Never Alone

This past week, I had the pleasure of spending an entire week alone in my house, minus the company of my dog, Chance, and Grandma who I asked to come over often. Needless to say, that “pleasure” quickly turned to sorrow as the longer the days grew and the darker the nights, the lonelier I became.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love quiet. I love a well-lived-in home full of life, but quiet at night. However, when it really comes down to it, once you’ve heard every creak, crack, and bump in the night, many of us don’t like being alone as much as we thought (myself included).

Walking out to the porch one evening that week, even poor Chance wailed his loneliness of humanity through the hollowest howl of horrifying sorrow I’d ever heard. Perhaps it was a lingering revelation that his fellow brother Buddy (who had to be put to sleep a week earlier) was really never coming back, or maybe it was a simple longing for me to come back in the house, even for just a few moments because he couldn’t stand the thought, the feeling, the presence of being alone…even when I was just outside the door he couldn’t see through.

And in some odd parallel of a lonely dog singing opera and a twenty-something girl full of anxiety and fear of being isolated in her bedroom, I tend to wonder if God at the beginning of time felt this way about His creation.

Creation of Community

In the Scriptures of Genesis chapter 2, we learn that just a few short days after God created the Universe and His creation of Adam, left this one human longing for something that even God knew needed provided. And did this mean that God wasn’t good? Of course not! Did it mean that He had made a mistake? Certainly not. But, it did mean that He recognized a need for His people even before they asked for anything, and in His goodness, He gifted us with something no other could: community.

Breathing His own life into dust to form the lungs of Adam, our Word records that Adam was created with a purpose. He was given a mission to care for the land, avoid the tree of Good and Evil, and live in the presence of our Heavenly Father. What a joy that sounds! Yet, even with this purpose and calling, Adam had no other human interaction. And before he knew it, I’m sure he felt much like me this week when the Word reflects:

It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him – Genesis 2:18, NLT

God, who recognized a NEED in His people, even before they would beg, cry out, and ask for it on their own. A need not just romantically, but relationally.

So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still, there was no helper just right for him. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man. “At last,” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man”- Genesis 2:19-23

And you know what I love about that Scripture? That, as much as I want caring for things to be enough. As much as I want my dog, Chance, to be enough. Even as much as I want God in solitude to be enough, He wants a community for us, and without that, we will utterly be alone. But look! This Scripture not only tells us that God doesn’t want us to be alone, but it also reveals that God will always provide for our every need. In friendship, in a relationship, in family, even before we ever speak a word.

Psalm 139:4 declares with eloquence, “even before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, O Lord.” Nothing proves this more than the Creator of the Universe providing for the first man on the planet, not because he asked for something, but because God knew that a lack of humanity would never be enough for Adam.

Never Alone with Christ

On Thursday this week, I finally saw my parents, and as eager as a child in a candy store, I couldn’t resist the urge to tell them how much I missed them this week. And in that short span of five seconds, I realized something profound: even in their lack of physical appearance this week, I was reassured every night by the voice of my parents that they cared for and loved me the same, even when I couldn’t presently see them. I couldn’t help but think that the same principle applies to our Father in Heaven who profoundly longs to hear, speak, talk to, and remind us that we’re never alone.

Even when we can’t see Him behind the door.

Even when we can’t hear Him and we scream at the top of our lungs with a wailing sorrow.

Even when we can’t speak because we’re so full of tears that all that comes out is a blubbering mess of emotion.

Even when it’s just a week and you know your parents will be back again (as silly as that sounds), but you miss their presence and community, know this:

He’s still there. He still cares. And regardless of if we can physically see, hear, or experience Him; He doesn’t want us to be alone.

Finding Joy in a World of Work

Joy work

Why should we work? Should we work to have enough to live? Should we work to have enough to live comfortably? To live well off? Can we find joy in work? People often say that they are “married to their career”. Others say they can’t wait for 5 PM on a Friday night when they are done with their drudgery and can get on to what they actually want to do. If someone doesn’t have a passion, we think of them as lost. When we meet people, we often ask “what do you do?” Or, in college, “What are you majoring in? What are your plans after college?” As I considered the classic question of what I wanted to do after college, I found myself asking myself these questions: Why should I work, and what should I work for?

I have always heard in church and around that I should work for God, but I know that I can work for God no matter what I do. Beyond finding the topics that interest me and the ones that I am skilled in, how do I work in a way that allows me to be the most faithful daughter of God?

Ecclesiastes has a simple answer. Enjoy your work and/but find joy in God.

Enjoy: To see good

Something that always surprises me in the Bible is the way it calls us to view life. Every passage in the Bible almost seems to add a whole new dimension to what I see daily. Whether it be the lens of godliness, the lens of love, or the lens of the Gospel, the Bible always challenges me to see the world differently than how I saw it before. Ecclesiastes is no different. Overall, it calls readers to view the world through the glasses of “vanity.”

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. – Ecclesiastes 5:10

In most sections of Ecclesiastes, everything is given the label of “vain”. Whether it be money or youthfulness or honor, the writer concludes prioritizing any of these things ultimately has no impact on our lives. I wonder if we were to actively realize all the “vain” things we do in life if our lives would look extremely different.

Instead of spending those extra minutes worrying about that spot on our faces that doesn’t look “perfect” (after all, vanity is vain), or instead of spending those extra minutes dreaming about the perfect meal, would we be living differently? Would our lives prioritize different concerns?

When it comes to work, Ecclesiastes strongly suggests yes.

I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. – Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

As I read these words, I wondered what it means to “take pleasure” in work. So, I looked in the Bible for other places where the same Hebrew words were used. It turns out that the same phrase is first used all the way back in Genesis 1.

God saw that the light was good – Genesis 1:4

The Hebrew words used for “was good” are the same words used for “take pleasure” in Ecclesiastes. God was working during the creation of the world. He was focused on creating a world that He could see the “good” in. When we work, we must also look to create “goods” that are “good”. This is what will allow us to enjoy our work.

Instead of looking to work as purely a means of making money or a means to find our lives’ purpose, Ecclesiastes suggests that work should be a lot simpler. It should be enjoyable, knowing that we are creating something good. Whether it be knowledge (for those working in education), health (for those working in healthcare), experiences (for those working in service), or anything else (for those in other careers), the final products should be good.

Joy: Only from God

Although the previous section may have challenged many of us who work without enjoying our jobs, those who are career-driven may have felt pretty comfortable. Unfortunately or fortunately, for us who are career-driven, Ecclesiastes does not stop there.

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart – Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 [Emphasis added]

At first glance, the passage above seems purely encouraging. The word for “enjoyment” above is again the same term of finding the good. However, the passage is also challenging. Although we should “see the good” in our work, Ecclesiastes 5:20 reminds us that our lives are short and that we should be living for more than ourselves.
Ultimately, the passage points to the fact that God and only God should be our source of joy. This joy is different from enjoyment. Joy is more than seeing the good in something. It is entering into a state of being.

As one theologian explains:

Joy is more than happiness, just as happiness is more than pleasure. Pleasure is in the body. Happiness is in the mind and feelings. Joy is deep in the heart, the spirit, the centre of the self. – Peter Kreeft

Joy is deep-rooted. It transforms our perspective and our life. Work often tries to become the space that we use to find joy. However, work can only be used to create goods that allow us to enjoy our labor. Work cannot give us ultimate joy.

No matter how many “goods” you create, how many hours you work, how successful and famous you become because of your work, you cannot find ultimate satisfaction in the fruit of your hands. When we turn our eyes to God, everything else fades away. Our fruit become background noise in the light of the glory of God. God takes over our minds in giving us joy and transforming us.

Conclusion: Consider your fruit

So, at the end of the day, let us all work to create good products in the world and still find our ultimate joy in God. Let us especially consider the “fruit”, the products that we are creating.

Are we creating products that give us a source of identity? Are we creating products that are second-rate just to get a paycheck? Are we putting work over God? I hope we all can grow and find joy in producing the fruit of our work with our hands that please God and that impact the world for Him.

Honest Reflections of a Young Christian in College

Young Christian in College

As a young Christian in college, I think it’s safe to say that college life is not what I expected it to be like. Whether it be class schedules, registration, time management, having an actual social life, and of course, church-going. None of it goes exactly how we planned.

I, for one, moved abroad to pursue my studies, and then COVID struck… I know for sure none of us saw this coming. Life sure does have a way to surprise us.

Though some of our peers have tried their best, none of us have been fully prepared for everything that happens. College isn’t what movies and TV shows portray it to be. And it’s even worse now since COVID. This is why I wanted to share my honest reflections with hopes to encourage, sympathize and show grace to every other young Christian and college student.

 

1. Attending Church

College years are often the years where many young people either stop attending church, rarely do, or have left the faith altogether. The stats are high and many things contribute to this factor.

I waited a whole year to find a church home. I visited multiple churches in the area before I stuck with one. And then COVID happened. We managed to attend two services. I seem to have lost track of the whole COVID situation, but we’re in 2021 and I’m finally going to have the opportunity to attend church.

There are a lot of reasons why some don’t attend church anymore. The most common ones are time management, personal struggles, and believe it or not, ill-treatment on behalf of (some) church folks. Having lived some of those things myself, I can see how some of us stray away from the church, the Gospel, and God.

 

2. Challenged Faith & Deconstruction

This one is most likely inevitable. Especially knowing that most of us Christian youth go to some public institution of some sort. And I do think that no matter where it is one has gone to pursue their studies, their faith will be challenged at some point.

Many things are happening, ideologies being pushed unto us and meeting people from different backgrounds and beliefs. Depending on one’s background, they may or may not be prepared for it. My faith was most definitely challenged by just being in a different environment than the one I grew up in. All “challenged faith” and “deconstruction” journeys look different. In my case, the Bible is what prompted it. The Bible challenged a lot of what I was taught and used to believe. I was now discovering the word, desperate to know what is true.

I didn’t leave the faith but others have, and they need our prayers. This should also humble us and cause us to let grace abound. It’s not something you just get up and decide to go through with. Because it just happens.

 

3. Quiet Time & Devotion

I personally love the Bible. It’s intriguing and so full of knowledge. Still, I’m not the best at reading it every day. To this day, I still struggle to maintain a set schedule for Bible time. I’ve gotten a little more consistent in consuming bible content thanks to The Bible Recap (Bible plan & podcast).

With class schedules, work schedules, and all the in-between, it can be pretty difficult to find time to spend time in God’s word. Sometimes, you just have to set time aside to do so. And if you really can’t, try implementing it into the little gaps throughout your day. I started doing this ever since my quiet-time schedule wasn’t working for me as much anymore.

That being said, it may not have been easy or instagrammable but it’s a beautiful privilege: you get to learn more about God. Some passages can be harder to understand, but the Holy Spirit provides guidance and clarity. I can vouch for Him. I’ve often read the Bible without asking Him for help because “I didn’t have the time,” and it’s not the method I’d recommend.

Remember to invite the Holy Spirit. And if you forget to, go back to Him for help.

 

4. God is there for the college students

There are a lot of things that go down in college. What I shared is not an exhaustive description of everything that happens. One thing that keeps me going and I hope that it does so for you too is knowing that God is there for us and with us.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

God loves us. He knows and sees the struggles. God will strengthen His people and will always guide His people. He is willing to forgive and is faithful. And He uses every part of our stories for our good. We can lean on Him and trust His character. And the best part is that He keeps His promises. And one of those promises is that He’ll never leave us.

This last part was my favorite. As it is a reminder that no matter what life, college, or COVID throws at us, we have an unshakeable someone there for us. In times of challenged faith, God is patient with us. Even when we try to cram everything into our busy schedules, He doesn’t leave us. And that is the hope I want to share with you. The hope that will keep you going.

How Does Holy Punishment Create Heavenly Hope? A Study of Micah 1-3

Micah

In a world where injustice seems to reign and sin runs rampant, I often find myself wondering why God has allowed this. Recently, I have been asking this question, and I have found solace in the pages of the book of Micah. I hope and pray my words and thoughts surrounding these verses can help you see that God is still working amid injustice and hardship.

 

The History of Micah

I know history can be a little boring, but with the Old Testament especially, it is SO important to understand the historical context going along with God’s words. A lot of times, we can’t understand why God is so wrathful in the Old Testament, but often that’s because we aren’t aware of the whole story.

Micah was a prophet in Southern Judah when he wrote this book (around 735-700 B.C.) Believe it or not, the people of Judah were NOT listening to what God was telling them. The people of Judah claimed to know & believe in God, yet they still worshipped idols and relied on the devil rather than the Lord. God was heartbroken that His people had turned their backs from Him yet again. God was also burning with righteous anger.

Through Micah, God told His people that if they didn’t change their ways, Judah would be overtaken and destroyed. The people of Judah didn’t believe that God would destroy their holy city. After all, it was the site of God’s temple, so they believed they were automatically considered holy and right before God. Yet they worshipped idols, lived in sexual sin, and allowed pride to overtake them. And dear friends, this is so like us today. We think because we throw around the term “Christian” that it makes us holy. But only believing in the atonement of Christ can make you holy enough to stand before the Lord. Atonement is the first step, but we must also die to our flesh to live a life for God.

Through Micah, the Lord intertwines the ideas of judgment and mercy. He points to the true meanings of justice, and He reminds us of all the promises He has in store for His children. While God is a wrathful judge, He is also a forgiving Father and an Author that has written a salvation story over each one of our hearts.

Open your Bible to the book of Micah and let’s get started!

 

Micah 1: The Lord Sees You

1:1-4

To start this chapter off, God tells His people that He will bear witness against their sinful actions (1:2). He wants His people to hear His words of truth and repent. Verse 3 even declares the Lord is coming down from the heavens to be with His people. Part of this declaration was to prove His mighty power as a reminder that without change, His people would be punished.

But I also think this creates a sense of intimacy and closeness between the Lord and His people. So often we view punishment as only a negative thing, but God’s punishment is not rejection. God’s punishment is to remind us that there is something better in store for us than the worldly things we are chasing. Imagine, a Creator of the entire universe, caring so much about YOU that He wants to spend the time and effort to correct your path amd bless you. We must also remember that God is a perfect and holy judge. He sees the sin we choose to ignore or that we are blinded to, and He wants to help us purify ourselves; We must only let Him in.

1:4-5

In verse 4, the Lord says something striking. He says, “But all of this is Jacob’s transgressions, because of the sins of Israel. What is Jacob’s transgression? Is it not Samaria? What is Judah’s high place? Is it not Jerusalem?” (these questions refer to the split of the 12 tribes of Israel) And I can totally see the people of Judah saying “YEP!! That’s exactly what it is, it’s all their fault! You can leave us alone now! :)” And just like the Judahites we so often allow our sins to get muddled into acceptable behavior because we make excuses like:

  • “Well, I only did this because…”
  • “It’s their fault, not mine…”
  • “I didn’t know I was doing something bad…”

But God CLEARLY draws the line between good & bad within His Word, and we must be willing to incorporate His sense of justice and goodness within our own lives. And I know from a worldly perspective, not every situation or decision has a clear “good or bad” answer. Sometimes there is a gray area, but during those times reach out to God and ask for guidance!

1:6-7

Then, for the next couple of verses, God talks about the destruction He will bring upon the city. But something that caught my attention especially was verse 6, when He says,

I will make it a heap of rubble, a place for planting vineyards. – Micah 1:6

And honestly, I don’t know the first thing about vineyard planting, maybe rubble is just a great place to grow grapes, but this verse is talking about how out of destruction, God is bringing a new wine- Jesus Christ!

1:8-12

The next subtitle in my Bible is called “Weeping and Mourning.” And guess what the people of Judah were doing…. yeah, weeping and mourning! I get it, God has come down and threatened destruction. God then makes the point of WHY are you weeping like I haven’t warned you for years that change must happen? WHY are you asking me to help you when you ignore the needy and oppressed in your own country? WHY do you think I will allow you to define the standards of justice?

And everyone, right now, WHY are we still doing that?! And the simple answer is because of human nature, but that is no excuse to hinder justice when the Lord gives us specific standards to live according to His Word. Please do not mistake my words as harsh, but see them as the Lord’s Truth, because when we choose a life from God, we are committing ourselves to a life of sin.

God so clearly reveals His utter heartbreak and fury at watching His children twist the name of justice for their own good. God is justice. His Word is justice. His peace, comfort, and power is justice. So why are we so afraid to really dig into the true meaning of justice? Of love? Of compassion? And I think Micah says it best when he says the injustices of Judah are like an “incurable plague.” And YES there is a seemingly literal incurable plague going on right now but throughout the Bible, God gives us the “cure” to combat the plague of injustices, even though it certainly does seem “incurable.” As we continue through the rest of the book of Micah, you will clearly see how what went on in Judah relates to us now.

1:13

In this verse, the “horses and chariots” refer to a leader. Who will lead in such a time as this? As Christians, we cannot be afraid to be the leaders of justice. This world is a corrupt place, and without the power of God’s children, nothing will ever change. So be that change and accept the calling God has placed over each one of our lives.

1:13-16

The second part of verse 13 is a reminder that we all are consumed by sin. But we have the choice to hand it to God and live freely. If not, we become slaves to evil and will never feel the freedom that God intends to bless us with. Micah cleverly paints a picture of this slavery when he tells the Judahites who refuse repentance to “shave their heads in mourning, make yourself as bald as the vulture, for they will go from you into exile.” As believers today, we have a second option: repent and be free.

 

Micah 2: God’s Plan Over All

2:1

Evil thoughts lead to evil deeds. In all of your ventures, be fair and loving to eliminate the spread of evil, and promote the spread of the Gospel.

2:2

This is a warning from Micah to avoid using power and position to take advantage of others. In 1 Kings 21: 1-16, Jezebel had a man killed simply so the king could use the man’s garden whenever he pleased. The leaders of Judah were making similar mistakes as they oppressed their people and led lives of sin. So when you are given authority, be just with your decisions and work with your people, not against them.

Similarly, we should be praying for rulers all around the world to embrace God’s truth and rule with heavenly power rather than earthly distractions.

2:3-5

These verses describe the punishment God is going to put upon the people of Judah for their sins. While all of His people will be punished, God makes a promise that He will divide the land among the righteous believers, and the oppressors will receive nothing. This reminds me of the beatitudes that Jesus preached as He said, “Blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek, etc.” While we may not feel blessed during times of trial and hardships, our reward is coming in the form of an eternity in paradise!

These verses also reveal the immense power behind God’s words and His plan. He is Almighty. No matter what we say or do, the Lord will always have ultimate power. And I think when a lot of people hear “ultimate power,” especially in the context of Micah when the Lord is threatening destruction, they immediately think that God is some sort of a dictator. But that’s not the case at all. God gives us free will. However, He uses His divine power to transform our lives into something beautiful on the account of His goodness. With the people of Judah, the Lord knew that without destruction, His people could never recreate their society to reflect their religion. Sometimes, as crazy as it sounds, reaching rock bottom is the biggest blessing because it allows us to completely rebuild our lives upon the Rock.

2:6-11

In the verses, we are warned about false prophets. People will sweet talk us and try to steer us away from our faith. We must root ourselves in the Word. This kind of false jargon is one of the devil’s biggest tools to distract us from what really matters: Our relationship with God.

The people of Judah fell for this talk from the devil. They turned their backs on God, and God was not only outraged but heartbroken. God tells Micah that, “Lately my people have risen up like an enemy” (2:8). Ouch. If we so willingly rise against the Lord, why are we so angry when He sends punishment? Do we not deserve it?

But despite this, God still sent Jesus Christ to take the punishment for us (John 3:16). Yes, we will still have hardships. But we will never have to endure the separation from God that sin so wickedly brings.

2:12-13

The Lord promises deliverance. He promises His people that He will “bring them together like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture.” He will leave the 99 sheep to find the one for He is the good shepherd. The Lord then says He will go before them, preparing the way for goodness and glory. In Judah’s case, and many others, punishment is preparation. And undergoing that preparation can lead to eternity.

If that’s a little confusing, let’s go back to the historical context. God’s punishment for Judah ended up being captivity by the Babylonians. There were many years between this capture and the walk of the Messiah, but during their oppression, Judah realized that the Savior was coming. In the end, God’s punishment for their sin gave them more hope than they would ever have because it forced them to turn their eyes to a higher place. They realized they were called out of sin and into righteousness. And that’s what the Lord wants for you!!

 

Micah 3: Justice Above All

3:1-7

The leaders of Judah were oppressors. They hid behind a mask of faith, only to turn their need for God on and off like a light switch. They ravaged and killed their people for their own satisfaction, yet when anything went wrong in their lives, they turned to God and demanded help. God was heartbroken and angry. He revealed His plan of punishment if the leaders did not change their ways, but then He went into a time of grieving when He “hid His face from them because of the evil they had done” (3:4).

God’s face is brilliant and bright. In Exodus, it is described to be the brightest light ever seen and Moses could not look at it. When Saul was walking and saw the face of the Lord, he was instantly blinded. The Lord hid His face because His children in Judah were choosing darkness over light. Yes, the light of the Lord will always have victory over darkness, but we cannot live in both. When the days of revelation come, the Light will rule all, but right now, we choose where we stand. And both simply is not an option.

Even later in this chapter, the Lord says,

Those who lead my people astray…the night will come for you. The sun will set for you and the days will go dark. – Micah 3:5-6

Choosing to allow injustices to rule tears us away from the Lord. Look around the world right now. What do you see? I see destruction and injustice and oppression. But I also see hope. I sense the kind of hope that envelopes your whole spirit and brings you peace during the darkest times. I feel the hope of Jesus Christ.

3:8

After all this, Micah then says,

But as for me, I am filled with power from the Spirit of God. – Micah 3:8

Micah believed fully, trusted extensively, and served faithfully. But so many of the people around him saw God as a crutch to their problems and used Him as so. But when we put our faith in Him, and when we fully lay our lives down for the good of the kingdom, we are filled with HIS power! A quote from my study Bible says: “You can’t witness effectively by relying on your own strength, because fear will keep you from sneaking out for God. Only by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit can you live and witness for Him.” We cannot get strength from the Lord only during hardships. We need strength from the Lord CONSTANTLY in order to truly accomplish the kingdom work that He has in store for us.

3:9-12

The leaders of Judah “distorted what was right” (3:9). The Lord promised punishment. But He also promised hope and redemption. While most of the leaders of this earth are crooked and unjust, know that God will attend to them. It is not our place to judge or condemn them. It is our job to have hope for a better future in the belief that the Lord will provide. Yes, go fight for what is right and make changes to the injustices in this world; we NEED to do this. We need to stand firm in justice and mercy, we need to stand strong within our churches and families. But when you feel helpless and you cannot act, simply believe God will make every wrong into a right and His justice will one day be established over all else.

Les Réflexions d’une Jeune Étudiante Chrétienne

Young Christian in College

Je pense que l’on peut dire que la vie à l’université n’est pas celle à laquelle je m’attendais. Qu’il s’agisse
des horaires de cours, de l’inscription, de la gestion du temps, de la vie sociale et, bien sûr, de la
participation aux cultes. Rien ne se passe exactement comme prévu.

Pour ma part, je suis venue poursuivre mes études à l’étranger, et voilà que Covid a fait son apparition…
Je suis sûre que personne ne l’a vu venir. La vie a toujours une façon de nous surprendre.

Bien que certains de nos confrères aient fait de leur mieux, personne n’a été totalement préparé pour
tout ce qui arrive. L’université n’est pas comme dans les films et les séries. Et c’est encore pire depuis le
Covid. C’est pourquoi j’ai voulu partager mes pensées honnêtes dans le but d’encourager, de compatir
avec tous les étudiants et jeunes chrétiens.

 

1. Assister au culte

Les années de fac sont souvent la période où de nombreux jeunes ont soit cessent d’aller à l’église, soit
n’y vont que rarement, soit ont complètement abandonné la foi. Les statistiques sont élevées et
beaucoup de choses contribuent à ce facteur.

De mon côté, j’ai attendu une année entière pour trouver une église. J’ai visité plusieurs églises dans la
région avant d’en choisir une. Et puis, le hasard a fait bien les choses. Nous avons réussi à assister à deux
services. Je crois avoir un peu perdu le fil de cette histoire de Covid, mais nous sommes en 2021 et je
vais enfin avoir l’occasion d’aller à l’église.

Il y a beaucoup de raisons pour lesquelles certains ne vont plus à l’église. Les raisons les plus fréquentes
sont la gestion du temps, les difficultés personnelles et, croyez-le ou non, la négligence de la part de
(certains) membres de l’église. Ayant moi-même vécu certaines de ces choses, je peux comprendre que
certains d’entre nous s’éloignent de l’église, de l’Évangile et de Dieu.

 

2. Foi contestée

Celle-ci est inévitable. Surtout quand la plupart d’entre nous, jeunes chrétiens, étudions dans un
établissement public, quel qu’il soit. Et je pense que, quel que soit l’endroit où l’on poursuit ses études,
sa foi sera challengée à un moment ou à un autre.

Beaucoup de choses se passent, des idéologies nous sont imposées et nous rencontrons des gens de
milieux différents et de croyances différentes. Selon le milieu dans lequel on se trouve, on peut ou ne
peut pas être préparé à ce genre de situation. Ma foi a été très certainement contestée par le simple fait
d’être dans un environnement différent de celui dans lequel j’ai grandi.

Tous les parcours de ” foi contestée ” et de ” déstructuration ” sont différents. Dans mon cas, c’est la
Bible qui l’a déclenché. La Bible a remis en question beaucoup de ce que j’avais appris et de ce que je
croyais. Je commençais à découvrir la parole, cherchant désespérément à savoir ce qui est vrai.

 

3. Temps de méditation

En ce qui me concerne, j’adore la Bible. Elle est fascinante et pleine de connaissances. Pourtant, je suis
loin d’être la meilleure quand il s’agit de la lire tous les jours. À ce jour, j’ai encore du mal à maintenir
un horaire fixe pour le temps consacré à la Bible. Cependant, grâce à The Bible Recap (plan biblique et
podcast), je suis devenu un peu plus régulier dans la consommation du contenu biblique.

Avec les horaires de cours, les horaires du travail et tout ce qui se passe entre temps, il peut être assez
difficile de trouver du temps pour passer du temps dans la parole de Dieu. Parfois, il faut simplement
mettre du temps de côté pour le faire. Et si vous n’y arrivez vraiment pas, essayez de l’intégrer dans les
petits trous de votre journée. J’ai commencé à faire cela depuis que mes heures de méditation ne
fonctionnaient plus aussi bien pour moi.

Cela dit, ce n’est peut-être pas facile ou instagrammable, mais c’est un beau privilège de pouvoir
apprendre davantage sur Dieu. Certains passages peuvent être plus difficiles à comprendre, mais le
Saint-Esprit nous guide et nous éclaire. Je peux en témoigner. J’ai souvent lu la Bible sans Lui
demander de l’aide parce que “je n’avais pas le temps” et ce n’est pas la méthode que je recommande.
N’oubliez pas d’inviter le Saint-Esprit. Et si vous oubliez de le faire, retournez Lui demander de l’aide.

 

4. Dieu est là pour les étudiants

Il y a beaucoup de choses qui se passent à l’université. Ce que j’ai partagé n’est pas une liste exhaustive
de tout ce qui se passe. Mais ce qui me permet d’avancer, et j’espère que ce sera le cas pour vous aussi,
c’est de savoir que Dieu est là pour nous et avec nous.

Dieu nous aime. Il connaît et il voit les luttes. Il fortifie son peuple. Il dirigera toujours son peuple. Il
est prêt à pardonner. Il est fidèle. Et il utilise chaque partie de notre histoire pour notre bien. Nous
pouvons nous appuyer sur lui et faire confiance à son caractère. Et le mieux, c’est qu’il tient ses
promesses. Et l’une de ces promesses est qu’il ne nous abandonnera jamais.

Cette dernière partie est ma préférée. Elle nous rappelle que peu importe ce que la vie, l’université ou le
Covid nous réserve, nous avons quelqu’un d’inébranlable qui est là pour nous. Dans les moments où
notre foi est mise à l’épreuve, Dieu est patient avec nous. Même lorsque nous essayons de tout faire
entrer dans notre emploi du temps chargé, il ne nous abandonne pas. Et c’est cet espoir que je veux
partager avec vous. L’espoir qui vous permettra de continuer à avancer.

God’s Will Be Done…Even It It’s Not My Will

God's Will vs. My Will

Right now, I’m in a shattered and broken place of figment dreams, heightened comparisons, overwhelming circumstances, and an unthinkable mindset paralyzed by fear, anxiety, and depression. A place where everything I thought I ever wanted has come to the realization that sometimes God’s will for our lives is not the (insert your name here) will we have set for our lives. Sometimes, it’s scary to trust in God’s will vs. my will.

God’s Will vs. My Will

All my life, for instance, I can tell you three solid facts about myself that have always been true. I’ve always been a writer and felt called to pursue that as a career, I’ve always been a dancer and felt called to continue that through ministry, and I’ve never wanted children because I felt a calling that God had something different in mind for my future. Yet, when I think about it, fully surrendering to His will, His way, means that if at any moment God takes away my ability to write or dance, or not fulfilling those callings, that I have to be okay with that.

Now of course, I don’t believe that a good God would take away good desires that align with His will. But I am not the one in control of my life, and even when my desires are in track with His, I have to surrender the authority that whatever God decides to do with that is best for me, even if that means not being a writer, not flourishing a ministry, or having children if that desire within me changes. And in all honesty, that last one scares me more than you know and pushes me to a much deeper faith than I’ve ever known because I would do anything to have that come true.

What a tough pill to swallow.

But, as tears well up in my eyes and my heart pounds, I know that God has my best interest at heart. I know when I am faced between God’s will vs. my will, His is always better. As long as I am continually and fully pursuing Him, He will watch and guide over me, always providing everything I need and more along the way. That means surrendering my everything to Him in full acceptance that His will be done, even if it isn’t to the consent of my will that I think I want for my life.

Ouch. Yeah, that last one hurts a bit, doesn’t it?

Living a Life According to God’s Will

Following God’s will vs. my will is demonstrated through our actions. In James 4:13-17, James addresses this concept in encouraging those of the faith to live that faith out, not just in their words, but through action and deed. Within this particular chapter, he warns us to align our views with Christ, draw close to God, and then fully submit and surrender anything within us and our plans for this life so that we will not boast about our self-confidence, but the residing power of Christ in us.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. – James 4:13-17

Did you catch that? Scripture tells us, “if the Lord Wills”; it does not say “if Amber Wills” or “if Amber desires,” or “if Amber demands.” It says, “if the Lord Wills,” and that is a sharp command from the Father to rest in the promise that though I cannot control or boast in plan making, I can boast and rejoice in the one who does.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. – Proverbs 16:9

And indeed, the less we listen to the mind of man and the more we listen to Him, the more that the path ahead of us will be marked straight and He will lead us where we are meant to go (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. – Proverbs 4:25-26

Trusting in God’s Will, Not My Will

So, what does this mean for us? How can we as selfish and prideful humans be entirely sold out and wholeheartedly devoted to Him, no matter the will he has in store? We T.R.U.S.T.

1. We THANK God

Even when things are going wrong, and we feel like our world is ending, it is crucial to praise God. Thank God, you might be questioning, doesn’t that sound a bit odd? Shouldn’t I be telling God what I want? On the contrary of how it seems or feels though, thanking God in both sorrow and joy strengths our faith.

He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. – Isaiah 40:29

Just like Solomon praised God before the victory in 2 Chronicles 7:1-11 (God doesn’t answer Him directly until verse 12, yet he praises in the waiting!), we too can thank God when nothing else makes sense because, at the core of our issues, He is still good. He is still worthy. His will is always best.

2. We REMEMBER God

Once we have thanked God in our sorrow or joy about the never-ending scenarios that haunt us, we remember who God is regardless of how our emotions are telling us that we feel. His plan might include that job, spouse, or plan that you have, or it might utterly flip those things upside down. Yet regardless of these things, we can know and trust that God:

  • Is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18)
  • Provides strength (Isaiah 40:30-31)
  • Provides for His will (Isaiah 40:27-28)
  • Calls us by name (Isaiah 40:26)
  • Brings life through His Word (Proverbs 3:1-3)
  • Holds all wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 9:10-11)
  • Has an unfailing love (Romans 8:31-39)

Those plans you made? They may fall through. Those desires you have? They may change. That guy or girl you love? They may not be in the future. But by resting in who God is and His promises, we have everything we need (2 Peter 1:3).

3. We seek to UNDERSTAND God

After praising and reflecting on who Scripture tells us God is, it is time to dip deep into His Word and seek to follow Him. Taking time to pray, journal, and read His Word pours profound spiritual truths into our hungry and thirsty souls that only God can satisfy.

Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God. – Matthew 4:4

When we seek to understand God and want what He alone wants for us, we are less likely to be overwhelmed by the thoughts and plans we try to carry out on our own.

4. We SURRENDER and SUBMIT to Him

Through thanking, remembering, and seeking to understand God, we must also truly surrender and submit to Him. Here, we must be willing to lay down the plans we have for ourselves, and authentically know that even if our dreams, hopes, and ideas come crashing down, He will provide. When we surrender to God, we are saying, “thy will be done, not mine.” When we submit to Him, we accept whatever plans He has in-store to replace ours.

But these things, I must tell you, are not easy. They aren’t like ripping a band-aid off a healed wound. In fact, they are more like tearing it off of an injury that hasn’t healed yet. Despite this pain, when we do these things, our faith, love, and trust in Christ will grow. Daily, we must surrender our ideals to Him, and with that, submit to whatever He has planned for our future. To obey, and fully submit oneself to that which lay ahead. There is joy and freedom in submission to Christ.

5. We THANK God again and TASTE His goodness

Finally, after we release everything of ourselves and accept everything that He alone is, we are given the freedom to thank God again for what He will do and taste the fruit of His goodness. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the Biblical fruits of the spirit we sang as a child, but honestly, His fruit is good, and He desires to give us good gifts. No matter the circumstance, pain, or joy, those who follow Christ will be rewarded for their faithfulness to Him.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. – Psalms 34:8

Taste the goodness of Him who provides, even before you see the fruition of His promises. When faced with the decision between God’s will vs. my will, I remember the promises of goodness the Lord has given.

Following God’s Will

Though I keep questioning, I rest in the promise that He alone is the answer I am looking for. I know when I am faced between God’s will vs. my will, that His way is the answer. No matter what my will wants, He knows best for me.

Rest in that today, my friend. He is a God of goodness and mercy and surely has nothing less than a perfectly planned will set in the eternity for you today.

What I Learned Playing Hide-And-Seek

Hide and seek. You know it. You played it. But I was fantastic at it.

Dial the clock back, oh, 15 years or so and you will find me crouching under the couch cushions, enclosing myself into their fabric or, my personal favorite, dive-bombing into the nearest laundry basket. Covering myself with piles of the week’s dirty laundry was just the best.

Hindsight being 20/20, it’s no surprise that the concept of hiding became almost immune to my notice as I grew up.

 

Fear of Repentance and Vulnerability

Now though, instead of sneaking behind closed doors or pressing myself up against walls like a chameleon, I became the expert of invisible cloaks and shadows rather than revealing what I was truly going through.  But this time, unlike the innocent actions of my adolescence, my choices began to have much deeper repercussions.

The pressure I put on myself to be perfect was overwhelming. I lived in a barrage of fear, anxiety, depression, loneliness, OCD-like compulsions, and perfectionism, so rich in legalism that I struggled to break free of the chains I created for myself. And because I chose to keep everything under lock and key, I often feared what others would think if they only knew I was just as broken as they were.

 

Surrender It All to Christ

But then, as they often do, unforeseen circumstances hit, and I was “forced” to surrender. I could no longer outrun my facade.

The first I confessed to was my family, who, no surprise, already knew I was struggling. After that I worked up the courage to ask my friends for prayer, finally realizing it was okay to not be okay.

The actual turning point though took place on my bathroom floor.

We all have those moments right? Those pivotal points in time when we find ourselves broken? Mine just happened to take place perfectly positioned between the shower and the commode.

That was my moment. Sobbing, I cried out to God from that little bathroom. I couldn’t stand for everyone to think I was this perfect person anymore; the prison of performance was too much, even though I was the one who placed such strict and unnecessary conformity on myself.

And in that moment of ragged and fragmented brokenness like a cracked and shattered mirror, I heard God say, “You don’t have to hide anymore. You don’t have to live like this.  I didn’t create you to place such bindings and ropes of enslavement on yourself. I didn’t create you to live in fear. I am your hiding place.”

That’s His grace. And that’s the exact balm for your hiding He’s offering you today.

Unlike my man-made creations of legally binding rules and contracts, God doesn’t expect us to live in the imprisonment of our struggles.  He doesn’t ask us to cover our flaws and weaknesses so that those around us can be encouraged in their trials.

Perfection condemns but authenticity inspires.

 

Freedom in Christ

On the contrary, He invites us to be vulnerable with those who are also struggling.  And instead of running to our friends, families, or favorite activities for comfort, He asks us to step into the shelter of His wings (Psalm 91) because He alone knows where freedom lies.

You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah. – Psalm 32:7

God doesn’t ask us to live a perfect life, conceal our deepest secrets, or act like our lives are carbon copy images of faultless realities. What. A. Relief.

Instead, He simply asks us to run to Him, knowing we don’t have to hide our true selves any longer.

Come out of hiding; you’re safe here with me.  There’s no need to cover what I already see.  You’ve got your reasons, but I hold your peace.  You’ve been on lock-down, and I hold the key. ‘Cause I loved you before, you knew it was love.  And I saw it all still I chose the cross. And you were the one, that I was thinking of when I rose from the grave.  Now rid of the shackles, My victory’s yours. I tore the veil for you to come close. There’s no reason to stand at a distance anymore; you’re not far from home. – Steffany Gretzinger, “Out of Hiding- Father’s Song”

Unlike that childhood Amber, I no longer play hide and seek with my choices because this life is real; it isn’t a game.  Instead, I get to run to our Heavenly Father who holds my struggles in the palm of His hands.  I’m free to unlock the box of my secrets and release them to Him.  I can live free from legalism in the full presence of His love.  I shake off my heavy chains and dance in the presence of His Spirit.  I allow the world to see every ounce of my flaws, because maybe, just maybe, there are others out there who are just like me.

Come out of Hiding my friend and run to the true Hiding place that’s all about surrender and not about shame—the one that’s all about freedom, and a truly safe place to hide.  Because unlike my laundry basket and couch cushions of camouflage, Jesus offers us shelter in the storm, water in the desert, life in the chaos, peace in the trial, and His constant presence in the fear.

 

Living a Life of Authenticity

In Him exists the real hiding place.  And instead of running from it, we run to it, finding authentic and lasting rest. How? What does it look like to live authentically and truly come out of hiding? Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. We recognize that it is okay to not be okay. We admit to Christ that we can’t do this alone and begin to fully rely on Him for all things.
  2. We stop hiding and start sharing our stories with others. Instead of sneaking around in our insecurities, share them with those you trust.  Talk to friends, family, counselors, Pastors, and confidants that you feel the most secure with.  No, no, you don’t have to wave your dirty laundry all over the place but share what’s on your heart.  Be real, be vulnerable, be you and watch the shame begin to fall away.
  3. We rest and pray in the confidence of Him who created us. Although I too have a difficult time with rest, learning to “let go and let God” is truly what hiding in Him means.  Whether this is through writing your prayers, verbally confessing them, or crying on your floor in confusion, remember that your life is NOT small.  What you are going through matters, and God dearly cares about you.

No matter the circumstance, or piles of secret “laundry” you have hidden from the rest of the world, know that there is no hiding place greater than the presence of the Lord, and it’s my overwhelming prayer that you’ll join Him there.

Keep fighting.  Keep praying. Keep persevering, keep living, keep resting.   

Keep hiding; but only if in Him.

Songs of Ascent: Prayers for the Pilgrim

Nestled on top of a hill sits the city of Jerusalem. While walking up the hill of Mount Zion, Jews would sing a collection of psalms as they ascended toward the annual Jewish festivals and temple in Jerusalem. Thus, this tradition of the past has lent the name of the Songs of Ascent to the collection of psalms sung, Psalms 120-134.

What relevance does a group of psalms sung hundreds of years ago have to offer to present-day believers? While I believe all of the psalms are a great reminder of God’s character and relatable words for the present-day believer to pray, the Songs of Ascent are the most marked up and prayed psalms in my Bible. To me, the Songs of Ascent are a great reminder of the importance of worship and reliance on the Lord as we journey across the mountains and valleys during our walks of faith.

 

Pilgrimage of Faith

The Songs of Ascent are also known as the Pilgrim Songs because they were used for worship during the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, reminding me of The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.

This hill, though high, I covet to ascend;

The difficulty will not me offend.

For I perceive the way to life lies here.

Come, pluck up, heart; let’s neither faint nor fear.

Better, though difficult, the right way to go,

Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe. 

– John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress

The walk of faith is not an easy excursion. The struggles and hardships woven into our journeys often make us believers feel as if we are descending and stumbling. In the past, Jews on their way to Jerusalem had to leave their homes and trek through difficult terrain, and often unwelcoming places. But their pilgrimage was worth it because at the end of their journey, they reached the temple of Jerusalem, experiencing God’s presence, and celebrated God’s goodness and faithfulness during their festivals. Our present-day walks of faith are no different. In order to walk in and for Christ, we must abandon what we used to know and what is familiar and comfortable. It requires trekking up steep mountains of hardships and feeling as if many are pitted against us, but the reward at the end of the pilgrimage is greater than the hardships we experience. Being in the presence of Christ for eternity is worth the walk.

 

Songs of Steps

The Songs of Ascent are also called the Songs of Steps. The Songs of Ascent are a great reminder to worship and rely on God every step of the way, no matter the current circumstance.

I often find that when I struggle with the words to say, looking at and praying Scripture is a good way to find words for my prayers. The words of David and Solomon were not just relevant to them, but echo the feelings and thoughts of believers for generations. The beauty of the psalms is the relatability the words written, and the constant praise and assurance of God’s character. The Songs of Ascent offer a variety of words and perspectives to pray when you need guidance or when you are wanting to praise God. 

Psalm 120: A cry for truth and peace

In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. – Psalm 120:1

Psalm 121: The Lord our protector

The Lord protects you; the Lord is a shelter right by your side. – Psalm 121:5

Psalm 122: A prayer for Jerusalem

Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will pursue your prosperity. – Psalm 122:9

Psalm 123: Looking for God’s favor

Like a servant’s eyes on his master’s hand, like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand, so our eyes are on the Lord our God until he shows us favor. – Psalm 123:2

Psalm 124: The Lord is on our side

Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. – Psalm 124:8

Psalm 125: Israel’s stability

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion. It cannot be shaken, it remains forever. – Psalm 125:1

Psalm 126: Zion’s restoration

Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy. – Psalm 126:5

Psalm 127: The blessing of the Lord

Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain; unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchman stays alert in vain. – Psalm 127:1

Psalm 128: Blessings for those who fear God

How happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways. – Psalm 128:1

Psalm 129: Protection of the oppressed

Since my youth they have often attacked me, but they have not prevailed against me. – Psalm 129:2

Psalm 130: Awaiting redemption

Israel put your hope in the Lord. For there is faithful love with the Lord and with him is redemption in abundance. – Psalm 130:7

Psalm 131: A childlike spirit

I have calmed and quieted my soul. – Psalm 131:2

Psalm 132: David and Zion chosen

For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his home. – Psalm 132:13

Psalm 133: Living in harmony

How good and pleasant is it when brothers live together in harmony. – Psalm 133:1

Psalm 134: Call to evening worship

Lift up your hands in the holy place and bless the Lord. – Psalm 134:2

 

Not only are the Songs of Ascent a guide for prayer and worship, but reminders of God’s goodness and faithfulness. When we feel uncertain or need reassurance of God’s character during trials, answers abound in Scripture.

While us present-day believers may not be walking a pilgrimage to a physical location, we are still walking towards Christ. Looking at the practices of believers of the past gives us present-day believers examples on how to walk our walks of faith. May we utilize the blessing of Scripture to praise and strengthen our relationship with the Lord.

Finding God in the “Unholy” Moments

There are many moments in life when I feel a sense of accomplishment, pride over what I’ve done. Moments of success, praise, etc. However, there are some very special moments in my life that have a unique satisfaction attached to them: the moments when I do something I consider to be “holy”. 

So, I started to wonder. What is more important to God? A “successful” mission trip or a completed homework assignment? Leading a bible study or washing the dishes? Volunteering at church or sleeping well? 

For the longest time, I would have confidently stated that God wanted me to do more as a Christian to bring Him glory. Mission trips, in my mind, would be way more important than homework. Although I thought it was important to work hard at everything, at the end of the day, I believed that the greater “good work” an action results in, the more important it is. That is until I read the book of Jeremiah. 

 

Background

To understand the book, I had to learn some Old Testament history. It begins with the Israelites, God’s chosen people, asking for a king. God allows them to crown kings, although that results in dire consequences. After Saul (a terrible king to begin with), David, and Solomon, the kingdom splits into Judah and Israel. Both of these kingdoms have many disastrous kings who hurt the people. However, in the line of Judah, there are a few kings who actually follow God. Ultimately, though, most of the kings still disregard God and the people are taken into captivity. 

At the very end of this unfortunate kingdom of Judah comes King Zedekiah. By his time, the Babylonians had taken many of the people into exile. King Zedekiah and his brothers before him all “did evil in the sight of the Lord” by allowing idols and following the kings of other kingdoms. King Zedekiah was even called Mattaniah before Nebuchadnezzar changed his name to Zedekiah. 

After nine years of ruling as king, King Zedekiah rebelled against the Babylonians and so they laid siege to Jerusalem. During this time, King Zedekiah sought out Jeremiah and asked him to ask God to deliver Judah. However, God firmly speaks through Jeremiah in announcing the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. 

 

Realization #1: False Positivity: God Accepts Negatives

With every test, there are always limitations. If you take a lie detector test, for example, the test could sometimes say that you are telling the truth when you are, in fact, lying. The reverse could also be true. Getting a “false positive” or a “false negative” on such a test can be very misleading. The same was true during King Zedekiah’s time. 

Since King Zedekiah didn’t like what he was hearing about the destruction of his nation through Jeremiah, he turned to other prophets. These prophets told of freedom that would come to Judah through God. Unfortunately, they were false prophets and tried to mislead the people by promising hope for a future that was not in God’s plan.  

In times of struggle, it can be easy to hold onto our optimism and hope for the best. It can even seem like we are trusting God by doing so. We always think that God works through blessings. He does give us good things. Although God is faithful and gracious, He still often works through struggles, instead of blessings. 

God does open doors, but He also closes doors. Both are important. The good times and the bad. Often, the growth that comes from the negative moments in life and in learning to trust God through them can be unparalleled. Although God does work in mysterious ways and He does not try to hurt us, He does always prioritize our holiness and our relationship with Him. 

I wonder when I am in a difficult moment if I reach out to my Father for hope or reach out to an imaginary happy future for hope. The imaginary future is futile. It is not as beautiful as the real future God has in mind. And, just like the false prophet Hananiah failed the people (and so was punished with death), my imaginary future will fail me. 

 

Realization #2: Restoration: God always restores

King Zedekiah refuses to trust God and believe God’s words until the very end when Zedekiah tries fleeing but is still captured. King Zedekiah witnesses the death of his own sons and lives in Babylon until he dies. It’s a tough life without God. 

However, King Zedekiah’s story is barely the first part of the actual story. King Zedekiah was the last king of the kingdom of Judah. After the fall of Jerusalem, the temple there was destroyed by the Babylonians. The people are in captivity for 70 years. Until King Cyrus. 

Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem. – Ezra 1:2-4

King Cyrus is clearly familiar with God and His work. Surprisingly, however, this is not the first mention of King Cyrus. Over a hundred years before King Cyrus’ reign, his very name was prophesied by Isaiah. 

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,

    whose right hand I have grasped,

to subdue nations before him

    and to loose the belts of kings,

to open doors before him

    that gates may not be closed:

“I will go before you

    and level the exalted places,[a]

I will break in pieces the doors of bronze

    and cut through the bars of iron,

I will give you the treasures of darkness

    and the hoards in secret places,

that you may know that it is I, the Lord,

    the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

– Isaiah 45:1-3 [ESV]

This entire chapter in the book of Isaiah actually speaks of King Cyrus of Persia. Although King Zedekiah failed along with many of the other kings of Judah, King Cyrus, who was not even from the kingdom of Judah, learns of God and His plans and successfully sends people to rebuild God’s temple. 

God always planned to restore His temple and His people. He spoke of this restoration from the beginning. However, the absurdity of having a foreign king save God’s people made even God’s obvious clues be ignored. God was still faithful to His plan. 

What I found most interesting was the path that God took to restore Israel. He could have chosen to make Zedekiah a great king who led the people to victory. Just as God gave His people the victory multiple times in the past against various enemy nations, even the great nation of Egypt, God could have saved them. However, on top of allowing struggles, God also made the struggles the path to beauty. 

God didn’t use a perfect king of Israel to save His people. He used terrible kings. And yet, He saved His people. He even used foreign kings and reached foreign nations through Israel’s captivity. In the long run, God didn’t need Zedekiah’s obedience to accomplish His grand plan of restoration. 

 

Realization #3: Temples: God Accepts the Broken

Ultimately, in this narrative, God rebuilt His temple. By doing so, God continues to prove His ultimate power. Building a temple might seem like a meager use of God’s power. However, in Old Testament times, the temple was very important. It was the only space where God would directly interact with His people. 

Without a temple, the people could not offer sacrifices to God and so keep the law and keep their relationship with God. Basically, people would not be able to repent at all without a temple. In light of what repentance means to us today, this makes the temple very important. 

As Jesus says: 

No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. – Luke 13:3

Repentance is the act of turning to God. Without repentance, we could not have a relationship with God. There was one issue with repentance and temples though. In temples, only pure and holy people and objects could enter. Therefore, there was a long list of rules when it came to being cleansed before entering. Only after being cleansed could one enter God’s presence. In fact, even the high priests would fear going into the deepest parts of the temple as any impurity could result in God killing them on the spot. 

Although we no longer have temples, we often act as if we do. Before Sunday mornings, we try to cleanse ourselves. I am not talking about preparing ourselves to worship God, but rather about us trying to clean up our acts. We wear nice clothes, speak kind words, and pretend that our lives are better than they are. 

So, we begin to separate our lives into the “holy” and the “unholy”. The “holy” is obvious. It consists of the moments when we read our Bibles, pray to God, go to church gatherings, and share the gospel. The “unholy” is basically everything else. There are moments in the “unholy” where we may not be sinning, but we aren’t actively participating in “holy” acts. In the regular (or “unholy”) moments of life, it is often difficult to understand where God is. 

Reading the story of King Zedekiah left me dumbfounded. God was different from who I thought He was. I always kind of knew that God used broken people but I saw it clearly in the story. I saw that God used imperfect circumstances and imperfect people. It struck me then. God does not need my meager good works to accomplish His good works as a part of His plan.

God’s ultimate “good work” has already been accomplished in Christ. Ironically, Christ even came from a line of brokenness. Christ’s genealogy even lists King Zedekiah’s nephew. After the imperfect King Zedekiah ended the line of the kings of Judah, Jesus entered the scene many generations later as the perfect king. 

When Christ died, the curtain in the temple that separated the “holiest” parts was torn. Christ said “it is finished” and the hostility between unholy man and holy God broke down. God allows us now to come to Him as imperfect people and an imperfect church to allow Him to daily and weekly restore ourselves to Him. 

Jesus said:

I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. – Luke 5:32

God now calls us to go to Him always. Wherever we are we don’t need to try to become “holier”, but just to become closer to Him. We will encounter a faithful God in ALL of our lives’ circumstances, not just the “holy” ones.

When I now do little things in life, I know God is there too. He isn’t waiting for me to finish the dishes and start preaching His Word, but is rather wanting me to call out to Him as I do the dishes, as I finish my homework, as I rest daily. So, church, let’s stop only looking for happy and “holy” circumstances and people, and let’s start running to our Father, especially in our brokenness.

Heavy Hearts

As an educator, it could be said that we, as teachers and professors, have one of the most mentally challenging jobs, yet also significantly impactful to those that we teach. Day after day, sixth or tenth-grade students just want attention, love, grace, mercy, and compassion from those who are willing to listen. These students, whether we realize it or not, crave our stamp of approval. Not only for the work they do in class, but also for how they live their lives or inform us about how they probably shouldn’t have eaten 12 fudge bars yesterday (#ohmylanta). Though many will say that students don’t care what you think (and many students themselves will say this too), especially in public schools, deep down, they genuinely do care.  All jokes aside, we can tell this by how many times they try to interrupt class with a random question, comment, or snarky remark.

“Ms. Ginter, Can I go to the bathroom?”

“Ms. Ginter, When is your boyfriend going to propose to you?” (#WHAT?!)

“Ms. Ginter, I am getting a pet bird soon. And I wanted to tell you what happened to the kitten we found!”

“Ms. Ginter, Can you check this before I turn it in?”

“Ms. Ginter, What do you know about Ohio State?”

“Ms. Ginter, I spelled Michigan as L-O-S-E-R, do I get an A?” (well-played kiddo, well-played)

Run to Jesus

Don’t believe me yet? Think about it. When you want to tell your best friend, parent, spouse, family member about the best part of your week, or something that happened, why do you tell them? Probably because they listen, actually care, give good advice, and want the best for you. When you talk, they give you the time of day (I pray) and make you feel loved, meaningful, and valued. Isn’t that too, what these kids want deep down? To feel accepted, treasured, like they have value in this life? Absolutely. Isn’t that what Jesus wants us to run to Him for as well? To seek our validation, worth, and purpose in Him alone rather than all these other earthly things? Even if it’s merely to tell him how much you love granola? Especially if it’s just those insurmountable affairs of irrelevance to your everyday life, he wants us to trust and to seek him out in all things. 

This week, in particular, was a rough week at work. And when I say rough, I mean rough as in I had caught sinusitis and had no voice to teach with (#talkaboutaproblemforatalker). However, counting my gains instead of my losses, it was probably one of the most significant weeks of my teaching experience so far. During an exchange with one of my students, he told me that his sister had an unforeseen circumstance occur, and without another thought, I patiently listened to him, expressed concern, and told him to keep me posted as I would be praying. Later that evening, I received an email from that students’ parents thanking me for caring about their family and taking the time to have the heart of Jesus towards every student that shares their “heavy heart.”

Sitting for a full five minutes in utter disbelief of the “thank you,” I couldn’t help but smile towards Heaven and know in my heart that though I long to write full-time, this is why I am presently here. That, if even for a second, minute, day, week, month, year, I can make someone feel important, not alone, valued, loved, and worth something to Christ, then it was worth it. As the Scriptures say in Philippians 3:8-10, 

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. – Philippians 3:8-10

And you know what? Maybe that was listening to him or the girl the week before about how she ate too many desserts — or commenting on how I overeat granola (probably accurate ;)). Maybe it was taking a few extra minutes at the start of class to pray for them and ask them how they are doing? Perhaps it was not stressing out when they wasted five minutes of class asking me random questions about my food allergies and hatred towards candy bars (#truestory). But you know, if I showed them Jesus in those moments, truly listened, and loved them, then I gave them something I can never get back (time), and that is what I believe Christ calls all of us to do wherever we are.

Whether you are an attorney, teacher, preacher, writer, counselor, mechanic, you name it, Jesus Christ will use you to change lives with the ability to hold, account, and pray for those “heavy hearts.” He will strengthen you when you are weak and pour truths into you when you are down. He alone will encourage you when you are suffering, but push you to press on (like when the same kid asks you 22 times if they can go to the bathroom and you still say no). He will cover you in His constant grace, forgiveness, mercy, and love so that you have enough to receive it, but also allow it to overflow into the lives of those you touch daily.

Restoration of Heavy Hearts

Speaking of touching lives, isn’t it funny when God restores your once fragmented and broken heart by revealing a revelation of His work in you? One that you don’t notice its overwhelming impact until it rests upon you?   

Coining the term “heavy hearts,” I find it less than a mere coincidence that the boy who told me about his sister’s circumstance is a brother-in-law to the guy I had a massive crush on in high school and never thought I’d get over. At one time, that guy broke my heart so badly that I never thought I’d be able to laugh, smile, let alone, love, ever again (#someofmyfirstpostsever). Yet in some shade of healing, grace, and growth, here I am now over five years later, head over heels in “like” with my boyfriend (we haven’t said “I Love You” yet), who doesn’t pale in comparison to this old love, but undoubtedly surpasses it in colors more vibrant than the rainbow. 

That somehow, someway, God took what I thought was broken in me and replaced it with a love so much deeper than I ever knew existed- not just for my boyfriend, but for God himself. And for one of the first moments in my life, when that little boy mentioned his brother-in-law’s loss, I hurt for Him. I felt discomfort for a guy I once associated with a broken heart, who had now just experienced the grief of his own far more significant than I could ever fathom. As I prayed for him and his wife, I began to realize that maybe heartbreaks aren’t all that terrible.  

Do they hurt? Absolutely. Do I wish they didn’t exist? Without doubt. But do they push us to love again? More profound, fuller, and more abundantly in Christ than we ever knew existed in our once fragile state of shattered mentality.

So are “heavy hearts” heavy? As heavy as a cement block sinking you deeper into the ocean where no light seems to break through. And will the pain feel like you’re dying? Surely, as it will hurt more than anything you’ve ever known. 

But are they worth it? Thousand times over to know that in your compassion, heartbreak, and sorrow, you’ve not only shown the love of Christ to someone, but made them feel important, cherished, valued, loved, and of worth–even if for just that second.

To have a “heavy heart” is part of counting it all as loss for the gain of Christ. Because in giving His life for ours, isn’t that what Jesus did for us hanging from the cross? “Father, forgive them,” He cried out in torment. “For they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV).

But Jesus? He knew what He was doing for us as He breathed His last breath. He knew what heartbreak felt like, dying on a cross, taking our pain upon His shoulders, asking His Father why it had to be this way. Jesus knew that to “live is Christ, and to die is gain,” holding every incident of each “heavy heart” and sorrow we have, had, or will ever endure (Philippians 1:21, NIV).

A “heavy heart,” my friends, is perhaps worth it all in the end.