kat-21
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. 

021820-08By Emily Wikner 

I got the letter three days before I boarded the plane to Peru. It was from one of my closest friends. With little explanation, she told me that our relationship was unhealthy for her and that she needed to heal so she was leaving our relationship. She said she no longer wanted any contact with me. We had never spoken prior about this issue. 

I spent most of the night in and out of tears 

My heart broke to know that I had unintentionally hurt my friend so badly that she felt the need to break all ties with me. It horrified me to know I could inflect such damage upon another human being, especially one who was so close to me. Even though I had other friends to support me, I was terrified that if I showed them too much of me, I would burden them and they would leave me too. 

I spent those first weeks in Peru overwhelmed by the sorrow from the loss of this friendship. Negative thoughts like “I’m not a good friend” and “What if all my close friends secretly hate me?” became regular occupants in my mind. The thought of reaching out and forming new friendships in Peru scared me because this event made me believe that I am an awful person to have a relationship with.  

In the middle of it all, I cried out to God for healing. I prayed bold prayers for reconciliation. Yet nothing changed and my soul still ached. I began to wonder if God even wanted me to heal. Mentally, I knew that God offers healing, but his healing never seemed to seep into the darkest, driest parts of my heart. I quietly resolved that my problems weren’t important enough for the Almighty to examine and I accepted that the Healer had overlooked me.  

At the same time, I was reading through the gospel of Luke in Spanish for my personal devotions, and everything changed when I got to chapter five.  

I had read the story of Jesus healing the man with leprosy many times before and I knew what to expect: a leper falls at Jesus’s feet and begs him for healing, Jesus says that he is willing, and immediately the man’s leprosy goes away. Classic Jesus miracle. But the Spanish version reads a little differently.  

Instead of Jesus saying he’s willing to heal the leper, he says he wants to heal the leper.  

Cue me crying my eyeballs out in Spanish. 

The phrase “be willing” always made me think of a begrudging yes. I’m willing to do the dishes. I’m willing to clean the bathroom. I’m willing to wake up early for an opening shift after a long night. I may be willing, but none of those things are things I inherently desire.  

I realized I carry the attitude of my willingness into my understanding of God’s willingness. Whenever I ask for a good gift or guidance or straight up desperate help, I often don’t get my hopes up in case that God is unwilling to show up for me in the way that I want.  

But in my season of healing the heartbreak of a broken friendship, reading the words, “I want to heal you,” absolutely had me undone.  

Like, God wants to heal me? It’s not just some burdensome task he does after I nag him? It’s something he’s eager to do, just as much as I’m eager to drink tea or go skiing or watch the new season of “Jane the Virgin”? He wants to take all of my pain and reverse it and make me new again?  

I can’t say there’s a happy ending to this situation six months after I received that letter. I still have no contact with my friend. No reconciliation has happened and I don’t know if it ever will. Some days, I still ache from her choice to leave our friendship and from knowing I unintentionally caused her emotional harm. But in the messy middle of this healing process, I have come to know God as the God who wants to heal me.   

021820-07 

By Luke Jenness

I’ll never forget April 21, 2018I was at a wrestling tournament and the day was progressing quite casuallyThe wrestling had been going just fine and I only had a couple more matches to compete in before the tournament finished.  Suddenly, however, when attempting a double leg takedown against my next opponent, I heard a snap!  I looked down and, to my horror, discovered that my right foot had been completely dislocated!  Upon further examination, it was determined that I had broken my fibula and torn several ligaments in that leg.  The healing process required surgery, rehab, and time… lots of time.  During this trying stage of recovery, I faced many questions concerning God’s plan for what might possibly lie ahead in my young life.  Why had God allowed such a severe injury to impede my pursuit of wrestling?  Why did He allow me to go through the immense pain – both physically and mentally – that encompassed this injury?  Now, nearly two years later, I can clearly see how my misfortune fit perfectly into God’s plan. 

While being confined to forced rest during the late spring and summer of 2018, I had a plethora of opportunities to delve into God’s Word and prayer.  I recall spending several nights in tears, praying that God would immediately heal me as Jesus Christ healed so many others during His time on earth. During each of these prayers, although God never brought the instant physical healing I desired, He brought a wholly indescribable and unsurpassed sense of peace and strength – the very strength found only in Christ.  One of my favorite verses in the Bible puts this phenomenon quite simply: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NIV).  During this time of trial, God showed me that there is always enough strength to overcome any situation if, and only if, we put our trust in Christ.  Once I was fully healed and ready to begin wrestling again, I had a greater sense of gratitude for being able to wrestle in the first place. 

My broken leg experience also taught me humility, or, in other words, to depend on others for help and support.  Jesus taught much on helping others in times of trial or need.  Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus told in the Gospel of LukeA man was robbed, beaten, and left to die on the side of roadA priest and a Levite passed him by without even offering this man, who was half-dead, a ride to the nearest town.  Finally, the Good Samaritan came upon the dying man and had pity on himHe bandaged the man’s wounds and brought him to an inn where he would be cared for.  During my time of injury, there were many “Good Samaritans” who supported, cared, and prayed for my recovery.  This encouraged me to go out of my way to help several others who were suffering misfortunes after my own setback.   

God works in mysterious ways, and my trial was definitely an unexpected circumstance that God used to help me grow as a Christian.  I learned to have more compassion on those of us who are suffering, because, though my injury wasn’t a tragedy, I knew a certain degree of pain that comes from being separated from what we love (in my case, it was wrestling).  God also revealed to me the infinite strength of Christ!  I don’t credit myself for making it through those trying months, I credit it all to Jesus Christ.  He was always there for me, and He always provided enough strength to get through every day.  I have learned to rely on Him more so now than I did before breaking my leg.  Romans 8:28 is outstanding reminder that we have an Almighty God Who knows what is best“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” 

 

021120-08By Carol Li

This
past winter break, I went home for the first time in six months and by the time I was getting ready to come back to school, I didn’t want to leave. The fall semester of 2019 was difficult. I had failed in my role as a leader, I felt discouraged because I was feeling lost and unsure in my decision to be a nurse. On the plane ride back, I was listening to a Spotify worship playlist and I was just praying out of desperation but all I heard was silence. As the plane was landing in Eppley Airfield, a song started playing and I smiled. God was reminding me that He has a plan for me, and I need to do was trust in Him 

Flashback to early spring 2016. I had been fervently applying for various colleges in southern California for different majors. During this period, my mom tried a few times to talk to me about Northwestern. My brother was attending Northwestern and he was about to go into his super senior year, so mom thought it was a cute idea if we went to the same school for a year. She said I would like the small-town vibe and it would be a great place to study Nursing. I told her she was crazy, but I’d think about it. That night, I was in my room listening to a worship station on Pandora and just browsing Northwestern’s webpage. As I was scrolling through, a song started playing and the lyrics kind of startled me. Chris Tomlin’s song, “Love Ran Red” was playing through my headphones and the lyrics that stuck out to me were, “I owe all to You, I owe all to You, Jesus”. To me it sounded like he was singing, “I-o-wa– to You, I-o-wa– to You, Jesus”. Call me crazy but if this wasn’t a direct message from God, I don’t know what else it could have been because I don’t believe in coincidences. I said to God, “Okay, I hear You” and I filled out the application and submitted it that same night 

Fast forward to the fall of 2016, I’m driving through Nebraska with my brother fast asleep in the passenger seat at two in the morning and I started getting a little nervous. ‘What if I got it all wrong? What the heck am I doing in Nebraska? There’s literally nothing here.These kinds of thoughts were running through my mind at 4am when I finally pulled into the tiny Dutch town of Orange City. It was dark, I was tired, and it smelled like manure, and oh my Lord it was so humid. I believed that I was crazy for allowing a coincidence to decide the fate of my education. It wasn’t God, I told myself, it was just my brain making connections where it shouldn’t be. I had decided right then and there I was going to call my mom later in the morning to tell her I wanted to go home. I didn’t want to be in Orange City.  

Later in the morning arrived, and as I was putting my hairdryer in my brother’s trunk I noticed that next to my brother’s friend’s house (where we stayed for a few hours to sleep), someone was rebuilding their front porch. The radio was on, but I didn’t think much about it. I looked around and I thought to myself, “Oh I am definitely going home. This was a crazy idea.” Right in that moment I heard, “I OWE ALL TO YOU, I OWE ALL TO YOU, JESUS” playing from the radio. Oof. It felt like a slap in the face. Kind of like God saying, “Helloooo? Can you hear me? I’m trying to tell you something.” Alright then. I said to Him, “Fine. I’ll try it out but if I don’t like it I’m leaving.” Needless to say, I ended up staying.  

Sometimes when we become absorbed in figuring out what we want for ourselves and what we want to do, we forget that there is a He. He already knows His plans for us, and all we must do is ask and we shall receive. Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” I didn’t want to become a nurse. It wasn’t in my 10-year plan, or even my backup plan. But here I am about to graduate with my Bachelor of Science in Nursing. While these three and a half years haven’t been easy, I don’t regret my time here at all. I’ve made lifelong friendships, discovered my passion, and am working towards my dream all because I put my trust in His plan for me.  

The plane had reached the gate and I gathered my things to disembark, but not before restarting Chris Tomlin’s song. A sense of peace washed over me as I walked through the dark and chilly airport. At that moment I knew that everything was going to be just fine.