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By Joey Lohse
 

Growing up, I discovered that I was someone who loved to discover the unknown in life. I always wanted to question everything and find a clear black or white answer. Going to a secular secondary education system allowed me to have a sense of freedom to question my religious beliefs and to overlook the importance of what scripture said about my life. So, I lived into the unknown and I learned how to become a good listener as well as an expert at playing devil’s advocate. 

Eventually, I became restless in the unknown. Doubt began to consume my mind as the unknown opened fears and confusion into my daily life. As I listened and pondered over the topics that would come up in class, Ngage, Ned Talks, or even in conversation in the dorms, I began to feel an overwhelming feeling that I didn’t know enough. The anxiety of not measuring up to the people around me intimidated me. This space of unknown that I used to love now daunted me.  Being a science major, I tended to search for those black and white answers, but to my dismay, answers about Christianity aren’t always A or B 

I began to investigate some topics that were most interesting to me. An example of one topic that is still highly debated today is about the conflicting stories of science and the Scripture. I engaged in discussions with my professors and fellow students inside and outside of class about this topic as well as roam YouTube to find other view points and their explanations. I put in lots of time and effort hoping to beat this fear of not knowing enough. I did learn a couple things but not what you might expect. I learned that there will always be another unknown. God does incredible things in the unknowns in our lives. In my uncertainties, I am humbled as God is the all-knowing mighty One. I may question and fear the small details that I want to get right, but I am humbled and drawn to the cross.  

Through all the searching, I have experienced the crucifixion in a new light. God has begun to teach me more about His will and what it means in my life. I will still have anxiety and worry about if I’ll measure up or be good enough in academics or my relationships, but none of that changes God’s love. Too often I was searching for the right answers and trying so hard to do the right thing. The truth is, I haven’t uncovered a new vast knowledge, but I have definitely found new unknowns I didn’t know existed. Through it all, it’s been the test of my trust in God that has led me to a more rooted faith. A verse that God has put on my heart is James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”. I think this verse can apply to so many different scenarios in our lives.  For me, it has been incredibly humbling to know that God is a God of love and mystery. I am not to try and control him with my understanding, but I’m called to steward what’s known and unknown to me with continued trust.  

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Insecure, unsure, and unworthy. 

These are three words I have often used to describe myself. Throughout my childhood and especially during my adolescence, I was always worried about what other people thought of me and I never felt like I was doing life “right”. As I went throughout middle school and gradually learned many things about faith and God, I easily felt I had to measure up and earn God’s love by doing everything perfectly. I naturally fell into a routine of going to church and youth group every Sunday and Wednesday, and I tried to be a “good person” to those around me. It was very easy for me to feel that God loved me because of the way I tried to live my life, but I always felt like it wasn’t enough. Despite this thought throughout my life, I received glimpses of God’s pure grace and unconditional love many times during my high school years that combatted this idea. However, it wasn’t until college that I truly began to grasp God’s reckless love and grace and find my identity in Him. 

One major role I became insecure in was my role as an RA during my sophomore year. I tried to live out my passion for empowering, loving, and walking alongside others through this role, but I continued to feel unsure of myself and unworthy of the call God had placed on my life. I felt overwhelmed by the task of measuring up and being enough for all those around me and good enough for God to accept and love. However, God continually sang the truth of His unfailing love for me through countless conversations with family and friends, time in God’s Word, and several books. As I engaged in conversations and read books like Mere Christianity, Nothing to Prove, and the Prodigal God, I began to learn the truth of the gospel: that I am not enough, and I don’t need to keep trying to prove to others, and God, that I am worthy of love by trying to earn acceptance. The truth is that God’s abounding grace, not what I do, proves His unending love for me. He loves me despite what I do, not because of it. As I navigated my year as an RA and wrestled with the feelings of inadequacy, God continued to sing this truth over me. Though there were still many struggles with insecurity, the truth slowly sank in as I listened to it more. 

There are still many times that I question my abilities, and when I’m doing well I rely way too much on my abilities. In those times, I need to remember that my worth is found in the God who pursued me and found me before I even knew I was lost. Though it is a continual battle to believe the truth, I can rest in the fact that it never changes. Because of this, I can now describe myself as secure in Christ, certain of the hope found in God, and worthy. 

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By Ben Henker

As
a preacher’s kid it was a common occurrence that I would be picked first for Bible trivia, that I would be asked about the trip that we were going on, or to be asked if we had church that night or not.  But in my house, we were a family that never really spent much time reading the Bible or praying as a family. I knew growing up that I was going to church because I was a Christian, but let’s be real, I was going to church because my dad worked there and that’s what came with the gig. 

To be honest, I never fully understood who God was or what he was doing in my life until I went to a retreat in the Twin Cities when I was in 7th grade (year 2012). It wasn’t until that retreat that I fully understood who Christ was and gave my life to serving him.  It was something that I wanted more and craved for more. After that day I looked at my life differently. I wanted to treat others as myself. I wanted to forgive those who have done wrong to me while also living out a life of loving others.  I began striving to live life as God tells us to live in the everyday, honoring my neighbor as myself (Matthew 19:19). 

Though my heart came alive to God’s love for me, high school was a time in my life where I felt pretty lonely.  I contemplated suicide two or three times because I struggled to really fit in and find a place to belong.  It seemed as though we had four different social groups in our class, and I never really fit in with any of them – I didn’t feel sporty enough, popular enough, or even rebellious enough for these groups.    

I was never able to find a true friend in my life.  It was a common occurrence that my parents would tell me to invite classmates over for a bonfire or a movie, never knowing that “my friends” were actually at someone else’s place or at the movies already without me.  It always bothered me to no end, knowing that they were “my friends” in school but out of school, I was never thought about to hang around with.  I longed for connection, real flesh-and-blood connection.  But, even though friends were far and few between and even though I was profoundly lonely, I still had this sense where I knew God had a plan in store for my life and that he was going to use me. Sometimes, as Scripture encourages us, we have towait upon the Lord.’   

When it finally came time to choose a college, I was desperate for a fresh start!  And now since coming to Northwestern, I’ve been so refreshed by the community here – academically, socially, and spiritually. I’ve learned that I’m not the only person that’s struggling, and that it’s okay to struggle alongside each other.  Most of all, I’ve learned that the guys at North Suites have become like family. Beyond a family, it’s a brotherhood. It’s a brotherhood that’s a bit weird at times, but it’s so cool to see fortnight players, athletes, book-worms, etc. all come together as one and talk about life.  It’s here at Northwestern with the guys in North Suites where I found the belonging I yearned for and for the friendships that won’t end after leaving OC; and because of the truthfulness and the love of North Suits and of Northwestern, it’s here where I found my true identity that Christ has instore for me.

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By Liz Ellis

Let’s talk about mental illness
: specifically, depression. Having depression sucks; it can literally make one’s life a living hell from the comfort of their own dorm room. It can haunt someone on the way to class and force them to just put in their headphones and look at the cracks lining the sidewalk. Depression can turn the most beautiful fall days or the most blissful snowfall nights into a gloomy fog.  

My story with depression is twofold.  

The first part is my story. Between the ages of 13-16 my struggle with depression was a secret. I hid it by being loud and “fun”.  I took charge in every situation and always looking for something else to distract me. I never realized that the thing that would fill the hole in my life was a relationship with God.   

I was diagnosed when I was 16 by a therapist after my parents found out I was depressed. They found out after the police showed up at my house because of a tip that I was going to kill myself and was causing myself harm. I remember feeling so isolated but so publicized that I was hurting. The isolation I felt during this time caused me to slip further into my depression. I longed to be understood. Not only was I haunted by this darkness, I felt like it was the defining factor of my life and who I was as a person. I felt like depression had become my identity, not to mention that this affected the way I made relationships with others and the way I looked at myself – both physically and mentally.  

When I was 18, I started taking medication for my depression as well as anxiety. At first it was really hard to manage the “blocking out” of feelings I had when on the meds.  I still wanted to feel emotions, but some days I would feel emotionally numb for hours and other days I would feel everything at once, like an overwhelming tidal wave. But thankfully, it got better soon.  I adjusted to being a “normal” person again. I still have bad days, but mostly it feels like a voice in the back of my head that I can block out. I developed tools for fighting my depression such as poetry, both written and spoken, and studying Scripture, which leads into the second part of my story.    

I am not alone. For most of my adolescence I felt as if I was the lone soldier in a battle against myself, but as I have grown in my faith, I’ve come to realize that the real fight is against evil in the form of a mental illness.  But, I’m not alone in this fight, I fight with Jesus by my side and it took a long time for me to realize that every time that I felt alone in the darkness, Jesus was my ever-present light.  My relationship with Christ has grown through the struggle of this mental illness and it is continually being shaped. I discover new things daily about religion, faith and myself even through the darkest parts of my life.   

I am not alone, nor forgotten.  Depression is a part of my story but does not define who I am or who I will be, Jesus’s love does.

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By Jacob Johnson

“And Boom Goes the Dynamite” is quite possibly one of my favorite YouTube videos about a nightly news sports highlight clips with a struggling announcer. His classic one liner is where the title of the video comes from. This is my go-to phrase I use during Minesweeper, a small ropes course event I lead at camp with senior high age students. During the event, two students are paired up together and one must use verbal commands to guide their partner across a “minefield”. The mines are objects such as hula-hoops, cones, and frisbee, aka the camp basics. Once everybody guides their partner across, we switch partners and they get to give it another whirl. However, the second time I run around the minefield moving objects right in front of the blindfolded person. The blindfolded campers have no idea that I am trying to sabotage them, so it seems like they are just getting mixed messages from their partners. My favorite move is placing a hula hoop over top of them, forcing them to take a giant step out. Picture this: the volume of 8 students shouting directions to their blindfolded partners, counselors moving objects to cause chaos, and 8 frustrated and confused blindfolded partners in the middle of the minefield. It’s fantastic. Afterwards, the group comes together to process how each person felt and how it can apply to our spiritual lives. Usually the group ends up talking about the unexpected curveballs that life throws at us. 

It was Tuesday morning at camp this past summer when the camp director snagged me for a hot second to tell me that my dad was going into surgery that day. They found a tumor in his stomach and it was growing quickly. They were going to remove it and check for cancer. It was so hard present at camp because my mind kept praying for and wondering how my dad was doing. That very same day I lead minesweeper, which was already planned the day before. As we wrapped up and started to process the event, I broke down in tears. My dad’s surgery wasn’t in my plan that day. When we started talking about life curveballs, I had been hit by a huge one earlier that day. 

If you don’t believe God has perfect timing, get this: that SAME day we were teaching the theme verse from John 16:33. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” What a promise! Jesus tells us that we will have trouble in this world, and boy did I feel it that day. Praise God it doesn’t stop there. Even in our troubles, we serve a God who has overcome the world! 

Here’s the best part. God doesn’t stand at the other side of the minefield barking orders at us. He doesn’t let us walk blindly stumbling along the way. Instead, we have a God who goes before us, with us, and behind us. He doesn’t promise to take away the mines, but instead promises to be with us every step of the way. I am grateful for a God who sees the big picture. My prayer is that I would listen to God’s direction, even if I feel like I know what’s best for my path. Hard? You better believe it. Is it worth it? You better believe it.