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.  

021120-07By Dylan Hendricks

It was a brisk fall day and I was in the midst of a cross country race. If you know me, you know that running competitively is pretty much my favorite thing to do. This day was different though, as I could feel the collective work of several hundreds of miles building up in my legs as my lungs began to scream for air, fatigue culminating to levels my body was struggling to tolerate. Then, nothing.  

The next thing I knew, I was lying off to the side of the course, my head pounding, vision blurry, and lungs still working hard to take in air as I heard the pounding of the footsteps of the many runners on the course. I had never passed out during a run before and the realization that I had done so left me feeling broken and confused. I had thought for a long time that competitive running was one of the gifts given to me by God, which I was meant to return in the form of giving glory to Him. As I sat there next to the course, one question swirled in my head and wouldn’t go away. 

If my purpose is to glorify you through running, God, why would you allow this to happen? 

The next thing I knew, my coaches and teammates who had finished the race were flooding across the course, coming to my aid. One by one, as they reached my location, they comforted me as I tried to apologize for my inability to finish the race. As they walked with me back to our team’s camp, a surprising feeling came over me without warning – peace. The peace I felt then would stick with me over the coming days, but as I later thought back to that day, that feeling faded, becoming replaced by doubt. 

Since the start of my college years, I have felt an almost equally strong calling toward a career in the medical field. Though my coursework has been rigorous since my freshman year, I had always been able to manage that work well and – for the most part – receive the grades I had aimed for. But the first semester of my junior year was the most challenging combination of courses that I had taken, and the stress induced by these courses eventually grew to a breaking point. Low on time, sleep, and energy, my grades began to suffer, and along with them, my mental fortitude. With the addition of the mental defeat that I faced after my most significant setback in my running career, I felt my very purpose was at risk and began to question if I was truly called to continue running and pursuing medicine. I turned my questions in God’s direction once again.  

God, if you call me to serve my neighbor through medical care, why would you allow this to happen? 

On the night that I felt most stressed and seriously wondered about the path that I was on, I took a break from studying and opened Twitter – an action that normally would have been a mistake because of the large presence of negative, often politically-charged posts that appear on the social media platform. However, the first two posts that showed up for me were instead centered on Bible verses.  

  1. “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” (Proverbs 20:3) 
  2. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1)  

Perhaps the strife and quarrel that the first verse mentions do not necessarily come from an external source, but rather can come from an inner source. I realized in this moment that I was the fool quarreling with my own self, choosing to create strife with the part of me that knows the purpose I have been called towards. Instead of choosing peace, as I had felt that day of the race as my teammates comforted me, I had chosen conflict with myself. The second verse affirmed this for me, as in my state of internal conflict, my unrest kept me from believing that God had heard my anguish until now. In fact, choosing peace for me was not about actively creating peace that was my own, but rather asking God to instill His peace in me, which required me to believe that God was listening as I suffered and was doing something about it.  

God was calling me towards something new – but that didn’t mean that he was directing me away from running or my career plans. I believe that He still calls me towards the same purpose, but via a different route, which is that of peace and patience. I think we often look far into the future, seeing the completion of our purpose as the thing that will finally allow us to glorify God as he has called us to do. But I think it is in the journey to completing that purpose where we often encounter those most in need of God’s love and wisdom, and though we would not like to admit it, this often includes ourselves. If we do not seek to bring glory to God throughout our pursuit of purpose by demonstrating peace and patience, we sacrifice much of the good we could do in exchange for an end result that may or may not come to fruition. To put this into common phrasing I wonder: “Do the ends justify the means?” Should we run towards our perceived spiritual purposes without regard for how we embody the imago dei each day in order to accomplish our purposes? Alternatively, I believe we can decide to pursue purpose, but also while continually asking God to instill His peace and patience in us, giving us the ability to be more intentional in our daily actions. 

Though I nearly lost hold of the purpose that I believe I have been called to, I now believe that God heard my cry, helping me to rediscover that purpose through the lenses of peace and patience.  

feb3-08
By Kaitlyn McCracken

We
all face so much hurt and pain throughout our lives. Each one of us must deal with personal struggles, and many times those around us have no idea what we are going through. In the midst of our suffering, it can be all too easy to feel lost, alone, and confused. In our times of greatest hurt, feelings of doubt can creep in – we can feel as though God has left us alone in the middle of overwhelming pain. He is supposed to be a gracious and loving god, so why would He let us suffer so much?  

My life has forced me to come to a very real understanding of the depth of this issue, and God has so graciously revealed to me the answer along the way. When I was only four years old, my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and given mere months to live. However, she fought to spend every moment she could with me and all the others in her life she loved so dearly; she defied all odds and continued to fight through her illness. But after two years, she eventually lost that battle. My mother died when I was just six years old.  

As a child, I was forced to confront the pain of losing a parent – something most individuals don’t face until they themselves are adults. But, the pain of losing a parent pales in comparison to the hurt caused by growing up without them. God has blessed me with an incredible dad. But there have been, and continue to be, many times throughout my life where I have really just needed my mom. In the times when I have most needed her to advise me or comfort me, her absence has been unbearably crushing.  

I’ve spent many sleepless, tearful nights crying out to God why, desperately asking Him why He would put me through so much suffering. And it’s that very thing that is so significant – the fact that I have always been able to cry out to Him. He was there. In the midst of my greatest moments of suffering, God has always been right there. In the moments when I am overwhelmed by the pain in my heart, when I have no strength left to support myself, I must lean wholly on God. And what an incredible thing that is – that He is right there to support me. Even though I may lack the strength to withstand the hurt I am facing, the God of the universe is my total and complete support.  

I may not understand why, but that doesn’t matter – I am His. He loves me so genuinely and deeply that He purchased me through the blood of Christ. His Son died to redeem me, and the Holy Spirit is within me. God holds my entire life within His mighty hand; He knows the reason behind every struggle I face He has used everything I have gone through to shape me and mold me according to His plan and purpose. Standing where I am now, it is so easy to look back and see God’s hand guiding me every step of the way. He has used and continues to use the loss I have suffered to further my life for Him. He has not wasted an ounce of my suffering.