Vices vs. Verses: A Testimony

There has been a lot of discussion in my church lately on the importance of personal testimony and how individual stories can impact the world. Giving testimony on one’s faith is empowering and gives honor and glory to God because we are relaying the story of how He saved us. Peonies ‘n Mint, though loosely based around random discussion on what Life brings to the table, has grown to include more and more discussions on faith and belief as well. I do not usually dive into topics that may cause conflict, as I’m sure anything centering around religion may, but when it comes to my faith, I’m going to choose not to be afraid and go there…

I was blessed to have parents who felt the importance to have me grow up in the Church. I was baptized two weeks after my birth into the Lutheran faith and attended church regularly every week following. I began school in a Lutheran day-preschool at the early age of four. From there on I was given Bible lessons every day up through senior year in high school. I had to memorize Bible verses on a daily basis, I attended chapel services at least three days a week, and I was taught the stories of the Bible as an academic course. To say I knew the Bible like the back of my hand is an understatement…

Having religion as such a central part of one’s education should be a wonderful thing. However, I’ve come to believe that growing up in such a fashion leads to two very different types of people: the one who centers all thinking on his or her faith OR the one who takes advantage of that education and rebels. I am ashamed to say that for a long time I fell into the latter category.

Upon entering my higher education years, I left daily catechism to begin studying in a public university. In a better world, I would have matured throughout my college years into a steadfast and faithful woman of God. I should have taken the time to read the Bible on my own, revisiting familiar passages in the Word. I should have pushed myself to dive into devotions and actively allowed prayer into my life. I should have searched and joined Bible Study groups on campus to share in fellowship with my fellow believers. Instead, I allowed my past knowledge to be enough and left my faith on the back burner.

It isn’t surprising, then, that when I was faced with my first real trial in Life that I turned my back on God. I experienced the first true pain in the twisting shadows of heartbreak. I should have clung to God and His encouraging words such as 2 Corinthians 12v9: But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Rather, I blamed God and played the victim saying He had turned His back on me.

To make matters worse, I not only closed myself to God, but I opened myself to many vices of the world. I was no longer Ashley, but some foreign wraith of the girl who once prided herself on reciting Bible verses in front of her church congregation. I began to drink heavily. I was well known at many local bars, finding myself on first-name basis with barkeeps all over the county. It was rare for me not to close down a bar on any given Friday or Saturday. I found any and all worth in the compliments I received from men I met at those bars. I tried every unhealthy diet in the book because I was solely focused on looking and acting the part of a good bar-fly. I began to associate with people of the same ambition. I swore, I lied, and I didn’t give a damn about my reputation.

Acting in this manner led me to be an extremely lonely individual. Feeling lousy, depressed, and of no self-worth, I jumped at the first opportunity granted me at a real relationship. Enter Army. I blamed all my hardships on life on that starting factor: my breakup with X. So, naturally, I believed beginning a new romance would provide me with the self-worth necessary to make me happy.

The one positive thing to come from this stage in my life is that I became an extrovert. When you don’t care what people think, you’re much more prone to talking to strangers and being more social. With an increased bravado, I agreed to a blind date where I met Army for the first time. In retrospect, there wasn’t much to our initial attraction past looks. I suppose he intrigued me because we seemed to have common lifestyles: we both liked to drink, we both liked to workout, and we were both lonely.

Those similarities worked for a while, until they didn’t.

God brought me to my senses in a very clear and pungent way. (Literally.) One day in early summer, Army and I attended a festival at a local winery. It was typical that our time together centered around alcohol, and the day started off well enough. We pitched lawn chairs in the winery’s vineyards facing their outdoor stage where several bands were set to play throughout the day and we headed to grab growlers of our favorite beverages. In a streak of pure brilliance on my part, I had stayed up late the night before, ran a 5k race that morning, and opted out of eating any food whatsoever prior to the festivities. So the 64 ounces of sangria was all I had in my system. Things only continued to go downhill from there and a series of very unfortunate events (points of which I am still too ashamed to divulge in public) transpired. Ultimately, the afternoon concluded with Army screaming obscenities at me while I bawled in front of over 500 people. It was, and remains to be, the single most embarrassing moment of my life.

Though Army apologized profusely the days following this horrendous event, things never felt the same after that festival. We became distant from one another. Looking back, its clear that was the beginning to our end.

It was also, blessedly, the start to my new life though.

It’s funny how deep and impacting embarrassment can strike you. I had dealt with other situations with Army, such as getting kicked out of establishments due to his temper and witnessing him want get into fights for as simple of a reason as someone not moving forward in line at a grocery check out… But nothing struck me quite like that festival. I realized that I was associated to such anger, and that didn’t sit right with me. I didn’t want to be the type of person who belittled strangers, who allowed others’ impertinence, who was arrogant and only cared about her own well-being. I no longer didn’t care…

With the feeling of utter shame, I began to reflect on my actions, and lack of action. I looked in the mirror and, though I no longer saw a crying, sniveling little girl, I still didn’t like my reflection. In the mirror I saw a girl who prided herself on her vices. She was vain. She was mean. She lied and swore and looked down on people because she somehow thought she was better than them. And something — buried deep, deep inside me — broke.

I knew I had to change.

Change, however, does not come all at once. Change is a process. I used to think my life change began when Army and I broke up, but now I can see it actually began at that wine festival. That was the moment I truly saw the kind of person I was becoming, and I was disgusted. I slowly began to drink less. While still with Army, I began to opt out of the bar scene, and instead chose to go to the gym or stay home. When he’d suggest going out, I’d order water to his beer. Once we broke up, I decided I wanted to take a hiatus from the dating scene. I no longer wanted to find my worth in a man’s perception. I wanted to find worth in myself. I worked out consistently, I created tighter friend circles, and I started to research new hobbies and activities available in my community. And somewhere along those lines that deeply buried broken girl pieced herself into a completely new woman.

Yet, even after I had grown past my vices, something was still missing from my life. Try as I might, I couldn’t keep pretending I didn’t know what that something was either: a strong connection to God. My faith had truly not been touched since high school. And even though I was molding myself into a new person, there was no lasting mortar to make sure I wouldn’t come crashing down again in the future.

I’m not a strong prayer. I feel ashamed to say that because I’ve had better instruction on how to talk to God than most people do throughout their lives. But, I’m just not. I forget constantly to thank God for His guidance, for His blessings, for His continued work in my life. Nonetheless, God still heard me that summer day when I was online browsing for something new to enter my life. At the time, I didn’t even know exactly what I needed, but He sure did!

I found House while looking for a Bible study group at First Church. Out of the blue, a Facebook friend had posted that she would be starting a Bible Study at the church come September. The topic she posted about sounded interesting, and since I was wanting to try new things, I investigated a bit further. I’m not sure if I actually even made it to the page with the Bible Study topics… all I remember is clicking a button pertaining to a “20 Somethings Group”. I jotted down the meeting location and time and made a mental note to try to join the group the following week.

It took me three weeks to find the House group. House is a Bible study group for 20 and 30-year-olds which meets at a local beach during the summer months. My first two attempts, the group had been holding fellowship in the actual lake, swimming and playing games and whatnot. So I spent the first two weeks walking up to random groups on the beach, asking if they were the House group, and receiving confused looks.

By the third week, I had pretty much given up, thinking the group either wasn’t considerate of newcomers or the group simply had no interest and didn’t truly meet! So there I was, on that fateful August evening, sitting at my parents’ house, staring into the void when my mom asks, “Why aren’t you going to that Bible study? I thought you were going to give it one last shot?” Since I honestly had nothing else to do, I shrugged and drove over to the beach. Luckily, my fears weren’t validated: House had regrouped on the beach and I was finally able to find them! And, the rest is history…

With every passing week at House, my faith grew a little bit more. Not only was I participating in studying the Bible, but I was able to have deep and impacting discussions on the Word’s content with peers of my own age. After saying goodbye to my bar lifestyle, I also ended up saying goodbye to quite a lot of “friends” who didn’t understand why I no longer wanted to be fun. So, House also provided me with a new friendship pool. Not only were the members of House fellow believers, but they soon would be my closest friends and confidants.

I dealt with a lot of loss since joining House. And whereas I might have once crumbled over that pain, the people I met in the organization were exactly the sort of people I needed. Each and every one of them has strength and compassion unparalleled to anyone else I’ve ever met. I honestly cannot express how blessed I am to have them; they are simply great, godly people.

And while being surrounded by such great, godly people, its hard not to also become godly. I feel excited to join House for church every Sunday, I eagerly await Wednesdays to participate in our weekly Bible Study, I even organized my own women’s Bible study group — something of which I NEVER thought I’d see myself do!

It’s amazing to think that little over a year ago I didn’t even want God in my life. I didn’t want to care about what He wanted from me. I didn’t want to change from my sinful nature. I didn’t want Him to see what I was becoming…

Yet God always has a way of knowing exactly what we need when we need it. It’s easy to forget and want to rush things to our own timeline, but that never truly works out in the ways we want, does it? No, God is the only one omniscient of our futures and what is best for us.

So, though I continue to struggle against my sinful nature on a daily basis, I gladly welcome God into my heart nowadays. Vices will always surface in a sin-filled world, but the Word’s verses hold me strong in His ways. Philippians 4v13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. This I know is true.


 

God works in mysterious ways to bring us to His saving kingdom. As I said at the beginning of this post, testimonies are used to not only empower us to share His Word, but also to glorify God. If you are willing to share, I would love to hear your own testimony! 

The View From Here

Excuse me while I get philosophical for a moment…

Today my church’s sermon was a discussion on the beginning of the world and what belief in how Life began pertains to your life in the present world. The discussion led by Pastor Dave was one which moved me so completely that I actually brought out my phone during the sermon in order to take notes for this post. This is something I can honestly say I’ve never done before; I have never felt the desire to actively scratch comments on a sermon so to better understand, remember, and reiterate at a later time.

This sermon, though, was breathtaking. I found myself nodding at his words, marveling at the statistics he researched, and even had tears in my eyes at one point because the story he told was so relative it hurt my heart.

To begin his sermon, Pastor Dave requested we consider the sermon with “a view from where we currently stood” and asked three leading questions:

  1. Where did I come from?
  2. What is wrong with the world?
  3. Is there a solution?

The sermon then progressed into an extensive look at each question and how one might answer. The conversation first focused on God as the Creator of the world. I have always believed in Creation and the power of God’s Word. When I was younger, I did not question my faith or openly debate the possibilities of differences in beliefs. Now however, after attending a public college where so many of my beliefs were challenged, I am amazed at how many new opinions and theories come into the world on a daily basis. Some opinions seem plausible while others are complete nonsense, but it calls to reason that Creation can be a difficult belief for some to grasp.

Personally, there has never been any doubt in my mind that in the beginning God spoke, “Let it be.” and it was. It was not until I became older that this belief really shook me though. I mean, seriously, how incredibly powerful can a being be to make something out of nothing by simply speaking three words?

When I contemplate this unbelievable concept, though, it is not what creates the deepest feelings of amazement in me. Instead, I am completely blown away by how intelligent, engaged, and omniscient God is. Think of the exact perfection and complexity in which the world revolves; everything is collaborated to the concise and accurate measure that it should be.

In example, look at space. If the earth were a fraction of a degree closer/farther away to the sun than it is now, life on the planet would be no more. If the moon were a fraction closer/farther away from the earth, the tides and water levels would be extremely different making the planet uninhabitable. If the earth tilted more or less than it naturally does, then the seasons, ice caps, temperatures, etc. across the entire planet would radically change. However, in the great scheme God designed, the universe is perfectly situated by 1/1000th of a degree for life to continue as it always has.

With this realization of the immense thought and care put into my every day life, it is disheartening to think of the world around me. Mundane topics come and go by the second and each brings about a multitude of hate. I mean, just look at the outcry over a red cup. There is war on Christianity for taking a “good, lovely holiday tradition” and wreaking havoc. I’m sorry, but as a Christian, I could care less about a damn cup. And in no way should such a ridiculous argument portray my religion or beliefs. Yet, it has and it continues to do so daily.

Our culture is hostile to the Christian faith. We no longer live in a time or place where what Christians believe constitutes the norm. It’s not even an accepted point of view anymore! Instead, being a Christian seems to be an open war on the cherished principles of religious tolerance and relativism. If you point out anyone’s faults or question anyone’s life choices, your faith is thrown in your face.

What is wrong with the world? The answer is too long to list. Look at your Facebook feed and you’ll see the tip of the iceberg: racism, abortion, affairs, lying, world hunger, cancer, poverty, etc. Every single thing wrong in the world is broadcast for all to see. Struggle is inevitable.

I have several friends, non-Christians, whom I love and respect. And it comes time when we have tough conversations on why the things that are going wrong in the world happen. It is at these times that I feel my faith the most. These friends sometimes challenge my faith and attempt to ruffle my feathers by saying my belief in God blinds me to the real, tangible facts the world is shoving in our faces. They question how, if there is a God, He could allow such things to happen. Or they question how I can continue to believe in a God when it seems He is no longer present in the world.

It is during those times that I feel the strength of God and can literally see my faith in action. These are the times I can plant my feet, square my shoulders, lift my head, and not only give an account of my belief but also why I believe such things.

It goes to show that Del Tackett, former president of the Focus on the Family Institute, was spot on in this quote:

However, by diligently learning, applying, and trusting God’s truths in every area of our lives we can begin to develop a deep comprehensive faith that will stand against the unrelenting tide of our culture’s nonbiblical ideas.

It is important to remember that if we, as Christians, do not really believe or even understand the truth of God and live it, then our witnessing to others will be confusing and misleading. Most of us go through life not recognizing that our personal worldviews have been deeply affected by the world. Our lives can “depend heavily on human tradition and the basic principles of the world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

There may not be a simple answer as to how to fix the problems of the world. In all honesty, we live in a Post-Christian world where sin reigns. Fortunately, for Christians, there is a way we can live in such a culture. It takes us getting our hands dirty and immersing ourselves in other people’s lives, but it’s worth it. Not only can we continue to live our faith-driven lives, but we can also witness the Truth to those our lives’ touch. How incredibly rewarding is that!?

In the end, the Christian faith begins with what we think about “in the beginning.” It matters that when we look at our world we acknowledge that there is a God. The Creator is more than a blind, impersonal force; He is a loving and engaged Father who wants the very best for every single one of his creations. This is my view on Life, my faith, and the world around me.

With this in mind, I have a bright light to lead me through Life and get me through every single problem I face. I pray that, whatever your belief, you also feel the same way and can walk into the world with your head held high knowing you have a purpose for being alive.

The Year I Grew Up: A Talk of Faith & Faults

Today is my 24th birthday, but before you feel the obligation to wish me a happy day of birth, let me stop you. There is no need. I’ve walked into today with no feelings of excitement or anticipation. Instead, I look at it as just another day in the routine of life.

Now, I’m not saying this with any sort of disdain or ill-feelings towards my birthday. I am glad that I was born, after all. As every year passes, the special ambiance once felt as a child regarding my birthday dwindles. The presents become more scarce, their usefulness more logical, and becoming another year older just means you’ve gained more experience than what you had last year.

This experience is the only reason I have a spark of enthusiasm as my age ticks another number higher. This past year was one for the books. I had so many new experiences and unexpected twists and turns as a 23-year-old that I look back over the last year and marvel at the person molded before me in the mirror.

On October 13, 2014, I was on my way to growing up but I had not quite reached the point of Adulthood. Don’t get me wrong; I still have wavering thoughts, make questionable choices, and worry every day about my future. However, somewhere over the past year I crossed the line of Young Adult to Real Adult. There are several reasons I say this and I’d like to compare the Then 23-year-old Girl to the Now 24-year-old Woman through some examples of what I’ve learned over the last year…

When it comes to love and relationships, I am not dependent on another person for happiness.

Last year when I turned 23, I was just beginning my relationship with Army. (Literally just beginning, we had only made things official a week prior.) However, I approached the relationship very hesitantly for two key reasons: I didn’t believe I could love someone as much as I loved X and I honestly didn’t want to put as much effort into making my SO’s family happy as I did with X. In retrospect, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for a new relationship when I met Army.

Now my infatuation with X was gone by this time, but the emotions of how he and his family made me feel were not. These were both very warring emotions for someone who was still attempting to find her individualism. Though I dated during the time between X and Army, I did not have any lasting relationships in which to change the only way I knew to act as a girlfriend. This included being dependent on the guy and a pushover and coward to his family. As someone who was discovering herself, entering into a relationship where my mind was screaming, “NO! WE AREN’T GOING BACK TO BEING THAT KIND OF GIRL!” was terrifying.

Cue Army and his family. As our relationship progressed, my entire view of relationships and family interactions changed. With Army, I could remain independent. He urged me to keep up with my other friendships, he encouraged my hobbies and interests, and he made a point to intertwine both our lives together while keeping them apart. I never became the dependent, clinging, subservient girlfriend when I was with Army. As for his family, they accepted me from Day One. They were actually a large reason as to why I fell so hard for Army; I was part of his family. So as my feelings grew for Army and his entire family, the thoughts that I could never love someone again diminished. I opened my heart, and though it was ultimately crushed in the end, I became a stronger woman with the knowledge that I could love, lose, and find love again. I was not dependent on another person for happiness; I simply found myself happier with someone to share life.

A year later and I look at love and relationships in a new light. I might not have the intimate love I’ve known in the past with X or Army at this time in my life, but I’m happy. I am happy with myself, and in turn happy with my relationships of all those around me. Right now I am focusing on strengthening the friendships and relationships in my current life situation, and also continuing to build myself into the sort of person necessary for a functional, loving, long-lasting intimate relationship.

When it comes to my ideologies, I’ve jumped off the well-groomed trail of my entire childhood and begun to trek into the murkier parts of the world.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I grew up attending a private school where religion was discussed every day. My home church was adjoined to this school, so my weekly Bible classes usually were focused more succinctly upon during Sunday’s sermon. It came to the point where I knew my Bible stories so well and the teachings of my Lutheran faith so clear that I took advantage of the grace by which I was saved. God’s Word, church, and my faith played a small part of much of my college life. I maintained my strong morals, mostly out of fear instilled in me by  I only attended service when forced to do so by my parents. I only prayed when life became too stressful.

Then X and I broke up and I found myself clinging to the only One who I had been taught was always there for me — God. I prayed for strength, I prayed for success, I prayed for healing of the pain. Then I met Army and life was good again… except the fact that he was a self-claimed agnostic. I wrestled with this fact throughout the entire relationship; yes, I loved him, but could there potentially be a future with someone who openly mocked my faith?

By the end of the relationship, I had made up my mind. My recovery time over our break up took less time than with X because I knew, truthfully, there had never been a future for Army and me. I never wanted to take advantage of my faith again. I wanted to retain and be proud of my morals. I chose eternal grace over earthly love.

Upon our break up, I also made the choice to refocus on my faith. I didn’t want to revert back to clinging to God as my only source of support and I didn’t want to pray only for my own needs and wants. I wanted to be a better person and a better believer.

So I broke out of my comfort zone and went to my first Bible study group meeting at the beginning of August. The group, called House, has become my closest network of support, friendship, and spiritual encouragement. A group of 20-somethings all struggling to gain footing in a world focusing more internally than externally, House not only allows me to explore God’s Word in new and enticing ways, but it has given me examples of peers who are going through life at the same speed I am. I no longer am focused on being single, but I am content knowing I have friends to spend time with and experience life. I no longer feel ashamed of my faith or scared to be mocked over my morals because I have the support of similar faiths surrounding me. It truly is uplifting!

Joining House and attending church with this group has led me away from my Lutheran religion. Though I happily wake up every Sunday to go to service, it is not to my parents’/home congregation. Rather it is with a Church of God congregation. The first service I attended was incredible — it was contemporary, relative to my every day life, and different than my typical church experiences. I was in love. Now after a month of sitting among my Housemates, I still find myself soaking in the day’s sermon. My mind doesn’t wander, I don’t feel my body trying to sleep; instead, I am focused on God’s Word, the grace shown to me every day, and the strengthening of my faith through Word and fellowship.

It’s strange to be studying and worshiping in a new environment, but the one which I have known for over 20 years was no longer fulfilling my heart and soul. I’ve grown into a person who is not content with being told how her faith should look, but rather someone who wants to delve deeper into what religion is and establish what she wants her faith to say about her.

When it comes to life, I’m focusing on living a day at a time and enjoying every moment given to me.

As I look over the past year, I am able to comfortably say that I am a very emotional being. I loved with all my heart and I cried when it was broken. I laughed with every fiber of my body and I felt anger when a friend betrayed me.  I’ve lost a dear friend and mentor, began a new career, and moved into the apartment living style of life. Every day brings about a random string of emotions and feelings, and I’m perfectly happy with my life. I am continuously learning from my past while looking towards my future, but my ultimate focus is living in the present and enjoying every moment that has graciously been given to me.

So here I am, a more mature, optimistic woman who has grown a ton in the span of only one year. I’m amazed at how much I’ve changed in 365 days, but you know what? I’m going to be just as amazed by how different I am next year when I turn 25. Onto bigger, better, and brighter things!


 

And the cool thing is, I’ve been able to share the past year with all of you. I’ve kept my promise to myself to keep Peonies ‘n Mint striving, and since 23-year-old Ashley, the site has boomed. I love growing my blogosphere relationships just as much as my in-real-life ones. You are all fantastic and it has been wonderful not only getting to know you but also abiding by your advice and gaining strength when you share similar experiences. Thank you, lovelies. Cheers to another year!

Faith: What It Means to Me

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” -Hebrews 11:1

I know I have mentioned this before, but I’ll make the statement one more time: I was raised in a Lutheran home.  I also attended a Lutheran grade school and high school, and Christian university my freshman year. I was taught the Bible since preschool; Biblical stories are more familiar to me than nursery rhymes. I know the principles of my religion, the do’s and don’t’s of good Christian living. However, I still find myself learning something new every day about my faith, and I still question certain aspects.

While discussing such things with some of my friends, I marveled in how differently people assess the term “faith.” In one conversation, faith could be used to examine religion, yet in another it could be a simple feeling towards another person.

“Faith is not having any particular proof to support what you believe, but knowing that what you feel is true and that you would do anything and everything to keep your faith.” -Madelynn

I consider faith one of the most important concepts in life as it pertains to the most basic needs for one to be happy. Faith can be:

  • belief in something even with no proof,
  • confidence in another person,
  • obligation of loyalty to someone,
  • a standard of ethic,
  • or the belief in a certain religion and/or God.

No matter if you are religious or spiritual or agnostic or whatever else, faith is always present in your life.

“Faith is knowing in your soul something another’s eyes cannot see. You can see the affects of something but not necessarily it’s very being or existence. Faith is knowing something greater than yourself exists and if that is so, your very life should be poured out in the pursuit of it. If something is precious enough to believe even though you cannot see it, it’s precious enough to live for. If you believe in something so strongly, should not everything you do reflect it?” -Chelsey

When it comes to religion, my faith has always gotten me through some of the hardest of times. It is a welcome relief that in those moments when I feel ultimately alone, I know in my bones that I am not. I always have my Lord beside me, listening to every drama-induced tear. I know in the end everything will be okay. I know I will live.

Yet, my faith has wavered on a number of occasions. It has been forgotten frequently and has been misused repeatedly. I take my faith in God for granted, using the knowledge that I am saved by the faith He has given me as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for many things.

“Faith is an understanding of the benevolence of the universe and the healing power of loving kindness.” -Kelsey

Earning my trust is a tedious venture, but I cannot express my love and adoration for those who put in the effort. When I choose to place my faith in a person, it is because they have proven they are worth my confidence. This trusting relationship between any two people is one that cannot be replaced.

“Faith can be a feeling. It’s a sense of knowing something is there but may not be able to see it or ever see it. But you know it’s there. Faith is inspirational. Sometimes it makes us do things we would never do but we trust ourselves to know that whatever happens will happen and faith can guide us.” -Rachel

Faith is definitely an inspiration. What could be more inspirational than believing in something that cannot be seen? Faith is more than a feeling — it’s a way of living. It is how you look at the world, and how the world looks at you.

“I don’t think faith is just religion. It’s the fact that everything in the world works out just as it should. Hands down. And hanging on to that and knowing that during hard times everything will work out as it should.” -Kari

Are you faithful? What does this statement mean to you?

“I’ll Be the Light that Shines for You.”

One of the most difficult facts of being a Christian is that you are not immune to life’s trails and tribulations. Surely a good and loving God would not allow for His people to go through death of loved ones, financial hardships, heartbreaks, worries, or fears, right? I mean, doesn’t Him loving us mean He wants our lives to be easy and comfortable? I’m sorry, but no, it doesn’t. However, God does love His children enough to continually “work all things together for good.” (Romans 8:28) This means that the trials and tribulations God allows into our lives are part of a divine purpose.

When I experienced the loss of my best friend (I’ll start referring to him as X) and the end of my first loving relationship this past March, I could not fathom God’s purpose. I mean, I was taught that hardships in my life were meant to strengthen me and not to harm me, but I had never actually experienced any circumstances to make me question God’s intent. But after that life-shattering event, I had never been more hurt in my entire life. I felt hate and depression and complete loss of who I was and where I was going. I was not the ideal Christian, I knew it, and I was okay with that knowledge. I was angry at myself, the world, and God.

The truth is, however, that God’s deliverance and healing are for the desperate. After some time of utter frustration, grievance, and several failed attempts to pick myself up, I reached my Point of Desperation. I turned to God and screamed, “Help me, Lord!” It was not until I finally turned to Him in prayer that I realized He had answered my plea months before my situation even occurred…

roommates4

In January I decided to move to my university’s city in order to save commuting costs and survive the horrible Michigan winter conditions. I was weary of moving in with roommates, but since the prices of single dorms on campus were so high, I didn’t have much of a choice. After a month of searching, I finally found a group of girls who seemed compatible and I moved into their apartment. Little did I know God was placing me into a safe haven that would shelter me from my impending heartache.

roommates2When X and I broke up two months later, I was a wreck. It took all my willpower to simply get out of bed. I tried to compose myself to make it through my school and work hours, but inside I was a confused, beaten little girl. Thankfully, God had placed me among some of the wisest and most generous girls I will ever have the pleasure of knowing. As I attempted to pick up the pieces of my former life, I found myself marveling at how easy it was to talk and laugh with these girls I barely knew. It was like I had known them my whole life; they knew what I was feeling, what I was thinking, and how to approach the situation. They were the bright spots in a very dark time. It was because of them and their guidance that I found the courage to cast my past behind me and begin moving forward.

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Looking back, I don’t think I realized what my roommates really meant to me during this time. I valued their companionship, I sought their advice, and I treasured our time together, but I never saw what they truly were: my guardian angels. Not only did they liberate me from my depression, but they also salvaged my faith. Without them I believe I would have taken a completely different route, one much darker than the path from which they led me out.

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So this is my thank you to these two very special people in my life. Thank you for all you have done for me, and all you continue to do. You both are so indescribably important to me. I pray that you never experience any hurt, but if the time should come and you do, I hope I can be a fraction of the friend you were to me. I love you.

And this is also my thank you to my Lord. Thank you for providing me with these people in my life. Even after all my lashing out towards you and questioning your motives, you continue to love me and care for me. I do not deserve such treatment. I am so deeply thankful; I am so blessed.

God wants us to use painful times for spiritual growth. As we experience trials and tribulations, we need to remind ourselves that God is not the one who brought the pain to us. Instead, He only allowed us to feel the hurt in order to use it for our own good and the good of others. He never forsakes us; He is always there for us. And it is through His grace that he provides amazing friends that catch us when we stumble or fall. To Him be the glory…

Psalm 27:1-3,5,&14 “The Lord is my light and my salvation, so why should I be afraid? The Lord protects me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to destroy me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surround me, my heart will know no fear. Even if they attack me, I remain confident. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high, above my enemies who surround me. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”

 

“I’ll Be” by Reba McEntire