you from before there was time? How could God forget your time in graduate school when he is the one who has brought you here, brought you this far? How could he forget the way that you are loving and learning about people and loving and learning about your field, when this is the work to which he’s called you?
Your perseverance, your patience, your faith in God to carry you through — these all showcase not really even our hard work, but God’s work in us. Believers see and are encouraged. Non-believers see and are curious. And God sees, and he is pleased with the work he is doing.
So be encouraged, “beloved.” If we have faith in Jesus, we have salvation. If we have faith in Jesus, he will see us through all of life — even through grad school.
It may not look like what you had hoped. You may have to let go of some things you had hoped for, your studies may look differently than you had planned, your research may take you in directions you had not expected. But no matter your ranking, your grades, your research, your successes or failures, be encouraged.
There is more to life than this, and, what you are doing here matters. We and all “his holy people” are the “beloved” of God, and that makes all the difference.