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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.

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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.

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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.

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By Emily Sorensen


I’ve been running on empty. I’ve actually been running on empty for over a year, maybe closer to two years. It comes and goes, and for the past year I have told myself it was because I had yet to find my “close” friend circle at college. I have many friends on the track team, on my wing, from random classes, and anywhere else you make friends at college. But when it comes to finding my specific friend group with whom to post all my Instagram pictures with and eat every meal with I don’t have a “group.” And for the past year or so, I have told myself that this is why I feel empty. If I could only find a group of people to do things with all the time THEN I wouldn’t feel like this anymore.

What a lie.

The thing about it is, there have been plenty of sermons, devotions, and songs about finding my identity in Christ – not in the things or people around me. And I have heard and read these, but I guess they just flew over my head.

It wasn’t until I was talking to my mom that I verbalized that I haven’t found time made time to read the Bible. And that maybe if I would do that I would find more joy in my days, instead of feeling void. And she echoed my thoughts saying, “It makes a difference. When I catch myself being grumpy, I think about why I am grumpy and it almost always comes down to I have yet to read the Bible that day – so I drop what I am doing and pick up my Bible.” Then we got off topic, but it was enough.

Monday morning my alarm went off, I got ready for the day, picked up my Bible and headed to breakfast. I read about Saul’s conversion in Acts. Approximately one hour later the story was mentioned in my philosophy class. Okay, God, I see You. After starting my morning in the Word, God momentarily interrupted my philosophy class to remind me of Himself.

All I know is that God is faithful. And, although I have neglected Him for the past long time, He hasn’t left me. I wish I could tell you that my life is great since realizing my emptiness was from my lack of effort in my relationship with God and not from lacking “Instagram perfect friendships” but that wouldn’t be the truth. Sometimes it’s even a struggle to even believe this truth. However, I do believe that building my relationship with Him will fill my days with more joy and less loneliness because God is alive and real and wants to be an active part of my life. It is up to me to put Him back on the throne while I sit at His feet instead of vice versa. It’s time for me to start believing the quote from SoulScripts that I wrote on our whiteboard recently, “Life is confusing and hard and lonely sometimes and all I really know is the answer is Jesus.”

Yes, I have felt alone and have been running on empty. But the answer is Jesus.

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I spent my summer living in Amsterdam, and working with Shelter Youth Hostel Ministries. Going into my SOS trip this summer, I had heard a lot of different things from people who had been to Amsterdam working with this ministry. Everyone I talked with could only rave about the staff, the ministry opportunities, and the palpable presence of the Holy Spirit, but the first thing they would always mention was the amazing community and love that exists between the staff member and is shown to the guests. Going into the shelter, with the knowledge of the beauty of this community, still did not prepare me for what I was going to experience.

After hearing and experiencing the community at Northwestern, I couldn’t imagine a place that could be better at community living, but my first day in the community house I was floored. I entered a loving and committed community where no gossiping took place, there was no judgement, and everyone felt comfortable being completely open and vulnerable about their struggles. I was in absolute shock that such a community could exist, and let me tell you, I can’t think of any other time or place in my life that I have felt so loved, cared about, and respected. It was in this community that I experienced the Holy Spirit moving freely and convicting people’s hearts. I experienced what it was like to be justly called out in sin, and what it meant to lovingly call out brothers and sisters. The passage in Matthew 7:5 “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (NKJV), begun to actually make sense and I got to watch this type of love and care happen right before my very eyes.

Toward the end of my trip, I began to think and pray about what I would experience coming back to Northwestern and honestly, I was terrified. In this community in Amsterdam, I was challenged to break old habits of gossiping and judging others. I began reflecting on my previous three years and was crushed to relive all the times that I had acted on these frivolous and unnecessary sins. The idea of returning to NW where these temptations seemed to be running rampant around me, made me truly worried that I would not be able to abstain from these old habits. I remembered that this type of community I had experienced in Amsterdam was not going to be what I was entering back into at NWC – and that left me heartbroken and not entirely wanting to return.

After returning to campus, I am still left trying to reconcile these thoughts and feelings. I know that God is here and is present, but what will it take for the Holy Spirit to truly move freely in the midst of this community? I wonder if it’s through the little things – like being vulnerable with someone, asking someone how they are truly doing, praying for people hurting in the moment, abstaining from gossip, keeping judgmental thoughts at bay, and sharing with others how I am seeing God work in my life and others around me. What if I was willing to stop speaking hurtful and slanderous talk, what if we were committed to uplift and encourage one another (even if it means calling each other out in love), what if we replace anger and wrath with grace and forgiveness, what if NWC became known for its genuine kindness and love towards each other? I know that craving the type of community I experienced in Amsterdam will be something that I

will always be searching for, but I am confident that God is working in mighty ways to bring this type of community to all places – even Northwestern. This type of transformation will take a personal and communal effort to really make a change. I have been challenging myself to be this change, to start making personal adjustments, in hopes that others would notice and start walking alongside me.