If You’re Dropping Off Part of Your Heart at College

If You’re Dropping Off Part of Your Heart at College

August 10, 2017

“But I am trusting you, O LORD, saying, ‘You are my God!’” Psalm 31:14 (NLT)

Devotion Graphic

It seems like just yesterday my three little ones were coming down the stairs in the mornings with floppy bedheads and sleepy eyes. But now one daughter has graduated college, and the other is a college senior. My son, the baby of the family, starts college this month!

Growing up is hard. Not just for kids. But for moms, too. When our kids enter new seasons of life so do we, and trusting God with our children becomes more important — and maybe even harder — than ever before.

In today’s key verse, we see evidence of David turning away from his doubts and fears and intentionally deciding to trust God instead. He realized he had no chance of winning the battles against his enemies without God’s help.

David faced a physical enemy, but often we face the invisible enemy of our out-of-control emotions, especially when our little ones have become big ones, and it’s time for them to be out on their own.

Just like David realized, it’s hard to try to win the battle for our thoughts and emotions all alone. David boldly proclaimed His trust in God because he was loved by His Father. As moms we, too, can boldly proclaim our trust in God by believing God loves our children just as much as we do.

But let’s face it, despite our best intentions to trust God with our children, worries and fears can still fill our minds. When our children start new phases of life like kindergarten, middle school or high school, it’s hard not to worry. But when they start college, worry takes on a whole new level. Worry coupled with the empty ache in our hearts from looking at their empty bedroom in our house can feel overwhelming and emotionally draining.

So, for all you moms sending your most treasured possessions off to a college campus, here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind to help you maintain peace and comfort in your heart as you embark on this new phase of life:

Don’t let your emotions run away with you. After dropping my firstborn off at college five years ago, I let my emotions get the better of me — as if sending my daughter to college was throwing her to the wolves and meant never, ever seeing her again. Ever. I finally realized I was letting my fears and emotions control my joy.

Do ask God to fill your heart with peace and comfort, and trust He is in control. It’s hard to control emotions especially when it comes to the wellbeing of and love for our children. Ask God to fill you with a peace that surpasses understanding and the ability to control your emotions.

Don’t assume your child is going to make the same mistakes you did in college — or that they won’t make any mistakes at all. As moms, we want to prevent our kids from making decisions that will negatively impact them. But as much as we want to protect them, we have to let them make their own choices … which sometimes means their own mistakes. Just as we learned from our mistakes and may have already seen God use those mistakes for His glory, so will they.

Do pray for the Holy Spirit to be their guide. Ask God to convict their hearts if they start heading down a wrong path. We can’t always be with our children, but God is.

Don’t convince yourself you’ve failed at getting your child ready for college. Sending a child off to college or any new phase of life is never easy on a mom’s heart. We can think of a million things we could/should have done better. But we are reminded in Proverbs 22:6 that if our child really knows the Lord, even if they stray, they will eventually return.

Do continue to pray daily for your child’s heart and life. Ask God to bring people into their lives who will be godly influences and help shape them in positive ways. Never cease praying for your children no matter how old they get.

Letting go of the reins of our children’s lives is hard, but when we focus on our faith instead of our worries and trust God will be looking after them, the letting go seems a little less stressful.

Lord, help me have peace about sending my child off into this new season of life. Protect them in every way. Help me trust You are in control and always by their side. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

1 Peter 5:7, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (NLT)

Genesis 28:15a, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.” (ESV)

Having a hard time trusting God with your college student’s well-being because maternal fears and emotions are consuming your mind? Purchase Tracie Miles’ newest book, Unsinkable Faith: God-Filled Strategies for Transforming the Way We Think, Feel and Live, for help in transforming your thoughts and learning to think more optimistically.

If you’re feeling defeated in your motherhood journey, we understand. That’s why we put together When Strong Moms Feel Quite Weak: 21 Days of Encouragement You Need as a Mom by Lysa TerKeurst. You’ll receive this devotional free with your gift of any amount. Get yours here.

Visit Tracie’s blog for more encouragement about adjusting to this new season of life by putting your full trust in God, and enter to win a free copy of Unsinkable Faith!

Have you been excited for your child to start college (or the next school year), or does the thought fill you with dread? What is keeping you from trusting God is in control?

Pray and release to God whatever’s been gripping your heart with anxiety.

© 2017 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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  1. Carol Hutton Baird says:

    Just to trust and believe for my children

    • Samantha Smith says:

      I want trust and belief that my children still love me and will one day return back to me like the prodical son. I miss and love my son and daughter and wish they would contact me soon. It’s been 2 yrs. And it hurts so badly.

      • Samantha, I totally understand where you are coming from. I, too, have a son and daughter that are prodigals. There no deep soul wrenching pain then that. I beg in prayer for them daily. It’s been 4 years. I cling to these scriptures:
        Isaiah 43:5-7, Isaiah 49:22

  2. This doesn’t end with college. Even after they’re married, have kids and are close to 40, they make decisions that cause concern. Parenting is never over. Praying for them and letting go when they choose to move far away happens. This is where I’m at and am releasing them into God’s care. He loves them more than I do and will take care of them. Thanks for this reminder.

    • Adriana Camp says:

      I completely agree with you. May God help us and give us peace. May we never cease to pray and believe God for everyone of our adult children, no matter their age and season in life. We will be mothers until we take our last breath.
      Love in Christ and Prayers,

  3. Thanks for sharing encouraging words and scripture.

  4. Wise words, Tracie (says she whose last child left home over a decade ago). But I must disagree with your use of of the words “treasured possessions.” We moms treasure our children, yes. But we never own them. God entrusts them to our care for a season.

    Perhaps I come more easily to this attitude because I am an adoptive mother. Our boys came to us at ages 5 and 8, with a chunk of life already lived without my knowledge or control. They were labeled “foster children” by the state. Three years later, the adoption gave us clear authority to make decisions for them. The opportunity to love them and take responsibility for them was a gift. But the ownership was forever in God’s hands, not ours.

    When I drop off my children at college (or their first apartment, or their military assignment), I am placing them in the hands of their true Owner, the One who owns me too.

    • Amen,Shirlee!!

    • Thank you for your wise words, Shirlee. I view my children in the same light. Having that perspective helps me to remember who truly has the power to guide, direct and save. It doesn’t stop me from doing my part. God gave me our sons for a reason, but it really helps me know that I am not alone or solely responsible for their welfare. Their true Creator knows what plans He has in store for each son. Blessings.

    • I understand where Traci is saying Treasured possessions. We do treasure them and we do and provide for them so in a sense we own them. God gave them to us, yes but they are ours….. if you are going to look at it in that light we don’t own then anything because all these come from God. But, we say I own my car, house, clothes and so on…. Great devotional Traci that everyone can learn from.

    • Victoria Heishman says:

      Beautiful and wise words Shirlee. Thank you for sharing them and making this momma remember who gave them to us in the first place to raise, love and release!

  5. Joyce Jarrell says:

    Thank you for sharing these scriptures and wonderful words. I don’t have any college-bound just yet but three in high school this year so God’s protection and guidance is certainly needed. I place them in his hands.

  6. Thank you for your words of encouragement. But for those who cannot be past the word “college”, I wish you would have included children who do not go to college but instead prefer not go to college by going straight to work or chose to take time off from school all together; not all persons are made for college.

  7. Deborah j johnson says:

    Thank you for this reminder. It never is easy- the letting go! Even when they are walking with the Lord.
    They are treasures, to us, but knowing they were mine on loan for a little while- but always really God’s, puts it all in perspective. My emotions, though run too deep, so seeing them move out of the country, to me the loss of family here is great.My mommy heart hurts & I miss them. Praying for HIS peace that passes all understanding, is very helpful, thank you!

  8. As my children move into each new season I pray God will guide them and calm any fear I may have. Even as adults they are still my children. Thank you for these encouraging words.

  9. I understand those fears…of leaving those closest to my heart in a world that I have no control over. But as I left my daughter at college over a decade ago, I did just what you recommended today. I put her into God’s hands and trusted Him to keep her safe. And He did just that. He kept her under His wings and returned her safely back home to us with a diploma in hand. He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can hope and ask for!

  10. Thank you for your words. I just left my son on Tuesday at college. Yes my heart hurts and I was emotional Tuesday night and yesterday. Please agree with me in Christ for his safety and enjoyment in college.
    Thank you.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you very much for encouraging words! My daughter senior year, next year her college time,very scary but I thank you for inspiration and encouraging devotion!

  12. Thank you so much for these inspiring words! Last night as I was getting ready for bed I was thinking and crying about my first born leaving for college in less than 3 weeks. I woke up this morning to your comforting words of encouragement! Thank you for the beautiful reminder and providing me with the opportunity to feel truly in awe of how God knows our hearts and provides us with strength. We just need to trust Him.

  13. Perfect!!! For a mom who will in a week be dropping her daughter off at college 14 hours away!! God’s timing is perfect!!!

  14. Adriana Camp says:

    Thank you!!! This is exactly what I needed right now. I guess misery loves company, because you’re in the very same situation I am in at the moment, I can totally relate.
    I have 3 children ages 29, 25 and 18. My two oldest already had their “parting time” and with each of them I felt a special kind of hurt as they “left the nest” However, there is something heart wrenching about your baby leaving because this means a completely empty nest.
    I am grateful that you touched on the empty bedroom subject because that is something I am already dreading.
    I am totally going to need God’s grace and mercy in this special season in my life as there are other hard situations I must face at the moment.
    My son is going off to Harvest Bible School in Scotland, very far away from me and my watchful eye.
    Although I have come to understand that even while he’s at home, God is the One that takes care of him and guides him, my big empty house and my empty arms will still feel the impact.
    Thank you again for writing this and thank You Jesus for knowing just what we need.

  15. Good, I do not have little ones going to college. I do have grandchildren, that will be returning back to school in August. I also have a goddaughter Kim is trying to return back to college. I am also trying to go back to college,
    after all the years, I did attend. I was a caregiver for my mom who as pass away in 2016. Hopefully, I will be attend classes in the Fall of 2017. I will be going in the evening time for my B.S. degree. AMEN. We are never to old to learn. Let us keep all of our children in prayer. When going back and fourth, and going back to school. AMEN

  16. My kids head off to college next month. Excited, but nervous about this new empty-nester stage. This devotion was very timely. Thank you.

  17. Jennifer Welter says:

    Wow! Did this article hit home with me today. We leave to drop our only child, our daughter, at college in 10 days. I am struggling with my anxiety. This was very helpful. I will be looking to read the book next. Thank you!

  18. Oh, am I going to miss our son! He is #4 out of 5 children. We take him tomorrow. When they leave, it’s like some of the sunshine leaves the house. I will let myself feel the feelings and then move on to whatever chapter God has written. Our son was God’s son first. I must keep reminding myself of this! Thank you for this devotion.

  19. Yes this will become my new normal in a week when my son goes off for college…I will believe he will be okay and trusting God keeps a watch over him but I’m sure it won’t hit me until we are traveling back home without him or seeing his empty room or watching my husband play the video game alone…Gosh who knew this parenting thing was like this…letting Go and letting God is all I can say but hopefully we have planted seeds of wisdom, love and foundation in Christ.

  20. Debbie Sweeney says:

    Tracie, I love your writings. Thank you for such great perspective.

  21. The timing on this is perfect! We just got back last night from dropping our son off at college. And my mind is full of emotions. When we got back I just went and sat in his room and held his picture. I didn’t know what else to do. I already miss him so much! But I know he is in God’s hands. And I know this is going to be a big growing experience for him. I am not sure if i am ready for this season of life though. Thank you for your words and the do’s and don’ts. I am writing them down to remind me.

  22. Thank you for sharing those wonderful insights. We are sending two children (both Freshmen) off to college this year! Fortunately, they will be attending a Christian college close to home. I still worry, though, and am filled with emotion. You see, our oldest daughter was a Sophomore at Purdue University in 2010 when she passed away in her dorm room from an unknown cause. I know our situation is very unique, but it happened and I am left with natural worries and fears for our other children as they enter college life. We give them to the Lord to watch over and protect, but there may be days I’m a hot mess!!

  23. Thank you for the reminders to trust God and invest energy in our faith, not our fears. Regardless, of our children’s stage in life – this advice applies. I need to place them in God’ protective care.

  24. Kristin Ebel says:

    Thank you so much for this! I am in this exact situation right now and with my baby boy! This put everything in so much perspective. I was fine and so excited for him prior to him leaving! He had done everything on his own including getting a football scholarship. He even took his Apologetics notebook from his Senior Bible Class with him. He said he was going to throw it at anyone who wanted to argue why God was not real lol. To him it is just common sense. We go to school to move him in and he hugged me and that was it. I just fell apart. I have gotten better but did not understand why I was so upset. This really put it in perspective and encouraged this mom’s heart! Thank you for sharing. Focusing on praying for him and my faith is really helping and I know he is going to be fine. At the end of the day he does know the Lord and He is in control and guiding him.

  25. Heathahlee says:

    Thank you for this. We are taking my son to college TODAY, and my nerves and heart are about at their limit. He’s our only child, so even though we are looking forward to the time alone, my husband and I will miss him so much. We have raised him to live for Jesus, but when Momma and Dad’s influence is not on him all the time…we’ll, let’s just say my prayer life is about to get a LOT more active.

  26. Jennifer Chan says:

    I trust that God will take care of my youngest son going off to college. It’s the missing him at home part that I’m dreading. It’s natural to miss him in the every day routines after having him with me for the last 18 years. The dynamics that I love so much in our household will change and perhaps that’s what I’m having a hard time with.

  27. Misty LeBret says:

    A friend posted this on my wall, as she knows I am having a hard time with my oldest daughter heading off to college in 9 days.. she will be over 1000 miles away. I am scared, not for her but me… I know she will be ok.. This was a great reminder to give it to God. Praying for all of us Mammas..

  28. Laura D Jones says:

    My situation with 2 in college, is figuring out what to do with my life. I am patiently waiting on God for an answer.

  29. Thank you for this! I needed to hear this today! Just yesterday for various reasons, we have decided to send our kids to a Christian school instead of homeschooling them. It is a huge change as I have homeschooled them for 5 years and my heart hurts, even though this may only be for the year. I am getting the jitters that most parents get when their child heads off to kindergarten or grade 1, not grade 6 and 4! But we have prayed and researched and it is going to be a good thing. There will be backlash from people and that is something that both my husband and I aren’t looking forward to:) who does?:) But we know that Above All, God is with them, He knows and He sees. God bless your ministry! p.s. If you remember, please pray for us during this time.

  30. Kelly Costello says:

    Thank you for this article. My husband and I just dropped our only child off at college yesterday. Coming home to an empty house was a gut-punch. We know she’s going to do well but right now it doesn’t help the ache in our hearts. For 18 years we’ve been by her side and now it’s time for her to fly on her own and as parents, that’s scary!

    Another book/journal I might suggest is “Release My Grip” by Kami Gilmour. It’s funny but also forces you to put your thoughts and fears to paper. Also, be prepared to cry….and I mean UGLY cry! But it’s a soul cleansing cry. As we enter this new season of life, now more than ever I have to realize that she was never really ours to begin with, she was always His and He will be with her when we can’t!

  31. Danielle Yelton says:

    Never has an online devotion been sent directly to me. That has changed with this one. Thankfully I read your words just as I started down the slope of runaway emotions( tears when all is quiet at night, or tears when thoughts of the drop off come to mind.) My “baby” is leaving in one week and we have been buying up all he needs to be a successful student. It has been all about him this week. Did I mention he isn’t actually a baby and he isn’t even the youngest child I have. One is older and 2 are younger. However he has always been my baby. Anyway, your words and the words of our Father, will go with me next week as we see him off. I plan to let joy be my strength next week, rather than let sadness lead the way. Thank you 🙂

  32. Kristy Erdahl says:

    Oh did I need this today… I have let worry and anxiety control most of my summer with my youngest daughter moving out and moving into her first apartment and heading off to college. She spent the last two years going to the community college and now it’s time for the University, which is only 2 hours away but seems like 20 hours. I have been really digging into my Bible and praying daily for peace. I know God loves her and will take care of her but it is so hard to let go. This empty nest syndrome is a real thing. Now to figure out my next chapter in my life. My husband says it is time for us and he is right but when you have spend half of your adult life raising your babies and now they are all grown and some have families of their own and your youngest baby is now leaving it is hard to figure out what you are suppose to do next. Please keep me in your prayers and most importantly keep my daughter in your prayers as she starts this next chapter in her life as well. I pray that God will direct her path.

  33. Thanks so much for todays devotion, I have been fretting over new phases in my children’s life (both girls). My heart is truly at peace now, I just needed the encouragement and the reminder to totally trust God with them.

  34. justonian says:

    I remember the emotional days after taking our only child to college last year. I have so much anxiety about him being away from home because he is not making wise choices. Even though we will be helping him move back to college next month, today’s devotion is a great reminder for me to trust God to take care of him.

  35. I am in my 60’s and this still speaks to me. My 3adult children are all in life changes. One knows her direction but my sons are searching for new careers. So I journaled notes to remember to lift them up every time I think of them and ask God for people of wisdom and Godly influence to enter their lives.

  36. MaeAnn Hardin says:

    Love this! Thankful for your encouraging words as I sent my baby boy(youngest of three) to college last week!❤️

  37. Thanks you for the articles I am getting ready to take my son to college next week and this article today bless me and encourage me to be strong enough with the empty space,fear, worries. But I will put them all in God hands because he everything you need every day to take care of us wherever we go Amen.Thanks

  38. Totally needed to see this today. Our oldest starts his first year of college next week and while I’m excited for him and to see what God has planned for him, my own heart is aching at letting him go, though I know in my mind that this is part of the plan, training them up to go. This devotion today was perfect for me to hear, and I’m sure for so many others, too, to help me focus on what matters most here, to pray continually for him, keeping our eyes on God, and trusting God that He always will take care of our children (and us, too!).

  39. this is so perfect! The only difference for me is when you wrote “But when they start college, worry takes on a whole new level.” but my twins are college seniors this fall-talk about a ‘whole new level!!”. Soon they will be ‘out in the world’ where I pray and know God will always guide their lives.

  40. Thank you for this post! I know it discusses college but our little one has started preschool. We have been so overwhelmed and this helped calm my spirit.

  41. christine butler says:

    Amen and Amen to your words..
    In two weeks, I will be traveling across country to bring my youngest back to New York from New Mexico to start his sophomore year. And like last year, my husband, his dad, will not be able to travel with us — for medical reasons– he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and we have spent this summer, like last summer, in surgery, hospital and rehab… rehab continues… but my heart is again heavy that as parents we cannot do this together. Something seemingly so simple as bringing your son to college. And while I know it will be difficult physically and emotionally — I also remember that God was with me last august when I had to bring ben to school for his first year. Many friends lifted us up in prayer… and God provided– as He promises (Phil :19)– He gave me physical strength to help my son pack up, to travel, to drive the rental car, to shop, to move belongings into dorm– He also gave me emotional strength to be focused on task at hand and not a sobbing breakdown(well ok that did happen way later). He gave me the ability and insight to write a letter to ben– something I would recommend. I left it with him before I drove away — it was helpful for me to write and I hope helpful for him too– as it reminded me of who God is and who my son has become– reminding him that together he and God will make it! Letting my son know that I know he is ready and able for college. Sure I included scripture and mom stuff– like eat healthy and wash your sheets. But I also told him that he was a young man able and responsible– and an ambassador for Christ. Was driving away easy?– not in the least but God held back the rest of my tears so I could drive 2 hours alone– back to the airport– to travel the rest of the day across country to be with my husband. He set people on my path to remind me of His love– a waitress who paid for my meal, a flight attendant ready with a hug and a new friend who picked me up from the airport at 11 pm to drive me back to my in laws house. So as I write this now, I am reminded, God will again travel with me and be my helper and guide– providing the comfort and wisdom I will need. And He will do the same for all you other moms– Remember– when we have done our jobs well– our sons and daughters are able and mature enough to leave– that is a good thing. I have heard form others of the immature 30 year olds sill living in parent’s home – gaming during the day and ‘waiting’ for the job offers to come. We don’t want that. As daughters of the High King we have raised up soldiers for His Kingdom— to be the salt and light on the campus the Lord has placed them. The Lord is their shepherd too– He will watch over and care for them– and yes –keep on praying for them , even as you reach for the box of tissues again– for their relationship with Christ to be steadfast and to grow, for godly friends, for discernment in actions, for standing in the Truth and not to be swayed, for sleep, for wisdom and understanding in academics, and even for remembering to wash their sheets. God is sovereign ALL the time– even in this season of life– God’s Got this! He is holding your son or daughter just as He is holding onto you. Hold onto His promises.

    • Someone Who Cares says:

      Christine, I found your post so encouraging, my son started high school this year, and I love how you say “The Lord is their shepherd too…” Such a lovely visual in my mind… Our loving Lord shepherd, watching over our children, seeking them out when they stray too far, always welcoming back, always directing, always encouraging, always teaching. Some of us have had to learn from our mistakes, as I’m sure will be true of my son, he is in the best hands, Jesus’ hands… thank you…

  42. Thanks for this Tracie.
    A good reminder even for us Grandma’s who get concerned for our grandchildren, that we can pray for them every day, and trust God to protect them in ways we could never imagine.
    Bless you!

  43. Sara Miller says:

    Just what I needed today as my youngest child packs for college. Thank you, bless you, for sharing these thoughts and reminders of our Father’s care!

  44. Angie Fraiser says:

    I sent my daughter off to college 2 years ago, just a few miles down the street. Well, a week ago, she moved 6 hours away to complete college. That was very hard on me. I really enjoyed reading this. We all worry and pray that God will watch over them and keep them safe. I pray for God to wrap his arms around her each night before I go to bed.

  45. Kandie Smith says:

    My youngest daughter will be moving away to college in 9 days. I almost lost her in a horrific car accident almost 3 years ago, and the anxiety I have been experiencing over the last couple of weeks has made me physically sick and is almost crippling at times, as she begins to spread her wings a little further. I really needed this devotion. I know God has plans for her life, because she is still with us, however that hasn’t made it in easier on this now overprotective Mom.

  46. Lynette Laney James says:

    I totally trust that God will be with my daughter as she starts college 3 states away…it’s the missing her dreadfully that I’m having a hard time with. Not seeing her smiling face or hearing her sing in the shower or go on a run with me in the morning. Missing her is painful.

  47. My oldest daughter is 14 and started high school this year. I worry about her and the fact that she is struggling with finding herself and low self-esteem right now. Her friends from middle school, have all found and connected to new friends and she has been feeling really low lately. I pray that God surrounds her with new friends that can/will encourage her to be true to herself and encourage her growth/faith in our Lord.

  48. That is exactly the place I am in. We will be dropping off our youngest at college next Sunday and coming back to an empty nest after raising 3 beautiful kids. Your prayer is the same prayer my heart is praying. Thank you.

  49. Thank you! I needed to hear your devotion. I have a son leaving for college in a few weeks. I feel encouraged. I signed up for your blog.

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