The first time a student asked me for advice I was terrified. Sitting at that park bench in the hot Florida sun I began to sweat more than usual. I'd been approved as a Campus Missionary in Training just a few weeks before, but in that moment my words failed and my title seemed irrelevant. Of course I'd talked through problems with friends before, but never with someone who sought me out as a minister. To this day I can't remember what I told them to do, but their life didn't enter a downward spiral so I suppose it couldn't have been that bad.
Now after 11 years of full time college ministry the advice they seek seems less daunting and more familiar. I also found some of the advice transcends the question and gets repeated in multiple contexts. Of all the things I've said to students, the thing I find myself repeating more often than not is simply that they are not alone. It's been articulated hundreds of different ways, but it means the same thing every time; you aren't alone in what you face. It's the greatest fear we have and the one thing Jesus guaranteed the disciples and all of us just before he slipped through the clouds.
Whether facing the darkest night of our soul or the best day of our life, we don't want to be alone. The knowledge that Jesus is with us in our extremes and still walks with us through our daily routine has a liberating effect. It helps remind us that it's not all up to us, we don't have to have all the answers or be perfect, and someone's with us who knows better than we do how we feel. It's comforting to think back to that moment on the bench and realize even then, in the midst of my fear, I was never alone.