Life is weird. I continually face this. The idea of the unknown is such a scary thing to me. Part of me thought these feelings of fear would go away once I finished college. Like, ah yes, there is the exact path I was meant to take! Unfortunately, life really doesn’t work like that. It’s simply a series of events that shape us, mold us into who we are. That scares me. I like to have a plan, a clear direction about what to do and where to go, but it doesn’t work that way. It’s funny to see older posts where I’ve written about the same idea. Each one was at a different crossroad of my life, and it seemed as if that one decision would be the only choice that would define me. I think that’s the reason why many of us fear big decisions, we worry that this one choice will shape our lives forever. The truth is, these choices aren’t a make or break, they’re small steps of trust in our creator.
Wow, it’s been one incredible year! Today I turn 23, my Michael Jordan year, hopefully no Looney Tunes need my help to play basketball. It’s not gonna end well for them (Shouts out to “Space Jam”). This isn’t like one of my normal posts, I simply wanted to reflect on some of the amazing things from this year. God has done incredible works in my life and the lives to the people who are close to me. This past year I basically graduated from UNCG (wrote a post about the one class I have to complete), which was an awesome picture of how God helped me through my studies. That was always a stumbling block for me, and can you believe it, I even want to get a master in divinity over the next couple of years!
Well, it’s finally here. This past Thursday I officially graduated from UNCG! It was an awesome experience to say the least, and to be honest, never really sunk in until I was standing there waiting for my name to be called to walk across the stage for my department graduation. I was able to walk and feel like the last four years were worth it, that I had accomplished what I had set my mind towards. Today I’m doing a bit of a different post than I normally do. My typical format (for those of you who may be new readers, welcome!), is I will have a topic, a scripture, and break down to three-ish core principles that God has shown me through it. I like to break form here and there to share my heart from time to time. You see I don’t have all of the answers, I know I know, shouldn’t I be some kind of all-knowing guru? Yeah not really. Life at the moment went from being normal and sort of have a flow to it, to again being shaken up. I hope today that through some personal stories that interconnect, you will be able to look at the shifting in your own life and know you’re not alone. That’s the biggest reason I write at all anyways, I never want anyone to feel alone for any reason.
“For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.”
-1 Peter 2:21
A lot of crazy stuff happens in life. That should be its’ definition, a bunch of crazy stuff that comes up and you have to face. It can be difficult, like really difficult. We have heartache, pain, loss, and countless other factors that can change our lives. The first step in all of it is to trust God, but often we are left with one question. Now what? What happens when we make that choice to follow God, what am I supposed to do? This is a question that I think we all must come to terms with at some point in our walks. Whether you have just made a decision to follow God or have been following him for what seems like ages, we all must come face to face with this question. Because here’s the truth, when you make the decision to follow Christ, he wants all of you. He doesn’t just want you on Sunday mornings or in some Instagram post of your quiet time, he wants you. Last week I wrote a piece about the love note that God has written to each of us, and this week I want to share the guide map that he has laid out for us to follow.
The past two weeks we have been looking at life as a story that we create. We are the characters and we have a mission. The first week we looked at our past and last week we looked at the present, so now we will look to the future. The future has always been one of my biggest fears, maybe my only fear. It’s unpredictable and big, or is it? I used to look at the future as some big dragon I had to fight alone. It would taunt me with fears of where my life was headed, making me question my security in Christ. Will you ever find a job that you love? Does my life really make an impact? Is the work that I’m putting in going to pay off in the end? All of these questions terrify me, but I don’t have to be afraid. God promises us that we are never alone, that he will never leave us or forsake us. It is such a powerful promise that is made over and over again in scripture, and learning to trust in that causes us to move forward into the unknown with confidence. Trust is not an easy thing, but it is such a rewarding promise. No matter what happens, God will always be there. He may not change your circumstances and he may not make everything better, but he will always be there to guide and comfort you when you need it. He can change and shape your life radically, but you have to choose to trust him with the future.
Ever been in a situation or moment in time where it feels like everything bad that could happen did, and it seems like no good will ever come? Well, I ask this because recently I have felt like I have been living this idea over and over again. Through a series of events this past year, I have been left to ask myself, what else could possibly happen? Even when the good things come, five more bad things happen. It’s like an insane hydra that just keeps coming back. I thought a lot about this while lying in a quarantine area of a camp in Nashville this past week. What I thought would be an awesome week as a camp counselor, turned into me feeling horrible with a case of strep throat and some crazy weird skin infection that made me look like a zombie. To be honest I felt like one too. Lying on a hard church floor, eight hours away from home, wanting to die. Not a fun week as you can probably imagine. During this day of boredom, I thought a lot, about a lot of different things. Some were crazy fever dreams, but some about this whole first half of my year. I initially thought of all the horrible moments, isn’t it funny how as humans we immediately think of the worst parts? I thought about my struggle against the feeling lonely, feeling as if I was walking through life as a lone wolf. I thought about the death of a dear friend that came so suddenly. Watching old friends seem to fade away. Walking through the struggle of addiction with family. All of this gave me a sense that frightened me and left me with a single thought. Satan is winning. In the exact same moment, I began to pray and read the word, which left me with a better thought. There is hope for the future.
It would have been easy for me to believe the lie, and still continue to believe it, but this new truth became more apparent. In every situation, good came through. My family was able to find help, even though it seemed impossible. Old friends faded away, but I also created bonds with those that didn’t. I saw the church come alongside of the family of my friend who died. I thought about the new community that I am forging with a few. Every situation turned from failure to victory. Satan didn’t win, God did. Through that struggle, I became stronger. The pain is real and I’m not sure if it will ever go away, but one thing is certain, I need to always find a new hope in every situation. God is so much wiser than I, and yet he freely gives us all we need to make it. I think God showed me a few things about how to find hope and how to make it through the darkest of nights.
Know that a bigger plan is waiting.
It’s a cliché to say that everything happens for a reason. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, you can figure it out if you want, but what I’ve learned is that God has a bigger plan in mind. Sure we do things to speed it up or get off track, but God designed you with an ultimate end in mind. Yes, you. Especially you. Whether you feel like a misfit or like a cookie cutter human, you are unique and can never be replaced by anyone. God made you to be exactly who you were meant to be, he is going to build you up and it’s going be hard. Trust me when I say I know what you’re going through, because I probably have walked through it or been close to someone who has. In the moments where life gets tough, I have wanted to run away from God, but every time I am shown a bigger plan. The first step into holding on to hope is knowing that God has a plan for you.
Run even harder towards Christ.
My first reaction is not this, but I want it to be. It’s so easy for me to hate God for what he let happen, but this is such a foolish thing for me to do! Proverbs 1:5 tells us that wise people seek wisdom, I would be foolish to run from true wisdom. So when we face strife, our reaction should be to run to the word. I think hope comes from relying on the power of God. So immerse yourself in the word, listen to music that fills your soul, meet with those who have gone before you, and you will find hope. In my life I have seen my mom and dad both follow this principle. All growing up, no matter what happened at my dad’s job or the struggles my mom faced against people that spoke death, they always came to the Lord first. I am so thankful that I saw a real example of what it meant to follow Christ even when the world seemed to be falling apart. Remember to run to God, rather than run away from him.
We have already won.
Say what? Yes, don’t take my word, take the word of scripture. John 16:33 says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” What this means is that, our hope is here because God has victory over all of it. God is like the cheat code for life, stick with him and you win. Simple. Now I know that it doesn’t feel simple, in fact, it often feels like we will never win. That’s because the loser is trying to bring you down with him. Don’t live chained down and feel like you can’t make it up for air, live in victory. Live in freedom. You may say, “My life is so much worse than you know.” Remember, I have walked through some of the worst things, but if you don’t trust me, think about Job in the bible. He lost everything he ever had and then some, God literally said the devil could do whatever. He chose Christ, and he was rewarded more than he could even imagine was possible. Live in victory, know that you have already won.
One of the many reasons I love comic books, is that every hero struggles. Spider-Man lost loved ones, Iron man struggles with alcoholism, Hulk has some anger issues, and Wolverine feels alone. Every hero struggles, but they all find redemption. They each save the world, and the world needs more heroes. You and me, we were each made for a bigger purpose. We were meant to be heroes, we need to hold onto that hope. You and I don’t have time to let fear control us. Fight for your future, fight to see the end. Walk through life following Christ and holding onto hope. Build a life that would honor others, stand up for what’s right. When problems come, and they will, run to God and follow him through all the pain. Then at the end of your life, you can look back and see how God used that pain and turned it into a masterpiece, I know that’s what I’m going to do. Hold on, believe in the hope, and follow Christ.