The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
College years can teach us many lessons. And not just through lectures in history, biology or English, but life lessons. Lessons that impact the way we live, such as
Choose your friends wisely.
Be where you should be – whether at class at 7:45 a.m. or not at the bar at 3:00 a.m.
Choices have consequences.
One of the most helpful, life-changing lessons I learned in college was not in a lecture hall, but in my own bedroom during God’s “Life 101 Class.” I don’t remember all the details. I know I was alone in our little apartment on the campus of the University of Alabama. My roommates, three godly young women, had gone home for the weekend. For some reason I stayed on campus alone, which rarely, if ever occurred.
This particular weekend I found myself alone and depressed. It may have been over a guy or a class I was struggling with, I can’t recall. (That’s how depression is – at the moment it seems like it will never change, but once we’ve gotten past it, we can’t always recall the “whys.”) All I remember were the desperate feelings of failure, isolation, and deep darkness. At that moment I felt life would never get better, nothing would ever change. I was overwhelmed and hopeless. Gloom had surrounded me; pessimism, despondency, and a myriad of negative feelings overwhelmed me.
That day I struggled to perform. I hardly got out of bed for hours. I ate as a panacea. I was lost in the barrage of the Enemy’s fiery darts that assaulted my mind. Somewhere in the midst of the negative thoughts, a moment of clarity came over my mind. I realize now it was God providing a “way out” for me. But I had to choose to act on it. Scripture tells us that “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
In that moment of clarity I reached for God’s word. Once again I don’t remember much. I don’t remember what verses I read. But in my wanderings through the Word, I kept recalling a favorite elementary school memory verse from my 3rd grade Sunday School class: “Do onto others what you would have them do unto you.” It’s from Luke 6:31. I have no idea what version of the Bible it was from. I can’t locate that exact wording in any of my Bibles today, but that was word-for-word the way I had memorized it probably 10-12 years before that day.
As this mantra from scripture that I knew of as “The Golden Rule” ran through my mind repeatedly, it began to confront an issue I had. (God’s Word does that!) The issue that day was loneliness. I wanted someone to call me or check on me or show kindness to me in some way. I was wallowing in my loneliness and blues. As the verse played almost like it was on repeat through me mind, I suddenly saw a different meaning hidden within it.
I had always had a childish understanding of the verse thinking it meant “don’t hit your brother because you don’t want him to hit you” or some such thing. But suddenly I caught on the words “Do to others.” Do. Do. Not don’t. I wish someone would Do something for me. Do. Call me. Do. Take me out to eat. Do. Bring me a present.
Then came a realization – I had not done any of these things for anyone in weeks! I was told in scripture to Do what I wanted done to me, but I wasn’t doing.
I ceased my sniveling, sloppy crying, sat up from laying in bed, and started mopping my wet and snotty face on my sleeve.
If I wasn’t doing anything for anyone, why was I expecting anyone to do anything for me?
At that moment I made a decision. I would do one kind thing for someone. That meant getting my clothes on and stepping out of the apartment, out of my darkness, but I did it.
Once again I don’t know where the thought came from, but as I rummaged through my brain for something kind to do for someone, a friend of mine came to mind. I knew she was The One. I knew she liked yellow roses. I knew I would like to get a flower from someone. So I put on some clothes, headed to Kroger, and bought one yellow, budget-stretching rose, (any extra is budget-stretching for a broke college student) and then drove to her apartment.
As I stood at her door waiting for her to answer, I realized I had a little smile on my face. Doing something for someone else gave me a bit of joy.
Then the door opened. She stood there with swollen eyes and no smile. In that moment I knew that she was as desperate and needy as I was. I tumbled into her tiny college apartment amidst a flurry of “What’s wrong?” “Are you ok?” etc. Her mood of the day matched mine: discouragement, worry, fear, loneliness, worthlessness… .
We sat on the couch. I handed her the rose. Tears flowed. From both of us. The rest of the afternoon was spent commiserating – misery really does love company. We moaned and whined and lamented to each other for quite a while. The crying eventually turned into the laughter-through-tears kind of emotion, and smiles crept into the room.
As I left later that day, my mood, and hers, had changed. We both felt loved and heard and needed. I think I had gone there with the rose hoping I could buy her friendship and she would sit and listen to my woes and make me feel better. And I did feel better. We both did. The Life 101 lesson I learned was that when we bless others we in turn are also blessed. When we obey scripture, real answers come from the Father for our problems. As we offer help to someone else, we are actually helping ourselves. This lesson has never left me. Even today some 35 years later, when I am feeling down, my go to question is “Who can I do something for, and what can I do?” Many lives have been impacted through the years, and my life has been rescued from depression and fear over and over.
We should not be surprised at this lesson. In Genesis 12:2-3 God says to Abram, “I will bless you; … and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you.” I believe that these words are just as much true for us today, because in Matthew 25:40 Jesus tells us, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ” When we do something to bless others we are doing something for our Savior and we will reap a harvest of blessing.
A challenge goes with this blog.
Before you go to bed tonight, find someone and do a small kindness for them.