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By Halle Van Vark

In my opinion, the most underrated character of the Bible is Gideon. Have you ever read Judges 6-8? If not or even if you have, go read it now! I’ll wait.  

I resonate with Gideon. His story starts out by making it clear that he’s basically the least of the least. Gideon was hiding & marked by fear when an angel of the Lord came to him and called him “mighty warrior.”  

Sometimes, I feel like Gideon. I feel scared, hiding because I am certain that I am unworthy. Yet there in the lowest place where I’m sure I cannot be found, God comes to me & gives me a high calling. “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior,” He declares, summoning me to something I can only do with Him on my side 

When I was in high school, on top of the challenges that came with trying to find friends & fit in & all the things, I was also still grieving the loss of my older brother. He was killed in a car accident when I was 13 & that was a deep pain that didn’t just go away with time. However, I had several people who loved me hard through that & encouraged me to see God’s goodness amidst a long season of violent hurt. They poured into me persistently enough for me to establish a foundation of faith that carried me through high school & into college. God also spoke through them, making it clear that He was calling me to do for other students what they had done for me. God made it clear that He wanted me to pursue a career in youth ministry 

A few months ago, I was approached by a pastor & hired by a local church as their youth pastor. First, what an honor! Second, uhh what?? I’m still a college student who has very little experience (roughly 2 months if we’re counting) of doing actual ministry. I am not qualified for this job!  

The instant that thought ran across my mind, I remembered something a pastor once said: “God does not call qualified people, He qualifies the people He has called.” In Judges 6:14, the angel says to Gideon, “Go in the strength you have…Am I not sending you?” Then, after Gideon questions Him, the Lord says, “But I will be with you.” That is the affirmation I have needed from God.  

It matters zero how unqualified I feel to do the things I’m being called to do. If God is calling me, I’m trusting that He is going to qualify me. Like Gideon, I’m still scared. But I’m doing it afraid & fully believing that I can only overcome each battle with the power of my Lord.  

I have good news, though. The same Holy Spirit that rose our crucified King from the grave is within me, too. I am worthy of the calling God has placed on my life. I will choose to trust Him & live out my calling, even if I have to do it afraid. He’ll show up in big ways & I’ll realize that He’s qualifying me to glorify Him every single day. 

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By Ben Pirrie

I am not what you would call a “typical” college student. Unlike most people I did not come straight from high school. After high school, I immediately joined the Army as an infantryman. I spent 3½ years on active duty, most of that time being at Fort Irwin in California. Unlike the California you might imagine, Fort Irwin is smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and resembled the Middle East in most ways. The base existed to train units to go to war, and we were used as OPFOR (opposing force). Our lives were an excruciating endless cycle consisting of 2 weeks of training in the desert and then 2 weeks preparing to go
back. 

When I arrived at Fort Irwin I was immediately shoved into the endless cycle of training. With a lack of friends and being 1500 miles from family, I began to be crushed by the weight of it all. I fell into severe depression and lost all hope in myself and God. I tried nearly everything to feel better which mostly involved using alcohol to solve my problems. This only made things worse, and I just wanted to end it all and escape the pain. I went from wanting to go to church every Sunday to never even wanting to think about God. I was angry at God and blamed him for everything; this, however, doesn’t mean God forgot about me. 

Most weeks I would call my mom, as it made me feel less lonely. She had no idea what I was struggling with and didn’t know that I stopped going to church. One Saturday while on the phone with my mom, she asked if I was going to church the next day. I lied and said yes and continued talking about other things. After I hung up, I felt guilty for lying to my mom, so I made an agreement with myself I would go to church if I woke up in time to go. For the first time in months I just so happened to wake up before church started. I begrudgingly got up and headed to church. I can’t tell you what the sermon was about, I just remember sitting in the back and wanting it to be over quickly. 

Once church got over, I immediately booked it out of there, or at least I tried. Before I got to the door this nerdy-looking man stepped in front of me and introduced himself as Stephen. Stephen goes on to nicely ask me to go to a bible study, and I said “yes” – only because I wanted to get out of there. He was clever and got my number before I escaped. On Tuesday night I got a phone call from the leader of the group telling me they got me a ride and that they will be in the parking lot outside my building in an hour. And for some reason I can only attribute to God, I got in the car and went. 

The men of the bible study began to show me something that no one else had showed me in months, that they cared about me. Stephen especially showed this to me as he willingly spent many late nights talking to me about my struggles and God. I had never had someone care about me as much as Stephen did. He became my best friend and my mentor. Through this discipleship and Godly love, I was brought back to God. 

I credit myself being here today because of Stephen and his boldness to act and reach out to me. In Matthew 28:19 we are told to “go and make disciples”, and Stephen was an amazing example of this. He not only stepped out to bring me to Christ, but he then discipled me for almost 2 years. This stranger-turned-friend showed me that we all have the capability to do this, and that you could make an amazing difference in someone’s life. Stephen told me some time ago that I was the first person he ever reached out to when God pulled on his heart, and I am thankful every day that he listened to Him. I now want and try to live my life seeking out those who are lost, in the hope that I can be a Stephen to someone else.

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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.