When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Turn to God

It was Susan’s sophomore year at a prestigious college. Last year, someone had told her that her second year would be the hardest. She didn’t believe them then, but now that she was well into the first semester, she wondered if she was going to make it.

Feeling the Load

It wasn’t just the classes, although they were tougher. Everything was new to her and took a lot more work. The biggest problem was that Susan felt lifeless—like every day was a cloudy, cold, bleak day in November. She was tired all the time, no matter how much sleep she got. Much of the time she just wanted to go in a corner and cry. Although she didn’t recognize it for what it was, she was depressed.

The university she attended decided to put her in housing on the opposite end of campus, away from where all her friends were staying. She would try to get together with them, but caught between different schedules, separated by distance, and having to study harder than ever before, she missed them more often than not. It only made her loneliness that much worse.

Then, there was Ben. He was cool, good-looking, and smart. She liked him a lot. The problem was, he didn’t seem to feel the same way about her. When she found out he was dating someone else, it was as if someone had driven a stake into her heart. She just felt ugly and stupid.

She was on the leadership team for her campus Newman Center. Responsible for organizing social programs to be held every week, much of the time she felt overwhelmed by everything. She definitely didn’t feel like being “social.” But she had said she would do it, so she hung in there.

Praying through Tough Times

There was one bright spot, though. She found a stairway in her dorm that never got used. Sometimes, when she felt like she wanted to scream or had to get away, she would escape to the stairway, and with tears streaming down her face, pour out her heart to God.

One time she felt so empty and alone, she had nothing left to say. She just knelt down to pray, saying over and over: “Father…Father….” Then an incredible thing happened. In the midst of her desolation, she felt something break loose —like God was very close and wrapping his arms around her. She had no idea how long she was there, but during that time she let everything go and rested in His Presence. Although life on the outside was still the same, on the inside, she felt hopeful and knew God was with her.

God Steps In

On the other hand, the work she had in school and for the campus ministry intensified. Susan felt like she had to let something go, so she finally told the other student leaders that she would be quitting at the end of the month. They were supportive, and that might have been the end of it, except God had something else in mind.

The first thing that happened came when her friend Danielle, who was also one of the leaders, sat Susan down for a talk. Danielle told Susan that she knew things were tough, but that all of the leaders were feeling stressed. The next thing she said was like a dagger: “I think you’re being a quitter.” Susan didn’t know what to say to that. On the one hand, Susan knew she had every right to cut back on what she was doing and that everybody would say it was the right thing to do. But something in her heart told her that maybe Danielle was right, too.

No sooner than she had met with Danielle, she found a note in her mailbox from her friend, Melissa. Melissa seemed to see right into Susan’s heart and knew how much she was struggling. In the letter, she told Susan how much both she and God loved her and cared about her. And for added emphasis, Melissa found Susan and gave her a big, long hug.

A couple of days later she was praying with a group of people from the local community, most of whom didn’t know her very well. Suddenly, one of the women told the group that she sensed she had a prophetic message for someone who was there: “That Jesus loved this person very much and knew the trials she faced, and that she needed to persevere.”

No one in the group seemed to think this message applied to them—no one, that is, except for Susan. As soon as the woman started, Susan felt tingly all over and knew that God meant this for her. That night, she resolved to take back her resignation and hang in there.

What happened next was nothing less than remarkable. Suddenly, her school work seemed to let up, and everything started falling into place. In one week she had three different people call her, each offering to take charge of a different social event. The next thing she knew, all of Susan’s responsibilities at the Newman Center were met through the end of the semester! Not only that, all the gloom and oppression she had felt throughout the year left, and her heart soared!

He sophomore year was, indeed, a very hard year. But God used it to bring her closer to Him in a way she could never have imagined. It wasn’t that God means for everyone to be miserable and overworked. But He took her through the fire, and when she came out on the other side, she was healthier and stronger than when she first began. God is amazing!


When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Turn to God is one of a series on spiritual heroism—stories about real, ordinary people who live life in an extraordinary way as they overcome obstacles to follow Christ.

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