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By Katherine Oschner

Life changes quickly.
  Circumstances can be completely altered in an instant.  People change their minds, or their direction, or their motives.  Things we had just assumed would always be there, disappear in an instant, leaving us uncertain and unwilling to hope again. 

Since coming to college, my life has changed more than I ever would have imagined.  As a friend articulated it so well, “I never knew life could be lived so intensely as it is in college.”  Some experiences have been life-changing in amazing ways: gaining deep godly friendships, having incredible experiences studying abroad, learning incredible knowledge about God’s creation.  Other changes have been devastating and heartbreaking: the pain and homesickness of leaving the people and place I love, tension and disharmony in my family, the unexpected death of my aunt, and messy and broken friendships. 

Our natural response to unwanted changes is often to ask “Why?” Why, God?  Why do people have to die?  Why do friendships have to change?  Why am I so uncertain about my purpose and future path?  Why can’t I depend on anyone- or anything- to remain the same? 

Ultimately, nothing in this world does stay the same forever.  Through unexpected, unwanted, and painful changes, I have learned two meaningful takeaways: God is faithful; and close, godly friendships are so valuable. 

We can count on the fact that God is always faithful; but too often, we are fickle.  Even as Christians with the best of intentions, we can get caught up so quickly by earthly distractions. This world tends to demand our devotion and arrest our attention.  Inevitably, those things are fleeting and disappear eventually.  The result is disappointment, disillusionment, and confusion.  Losing something I thought I could depend on is one of the most devastating feelings I have ever experienced.  In the middle of that brokenness and pain, I have learned to lean so much harder on God: He is dependable and abundantly gracious.  Only He remains constant amidst the turbulent intensity of life.   

When life inevitably lets us down, guess where we can ALWAYS return?  To the waiting arms of our loving heavenly Father!  He is right there, right beside us, right where we left Him.  He is patiently awaiting our realization of the temporary nature of worldly things and our return to His unchanging love and grace.  He wants His children to follow Him; He is more concerned about the state of my heart than fixing my messy circumstances.  His will is for my good and for His glory.  Following Jesus ultimately leads to my joy; I can find hope and comfort in Him. 

Ultimately, we can depend on God aloneYet He is also good and gracious to surround us with godly friends.  Yes, friends sometimes might let us down; but they also can profoundly lift us up.  I have been humbled many times by God’s grace reflected through believing friends expressing love and concern for me.  Especially at this place and time in our lives, we are simply surrounded by incredible individuals, each one with a story that is messy, beautiful, and unique.  Through fellowship God gives us encouragement and hopeOne of the most consistent cures I’ve found for loneliness and depression is godly, genuine personal connection. 

Every time I have been confronted with a truly challenging situation, God has taught me (again) to depend on Him.  It is a lesson I am continually learning, and He will likely continue to teach me throughout all of life.  Life is messy, but Jesus is real, and He is working in the midst of our messiness.  How then should we live?  Love God, and love people.  “If you love deeply, you’re going to get hurt badly.  But it’s still worth it.” ~C.S. Lewis 

screenshot_20200407-121836By Bree Hodnefield

About three years ago, I
received a phone call from my mom that led to one of the toughest heartbreaks of my life – the loss of my grandpa.  

My senior year did not end as anticipated. I missed the next three or four days of classes, only coming in for important exams or to inform my coaches and teachers why I’d be gone. I began to feel the exhilarating ride of senioritis and life after high school crumble into a pile of rubble around me. I remember thinking to myself, “I just wanted him to make it to graduation.” And upon realizing he wouldn’t, nothing seemed important anymore. My world was moving in slow motion and there was no point in striving to succeed for the next month.  

No one teaches you how to cope with losing a loved one. And while I saw it coming, my heart still wasn’t ready. I wasn’t prepared for how empty I would feel inside, or how unmotivated I would be to get out of bed, or how sad and broken my heart would feel anytime I saw or heard something that reminded me of him.  

A few days after receiving the news, I was lying in bed nearly paralyzed, listening to my worship playlist on Spotify hoping to feel even the tiniest ounce of reassurance that things were going to be okay again soon. That’s when “Healing Begins” by Tenth Avenue North began playing. And then I sat up and realized: I wasn’t ready, but God was.  

God was ready to catch me as I fell. He was ready to pick up my life and piece it back together. He was ready to hold my hand as I found the courage to stand. He was ready to give my heart strength. He was ready to wipe my tears and tell me “Child, everything will be okay.” In the midst of all the pain and uncertainty, he was ready to be my Rock, my Firm Foundation, as I made it step by step through each new day. He was ready to take my brokenness and make it something beautiful.  

When I decided to go back to school later in the week, I dreaded getting asked questions, I was afraid of breaking down in class, I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to focus, that school would be too much. Before leaving the house, I asked God to help me through the day because I knew I couldn’t do it alone.  

As I walked to my locker, there waiting for me were my three high school best friends. One was holding a bag of chocolates, another holding a silly card, and the other with her arms ready to wrap me up in her love and hold me tight. As I collapsed in her arms, I felt three others join in the embrace, my two other best friends and God.  

I listened to “Healing Begins” for the next six months as I witnessed God lift me up in every way possible. He gave me more strength than I could imagine, filled my life with love and joy again, and showed me that no matter what I face I will never be alone. But most importantly, He reminded me that He is the Light that will shine through my darkness.  

 “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.”  

Psalm 147:3  

“This is where the healing begins/this is where the healing starts/when you come to where you’re broken within/the light meets the dark” Often we will never be ready for the hardships and heart breaks that come with living this life, and that’s okay because the God of the universe, our Father in Heaven, the one who knit us together in our mother’s womb, is standing tall, ready to catch us and pick us back up at any given moment. I now know, that not a day will pass where He is not by my side.