meghan-1
By Meghan Vermeer


When I first came to campus as a scared little Freshman, I remember listening to a certain speaker.  I’m not sure if it was chapel, class, or just unsolicited advice from an upperclassman.  Or maybe it was something else entirely.  I don’t remember.  Honestly though, it was probably chapel; this was back when we had it four days a week!

But anyway, the unknown advice-giver said something about how we should honor God in everything we do.  Pretty normal, right?  I’d heard it a thousand times before.

Then, they said we should honor God through our studies.

Through our essays.

Through our homework.

… What?

This was a completely foreign concept to me.  I knew that we were supposed to honor God in everything we do and that he wanted all the good stuff, but he even wanted my homework?  I didn’t even want my homework. But, somehow, it began to make sense to me.  The whole reason I came to NWC was to be a student.  My entire life consisted of studying, and if that’s the case, then God should be a part of that too, right?

I worked really hard to remember God while I was studying.  I tried to think of my Christian perspective while reading a text for class (this was particularly easy in Christian Story I, but not so easy in an algebra class).  I loved the idea of pausing to devote my study time to God, of thinking of Him in the most mundane moments of my life.  So I did it.  I prayed every time I sat down to study, and I found that I was more prepared and more excited to work than I ever had been before because I was doing it for more than just myself. 

I think back to that time, and I’m a bit surprised by myself.  Not that I tried to honor God with my studying, but rather, that I hardly ever do it now.  When did studying and working on homework become more about checking tasks off a list than honoring God by furthering my education?

Being a junior, the excitement of the first year of college has long-since worn off and I find myself wondering what would happen if I started to devote my studies to God once again.

If I love my major now, how much more could I love it if God was in it?  Would it make me a better student?  Would I learn more by devoting my studies to God?  Would it make me a better teacher in the future?

Does any of that even matter?  “Of course it does,” you say.

But maybe all that really matters is that God gets all of me–the best stuff, the eh stuff, and the bad stuff. 

It doesn’t matter what’s in it for me.  What matters is that I’m in it for Him.

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset
By Cole Mills

Pain has been a constant companion in my life at some level or another. Whether it was being raised in a single parent household, the sport (wrestling) that I choose, or the deaths of both my parents. Pain has always been there, shaping and molding me. I would not say that I enjoy pain, but I will say that I see benefit in it, as it has the ability to make clear the love and peace of God in ways that I challenge you to seek out.

As I said pain has been a constant in my life. When I was born my biological father had no desire to be in the picture. And a father figure never really stepped into my life until I was 8. When my step dad came into the picture things were good for a while, but that didn’t last. A disease that manifested itself within my dad slowly turned him into a different man, an angry and absent man. Then came wrestling, full of the disappointments that all athletes experience. After that was a toxic relationship, overflowing with sin and immorality, but little did I know that those events where just the beginning. It was after my experiences with my parents’ deaths, my step dad and my mother, that I began to see that my life was to have a special bond with pain. Which leads me here, writing this.

After my parents’ deaths, a man much smarter than I pointed out Romans 5:1-5.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

What that verse showed me was that we as special creations of God have an option, we can let our pain control us and our lives, or we can find the peace of God and rejoice in the HOPE of His glory. As a man in the midst of pain himself, I must say, it is difficult to see this hope and feel this peace. This is because pain is like a fog, its thick and disorienting, it clouds your vision, your emotions, and the closeness of a loving God. It can rob you of the gratitude that you once had for living. However, this verse also communicates opportunity. An opportunity every day to work closer and closer to hope. This passage even gives you steps! Tribulation to perseverance to character to hope.

I am not saying that I don’t struggle, I am not saying that everything is “okay,” and I am certainly not saying that our pain, grief, trauma, or whatever else is not valid. What I am saying is that God is there, in our pain, but because of the fog that clouds our eyes we can fail to see Him standing there with us.

For those who are so deep into your pain that you wonder what gratitude may look like let me share with you how God brought me back to a life of gratitude.

My mother loved flowers, who doesn’t they’re beautiful. Like flowers my mother was the beauty of God’s love in my life. After she died, I lost sight of that beauty. It was a few months later that I started noticing flowers, flowers everywhere. And when I saw those flowers all I could hear was ““I’m here. Even in this tiny detail, this tiny splash of color, that little spot of brightness you didn’t know you missed. I’m here, I’m with you.” After a few weeks of this, it was clear that God was showing me through these flowers that His beauty was still here. That is how God brought me back into His gratitude.

Pain doesn’t always hide beauty, sometimes it magnifies it. If you search out your pain deeply, you are likely to find beauty. It is because of that beauty that I find I have gratitude in my pain.

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset
By Hudson Johnson

I do not think that there was ever a moment in my life that I questioned the existence of God. I always believed that he did indeed exist, but I hated him for it. I was in love with my lusts and at war with his truth that condemned my sin-loving soul. This was the state I was in until the summer before my sophomore year of high school. It was at this time that I underwent a fairly dramatic change, for this is when I heard the gospel and called upon the Lord. My life was changed.

I began to love what I once hated and hate what I once loved. It felt as if my life was forever going to be well. That is, until some Wednesday night in November. It was at this time that my youth pastor was preaching a sermon on various prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus and how staggering it was that they were spoken hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. His purpose in this sermon was to encourage and strengthen our faith by means of these fulfilled prophecies. To no fault of my youth pastor, with each prophecy he mentioned came a terrifying thought: does God actually exist? Or is all of this just deception? I was horrified. This deafening question roared inside my mind and left me questioning my newfound God.

The next day I went to my first period class at school, Latin, and was still haunted by this question. It affected me to the extent that I was physically shaking and could barely talk. My teacher took notice and as I was packing up my stuff at the end of class she came over, put her hand on my shoulder, and asked something along the lines of, “Is everything okay?” I never thought I was a very emotional person, but the weight of that question came crashing down on me all at once, and I broke down and cried like a child. I was such a wreck that I was sent home for the day.

That day marked the beginning of my long fight with doubt. That question concerning the reality of the existence of God tormented me for around 6 to 12 months. I never thought that it could get any worse, but it seems as though I was wrong. My struggle with the reality of whether or not God was real morphed into the question of whether or not I was really a Christian. It was when I read the frightening words of Matthew chapter 7 that the question of true conversion arose – Matthew 7:21 states, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Where I once struggled with the doubts of whether or not God is real, I now struggled through the doubts of whether or not I was truly a converted, born-again Christian.

This lasted for years – even into my time here in college. Throughout this season of doubt, I agonized over whether or not I had the authentic fruits of conversion, or if I had repented enough, or if had enough faith or even believed rightly. I was stuck in an introspective downward spiral. I wish I could say that God worked a miraculous deliverance in the blink of an eye, granting me that assurance for which I longed. But he didn’t. God thought that it would be better to do something else.

I remember hearing a sermon when the pastor used the phrase “outside us” to describe the nature of salvation. His point was that salvation is entirely found in Christ. So regardless of whether or not I feel like a Christian does not negate the work that Christ has already accomplished on my behalf. Now, this is not to say that all my problems went away the moment I discovered this truth, but rather it has been a gradual realization that my acceptance with God is wholly found in Christ. So, God has shown and is still showing me that my feelings are an insufficient measure for ultimately determining the reality of my faith, and that Christ is the wholly sufficient and external foundation for my salvation. God has shown and is showing me that truth lies in him and is not negated by my wrestling with doubt.

img_4094
By Emily Reynen

One of the things I strive to be is strong. Physically, I want to be the strongest one on the court or in the weight room. I want others to be strong as well, that’s why I chose exercise science/strength and conditioning as my major. But I can’t help but ask myself, what about being spiritually strong?

I’ve been blessed with an awesome family and a great group of friends who encourage me daily in my faith. I grew up in a Christian school and went to church on a regular basis. When I got to senior year, it was all about the gains, literally. As an athlete, in school, in the weight room, and with Jesus – I was where I wanted to be. I loved what God was doing in my life. Athletics were going well, school was great, I had opportunities to share what God was doing in my life. Senior year was awesome until a certain point…

I was on a run with my dad one rainy, April afternoon. Suddenly he collapsed, and being the healthy physician that my dad was, it didn’t occur to me that something was wrong. Long story short, my dad ended up having to go to Sioux Falls in a medically induced coma. In that period of waiting for him to wake up, the only thing I could do was trust that this was in God’s hands. I had so much hope that he would wake up, but he never did.

My dad passed away a month after the incident. My anger was evident in my life. I was doing everything right. I gave God my time and effort every day. I served Him and others. And this is what I get. I was angry that He took away my best friend.

Looking back, it’s funny that my dad’s favorite saying was “Embrace the Suck.” It’s something that he had started to say a couple of weeks before he went down. Embrace the suck is a military saying, “Face it, soldier. I’ve been there. This ain’t easy. Now let’s deal with it” (Austin Bay). I felt like God was saying; “Yeah Em, this does suck, but this is what you’ve been preparing for physically and spiritually.” I knew I had to get back to “practicing” my faith and making my relationship with God stronger. But I was scared that if I trusted Him wholeheartedly, he would take something away from me again. I became weak in my faith and I just couldn’t get the motivation to get going again. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 Paul encourages us that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness,” and we should “delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when we are weak, we are strong.” I kept feeling this tug saying, “You can’t grow stronger in anything if you’re not uncomfortable for a while.” Sounds pretty familiar, right? It’s the same concept in the weight room. You don’t get any stronger without a period of some pain, suffering, and even weakness. I need to live with God’s “power resting on me” (verse 9).

In the late fall of my freshman year here at NWC, I made it a habit to spend time with God again because I knew that’s what I had to do. The cool thing is that God promises to help strengthen us; 1 Corinthians 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth, seeking to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” He wants our desire to be spiritually strong, and he promises to be that extra “pump.”

It’s easy to slack off physically and spiritually. When we don’t put effort into our workouts or practices, our performance suffers. It’s the same with our spiritual life. When we don’t put in the effort to practice our faith and exercise our relationship with God, we become lethargic in the way we live for Him. So, when those challenging times hit us, we should be confident that with His help we are strong enough to “embrace the suck” because we are spiritually strong.

chie-2
By Chie Lee


When I was a freshman, I had a couple of good friends at NWC who were not Christian. One day, one of them shared her story with me because she was so hurt. She shared with me that she had told a classmate that she was not a Christian, and the classmate’s response was “Oh… Really? I am sorry that you are not saved”. After she shared her story with me, she said, “People are nice here, but often I feel like they treat me differently and don’t completely accept me.”

I said “no”. I told her that I loved who she was and that she was so worthy to me and other close friends she had made at NWC, including Christians, who treasured her and whom she treasured.

At the same time, I could not defend the “many Christians” that she referring to and say, “No, no, no! Christians never do that to non-Christians! You don’t have to worry because it was just miscommunication.” I knew that often Christians pity non-Christians because they don’t believe in the Christian God. I knew that often, unintentionally or intentionally, Christians dehumanize non-Christian people and see them as a target or project to evangelize.

For these reasons, I could not say, “That is just a miscommunication.” I wish I could.

I have seen Christians (myself included) confuse pity with love. Who am I to pity someone while I myself am deeply broken before God? God’s invitation to us is so much more than pity – God’s invitation to us is to love, which is mutual and empowering. The pity that I am talking about here (I would call it “broken pity”) has the potential to greatly harm or sometimes even take away people’s dignity because this pity is not mutual but rather exclusive and looks down on others. This broken pity can lead to powerlessness or worthlessness. This story of my friend is one of the consequences of broken pity.

I believe in the love of God. I could not be here without that love. Jesus, my Lord and Savior, came down to earth from heaven. He chose to stand on the same ground that I stand on. He is the one who has been telling me, “I walk beside you” in every season of my life. This love empowers me. His love gives me dignity and worthiness. God is the one who gave me love instead of broken pity. And this is the love that I believe in. The love that walks besides me.

God came down from a higher place because He is God. But we are human, so there is no place for us to go up or down. Christians often say, “we should love others like Jesus did,” meaning Christians should “come down” (assuming that we are at the higher place) for the sake of OTHERS in order to love. That is broken pity.

We are all God’s creation and we stand on the same ground. That is why we need to learn how to humbly walk beside each other, no matter what our similarities or differences are.

I have learned and grown so much from I walking beside people who are not Christians. Non-Christian people have kindly walked beside me in mutual relationship, helping me engage my own Christian faith in a beautiful way. When I was struggling with the gap between God’s love for us and our broken love for others I told my friend that I wanted to quit being a Christian. It was this non-Christian friend who told me “You SHOULD NOT say something like that.” It was my non-Christian friends who asked me good questions about Christianity, questions that I had never asked myself. It was my non-Christian friends who taught me how to have respectful and fruitful conversations, all the while believing in different things. More than anything, I learned so much from my non-Christian friends’ character and

attitudes in this Christian community. They have told me that they are thankful for their experiences in a Christian community and for the close Christian friends they made at NWC. They are some of the most respectful, strong, and kind people that I have ever known.

It was when there was no broken pity in our relationship that I could meet these people. I could meet these people and learn from them when we mutually walked beside each other. And this is the love that God has showed me in my life.