This year, as has become my practice the last couple of years, I opened the PEF senior women’s Bible study with an encouragement from Psalm 20.
I use this Psalm at the beginning of the year together with the senior women because this psalm reads like a prayer for one another. Senior year for Princeton students can be a lonelier year than the other three. This is partly because of the famed Princeton senior thesis or departmental independent work. It is also due to the pursuit of employment or admission to a graduate program for the time following graduation. All of these endeavors take significant time, perhaps even traveling away from campus. Thus the seniors find themselves physically separated, holed up in a study carrel, or a lab, or the machine shop. They also experience emotional separation, as their due dates differ, and their plans coalesce at different points during the year or even after graduation. The effect of these different outcomes and schedules can isolate them from one another, and even cause anxiety and envy.
They also experience emotional separation, as their due dates differ, and their plans coalesce at different points during the year or even after graduation. The effect of these different outcomes and schedules can isolate them from one another, and even cause anxiety and envy.”
Life after Princeton is also that way. We move all over the globe following graduation. We marry and perhaps have children at different ages. Our jobs and family lives engross us. It is hard to stay connected with friends, whether from college days or beyond. So much in life works against love for one another. But God commands us to love one another, to rejoice with the one who rejoices and to weep with the one who weeps.
The psalm reads like something spoken from one believer to and for another, or one believer to a group of beloved fellow believers. Thus it seems fitting as a means to encourage the seniors to resist the pressures to separate, to become isolated, “every man for himself.” Instead the psalm teaches them to pray for one another and to rejoice when God fulfills the plans of others. I urge them to see blessings that befall one of their sisters as a blessing to them as well — “If God is providing for my sister in response to our corporate prayers, it strengthens my confidence that he will also provide for me.” My hope is that the psalm will stir up love and prayers for one another and faith in our Father, to take the place of the envy and fear which can be epidemic during senior year.
Instead the psalm teaches them to pray for one another and to rejoice when God fulfills the plans of others.”
We also talk honestly about our modern day analogues to “horses “ and “chariots,” the things we trust in for deliverance rather than in the name of our LORD. For many it is academic achievement and hard work. For some of them it is keeping organized, or simply believing that things worked out positively in the past and always will. Whatever it is, we pray together that our trust will be fully in the Lord, even while we utilize and give thanks to him for the gifts with which he has blessed us.
Pray for these dear women and for our times together. I am keenly aware of the shortness of this final year to help them continue their growth toward life as adults – commencement! Pray that the Lord will fulfill their petitions. In June, may we all shout for joy over their salvation!
May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your offerings and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices!
May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!
Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.
O LORD, save the king! May he answer us when we call.”