100_1096-min























By Olivia Vander Ploeg


“And you say that I don’t answer

Just because you have not heard

But you don’t know yet how to listen

Or to understand my word.”

~Shasta’s Complaint, Sarah Sparks


I finished high school feeling completely exhausted spiritually and I found myself in a spiritual desert. Still, during my freshman year of college, outside of my relationship with God, life was great! I adjusted well to living in a new place, I enjoyed all my classes, and I was making a lot of amazing friends. But something was still missing. The biggest growths in my spiritual life had been in the hard times, so I was completely unsure what it looked like to grow when life was good. There seemed to be nothing to compel me to read my Bible, so I rarely did. I would pray about my lack of spiritual motivation and ask God to help me, but He was utterly silent. I began to get angry with God. I read verses like, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” and “Ask and it will be given to you” with complete bitterness and confusion. I wanted to be close to God again, but I couldn’t get myself to do anything about it, and He was not helping in the slightest.

I knew I should talk to someone about how I was struggling in my faith and beginning to doubt, but I was too ashamed. Finally, I worked up the nerve to talk to my youth pastor. I called him often, crying, to talk about how far I felt from God. He offered a lot of wisdom, but things didn’t get any better. I was so angry that God would do nothing to help me in this desert.

One night in January was the worst of it. A friend from back home had stopped talking to me and wouldn’t tell me why. I was feeling so worthless. It felt like I had been rejected yet again, and I didn’t even know why. I was completely weighed down by all the possible things I could have done wrong, the ways I could have made this friend ignore me. I was weighed down by the guilt. The shame. The loneliness. The failure. The rejection. The brokenness.

My roommate was gone that night, so I felt the freedom to cry about it. I laid in my bed for hours, in the dark, crying because I felt so unloved. I felt like I had been rejected too many times. I felt completely alone in the world and that I had no one to turn to, so I prayed. I begged God to let me feel close to Him. I pleaded with Him to show me that I was loved.

There was no response.

I was so angry. Shouldn’t God want me to feel valuable? To feel loved? So why did He not answer my prayer? I felt like now I hadn’t just been rejected by many of my closest friends, but also by God.

The rest of the year and into the summer were the same. I felt the same spiritual hopelessness and lack of growth. But, as I began this school year, things slowly began to change. I looked back in my past year and realized all the times God had been there. I had been waiting for God to show me His presence in some big, obvious way, so I hadn’t noticed how He had been showing me His presence in everyday things, like a friend’s smile. God was there in tandem biking adventures with friends. God was there in the late-night conversations. God was there in friends lying on the golf course, staring up at the beautiful stars. God was there in the laughter at the supper table. God was there in my youth pastor – always willing to talk when I needed to. God was there in my youth pastor’s wife traveling four hours to be with me. God was there in professors’ little comments of encouragement. God was there in the books that I was reading. God was present. I had been focusing on all the wrong things and it was only in looking back, in remembering, that I saw what was really important. I realized that God had answered my prayer on that January night. He showed me I was loved, just not in the way I expected. God showed me I was loved by being present when I wasn’t looking for Him.

I have been focusing on all the wrong things and it was only in looking back, in remembering, that I saw what was really important. I realized that God had answered my prayer on that January night. He showed me I was loved, just not in the way I expected. God showed me I was loved by being present when I wasn’t looking for Him.

I still struggle. I still doubt. I still have days here and there when I forget to read my Bible. But God is teaching me how to listen, how to understand His word, and how to see His presence in daily life.

snapchat-2053620795-min
By Jimmy Tidmore

I have been a “Christian” since I was in fifth or sixth grade, but my faith was never truly genuine until my graduation from high school. I used to think that my hardest trials would be before I became a Christian, but I honestly believe that some of the most difficult trials happened after I really came to faith in Christ.

I had always thought that truly giving my whole life to Jesus would make everything better, that God would wipe me clean of my sin and make me new in a moment – BOOM. Suddenly, I’d have it all together. Boy, I could not have been more wrong. In the first few months after beginning to learn the depths of God’s holiness, He made me aware of the reality of my brokenness in ways I never expected.

For years I struggled with lust and falling into the temptation to look at pornography. It began to affect my whole life and it made me feel disgusting and separated from God. On top of that I supplemented my habit of smoking pot with cigarettes, thinking that “at least it’s not an illegal drug.”

In the months after Christ became the head of my life, He began to show me how destructive and disgusting cigarettes are, and quitting was one of the most miserable experiences of my life. Jesus was so faithful in those dark and miserable moments though, continually giving me the strength to overcome.

The next big area He began to work on was my struggle with purity and holiness, an addiction to pornography. It took almost two years before I fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit and opened up to others about this struggle. I was so filled with shame at first, fearing being open about it, even to God. What would people think? How could I ever be looked at as a leader with such a dark and disgusting sin? But praise be to God that He gave me strength to open up and be accountable to some brothers in Christ! Through this openness, and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, God has given me so much freedom! He gave me brothers in Christ that would ask me how I was doing, allowing me to keep my phone in their rooms if I was feeling tempted, or praying with me when I would fall.

The biggest way God worked through this was by continually replacing the lies of the enemy with the truth of His Word. Slowly but surely, through encouragement and transparency, God has given me victory after victory in reclaiming the purity and holiness that God calls us to. I still have to fight every day for this gift that God has given me, but it has gotten easier as time goes on.

God has been so faithful to transform me in many ways over the last few years, and although I still struggle and fall short in so many ways, He is always at work in me. Because of this, I truly have come to believe this verse in my life:

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:6

img_1650-1
Ben De Boer

I am a huge fan of movies. Anyone who is somewhat close to me knows about my obsessions over movie series such as The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and so many more. Although some of these movies fit into the same genre, they are vastly different – except in one main area. In each one, the protagonist must overcome a sense of fear to accomplish the task at hand. Frodo Baggins summons the courage to be the ring-bearer at the Council of Elrond, Luke Skywalker decides to travel to Alderaan with Ben Kenobi, and Harry Potter lets Voldemort strike him down for the good of all.

These heroes were able to put their own desires aside to bring about the good of many – oftentimes saving the world as they knew it! If they can summon courage in the face of these odds, why do I struggle to live fearlessly?

Throughout my four years in high school, fear drove my actions. A voice in my head told me that I wasn’t good enough, or something needed to change. This fear grew in me until it reached a breaking point. At this moment in time, fear took over and I decided to change who I was. In order to fit in with the crowd, I began to talk constantly about sports, make crude jokes, and converse about other things that I honestly had no care in the world for. I placed a mask over my true self to conform to the people that seemed to be in a better place than me.

If asked to describe Benjamin De Boer in one word, most of my high school classmates would likely say the same word: athlete. Being an athlete and talking about sports was the easy thing to do – so I did it, and I succeeded in fooling many people. Deep down, I knew the truth of who I was, but I kept that side of me away from as many people as I could. As far as I could tell reading books, learning history, and acting were by far the best parts of high school – all things that would’ve placed me in a category that I mistakenly assumed to be a lower social tier.

Something snapped in me, however. I realized that I had lived in fear for way too long, and decided to let my real passions show in my daily life. College was a time for me to start over and show people who I really was. Although I’m only a single semester into my college career, I’ve made more friends in the past few months than I did in four full years of high school. My friends at Northwestern don’t care when I sing along to Disney’s Moana, they come support me as I attempt to act on stage, they appreciate my love of history, and greater than all of this, they help me grow in my faith. Growing closer to Christ is a hard thing to do when you fail to acknowledge who he made you to be.

For the first time in years, I believe that God is smiling at who I’ve become – a man who doesn’t live solely for the approval of others. I might have different hobbies, strange habits, and an eccentric personality, but these things are what makes me who I am and are not to be hidden. What I’ve learned is that no matter what, someone is going to accept you for who you truly are. It might be a sole individual, a significant other, or even a large group of people, but they’re definitely out there. All that I needed was patience and trust in God’s great plan.

I wasted multiple years of my life putting on a false front for the sake of others, a mistake that I aim to never make again. From now on, I plan to let people know the true Benjamin De Boer, all quirks included. In doing this, I know that I can better live into God’s great and perfect will for my life.

1 Peter 5:7

img_3471-1
Faith Anderson

I have grown up in the same church, which was also my school, from the time I was born until I left for college. Everyone at that church knows everything about me. Due to this, I felt as if I always had to prove the fact that I trust God and that I understand everything happens for a reason whether I believed it to be true or not. I felt like this because I was under the impression that people would look at me differently if I even “questioned” God for a second. I was afraid that my reputation of being a Christ-like girl would be lost.

These feelings began more prominent when my father was diagnosed with cancer. At first, everything seemed fine with him. The doctors told our family that they had everything under control.

Fast-forward four years. I got a call to come to the principal’s office. My dad had been in and out of the hospital throughout the past couple months, but I always assured myself that there is no way anything could ever happen to him.

Well, I walked into the office to see my mom crying. Little did I know that it was because my dad was in the ICU fighting for his life. My mom asked me to sit down and informed me that my dad was given anywhere from 24-48 hours to live. After a long night, my father lost his fight to cancer.

I began to wonder why. Why would this happen to me? Everyone I came in contact with would say things like “everything happens for a reason,” “God is in control,” and “stay strong.” I interpreted what they said as, even though I lost the person who meant the most to me, I had to make sure I trusted God. However, trusting God and believing He is in control is easier said than done.

I thought I wasn’t allowed to be upset that my dad was gone so I told everyone that I was doing great. I didn’t think I was allowed cry. I would put Bible verses up on Facebook to let everyone see that I was still the same Godly girl they knew. In reality, I was ashamed because I was wrestling with why God would let this happen. God knows we cannot go through things on our own. We do not have to “stay strong” because God wants to be our strength. God desires to be our rock and our comfort. Asking Him questions does not mean you do not believe in Him, it just means you actually have a real relationship with Him. The pain we feel, demands to be felt. God wants to meet us right where we are at, not where we think we should be.

img_4191
By Colin Jorde

I am a freshman on campus and in these past few months God has really challenged me to work on the issue of pride in my life. These verses from Jeremiah 9 sum up this challenge for me. It says from verses 23 and 24:

“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom

or the strong man boast of his strength

or the rich man boast of his riches,

but let him who boasts boast about this:

that he understands and knows me,

that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,

justice and righteousness on earth,

for in these I delight.”

These words struck me pretty hard. I realized that I had the wrong intentions and loyalties in my life. While living for the glory of God was a piece of my life, it was not the focus of my life. I was much more concerned with receiving recognition from my peers and looking good in front of people. Rather than giving God that attention, I soaked it up for myself.

Coming out of high school, I thought I had it all together. Life was good. I had graduated from my small school with success in academics and athletics. I had a good friend group, a supportive family, and a solid church. With a college and a major already picked out, I was confident and ready to jump into this new chapter of life. In my head, I was thinking that I could really handle this “doing life” thing. I would just need to follow my future plans, study hard in college, and make a few friends. I’d be set, and if I gave a little bit of the credit to God, then I’d really be doing good.

However, those thoughts of self-righteousness were interrupted this fall. As I settled into NWC, I found I was no longer the best. Everyone at Northwestern seemed to be better than me in some way and I no longer appeared as the ‘best kid’ in any of my activities. On a good day I was feeling pretty average. That’s when the realization started to click for me. I was living my Christian life with a confused mindset. I was working only for my own personal gain. I may have said that God had done this or that thing in my life, but in reality, I was working to gain recognition and acceptance from people around me. I was living selfishly for my own glory. I finally realized that it is impossible to live for God and live for myself.

Basically, I have learned two main things from the verses in Jeremiah that have changed my mindset for living. The first one is to live humbly as Philippians 2 says to live as Christ and look not only to my own interests but to the interests of others. And secondly, if I will take pride or boast in anything, I will boast of my God. I’ve found that these two reminders for life are not easy to keep in mind. I am often distracted by my pride and shortcomings, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, it is possible to keep my motives in check and my mind in line with Christ. Living humbly is a moment by moment choice, yet it is so fulfilling when I choose to live for God’s glory and not my own.