ncourage-07
By Schuyler Sterk

Last spring, after a hard conversation with a friend, I found myself sitting on the floor of a practice room in the music building, in the dark, with tears streaming down my face as I listened to my worship music playlist. I had suddenly come face to face with the reality that my relationship with Jesus was not as tight-knit as I believed it to be, and I was terrified.
 

I felt as though I was slowly falling and at the time, it didn’t feel like there was anything to catch me. I had allowed myself to become crushed beneath the weight of stress and busyness, the pain of broken relationships, the fear and uncertainty of the future, and the loss of my grandmother. This was what I would describe as my stormiest season. It was a time filled with so much rain so many tears, so many fears, and so many prayerful pleas for healing that I began to wonder if I would ever feel anything else.  

Yet God was with me in the midst of all my worry and pain. I am learning, during the process of healing from all my pain and heartache, that just because a season feels stormy does not mean there aren’t still blessings to be found. In fact, I think there is a reason why we describe sorrowful, pain-filled seasons as rainy, and why we also say God rains his blessings down on us from Heaven. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the same word is used to describe these two contrasting pictures. Rain can cause devasting floods and catastrophic storms, but rain also brings about new life and beautiful growth. 

I think sometimes, our biggest blessings come during our rainiest seasons. In the middle of my storminess God gave me so much. He blessed me with new relationships, a deeper desire to pursue my relationship with Him, a renewed feeling of joy, and a sense of peace. 

This summer, as I leaned into God, read His word, worshipped Him, and learned to listen for His voice and His promises, I ended up finding blessing after blessing carefully and mercifully placed in the corners of my life. I found new friends who spoke wisdom and light into my darkest moments. I found myself experiencing joy in all the small moments of my life again. I found myself waking up each morning excited to meet with Jesus and dive deeper into my relationship with Him. And I found Peace in my wonderful Savior. But experiencing that healing and finding that peace sure did not come easily. Because growth hurts, healing takes a lot of time and patience, and staying in pursuit of my relationship with Jesus during all of this was the hardest thing I’ve done. 

But during this stormiest of seasons, God was in the midst of the rain, and he was showing me how beautiful life is when it is lived with Him. He was there in the midst of my brokenness and loneliness; He was there in the midst of the painful, challenging healing process; and He is here in the midst of a new season of wholeness and joy.  

dublin
Describe a turning point in your spiritual journey while here at NWC.
 

As I embarked on my first summer as a camp counselor, I was confident in my ability to reason Christ into the hearts of all my future campers. I knew my stuff, but I discovered, as I was bombarded with question after question, challenge after challenge, from these young middle school girls, I did not have all the answers. And it was the most uncomfortable thing I had ever experienced. Not knowing. Doubting. Wondering for the first time if I might, in fact, be wrong about this Bible I’ve centered my life around. Did my faith conflict with history, science, reason? What about all the apologetics I had spent years studying? It wasn’t supposed to crumble in the face of sassy adolescent girls. I came back to school my sophomore year, confused and doubting my faith. Everything I knew was being shaken, so I concluded it was time to start back at square one. And square one, for me, was the Bible. How are we supposed to read and interpret this cultural document that is frequently questioned by scientists and historians? 

After many books and many papers and many conversations, I concluded that it’s okay to not have all the answers. It’s not my job to “defend” the Bible. In fact, that mindset may prevent me from appreciating the Bible in the way it was meant to be understood. Being “fired” from the job of protecting and defending the Bible brought so much relief to my life. I no longer calculated ways to construct the best apologetic argument, but understood the best apologetic to be a faith that acts fearlessly well toward the other–regardless of who that other is. I could explore truth freely, without worrying about breaking the rules. Instead of being a “defender,” I got to be an “explorer,” continually searching for understanding. 

What advice would you give to underclassmen regarding their personal faith walk while here at NWC? 

Be curious. Ask questions. Even those really hard ones. The ones people are scared to ask. Curiosity is totally allowed, and even justified, by the Christian faith. We don’t have to agree with everything we hear in church. In fact, as a psychology major, it’s taken me a long time to come to terms with some of the seeming contradictions between evangelical faith and science. However, I’ve been able to stumble upon ideas that seem to make sense. It just takes a lot of reading and a lot of deconstruction. While the first “phase” of questioning was extremely painful for me, I’ve come to semi-enjoy the process. As older and wiser Christians have shown me, it’s okay to not have all the answers. It’s okay to disagree with things, even if, for example, you’ve believed these things to be true for a long time. It’s okay to let ideas go and allow your beliefs to change. It doesn’t mean you’re not a Christian. In fact, it may be a demonstration of a living, growing faith. 

image1
I
n your time at NWC, who (past or present) has shown you a bit of God’s love?  

One person that always comes to mind is Rik Dahl.  He has been my wrestling coach the past four years here at Northwestern.  I have seen a bit of God’s love in him in that he has always shown an interest and investment in me as a young man.  Our relationship has not just been in the wrestling room, but I have seen his care and support for me in all aspects of my life while at Northwestern.  I have been so inspired by the love he has shown me in this way 

How has your view of God changed or been strengthened since coming to NWC?  

Since I have been at Northwestern, I have been consistently and constantly surrounded by a faith based community.  In this I have also been encouraged to continually be cultivating my own relationship with Christ, which has strengthened my faith.  I have also been challenged in a lot of my beliefs through different courses, chapel speakers, D group conversations and discussions with other people.  This has encouraged me to dig into the word and develop strong convictions and understandings around my beliefs.  

What advice would you give to underclassmen regarding their personal faith walk while here at NWC?  

Don’t be so stubborn in your beliefs and convictions, that it inhibits your ability to have meaningful and respectful conversations with people who have different views or opinions.  Sometimes the best growth and conversation come from a connection with someone who has contrasting beliefs from your own. I would encourage younger students to use this time to develop strong convictions, and to let your roots grow deep in the word and in a relationship with Christ.  However, that doesn’t mean to be closed off to others who might have different understandings than you. Have an open mind and an open heart to others.  

In what ways is God challenging you to grow now?  

Last summer I began a new stage of life as I became a married man.  This has been a huge challenge for me to grow in my faith and my rootedness in Christ.  I understand that I am called to be a leader in my marriage and in my household, and in order to do that effectively, I need to first have a solid faith and trust in Christ, that is continually growing.  I have experienced shortcoming in these aspects of my marriage, and have been challenged by God time and time again to continue to strive to grow in this way. This will be a never ending challenge for me, but I am thankful for the marriage I have been blessed with, and the leadership position that God has called me to through my marriage. 

Processed with VSCO with b5 presetHow do you want to experience God in the last half of this semester? 

For me, this last semester has been a great opportunity to grow closer with some of my friends on campus as well as my fiancé, Anna. I am hoping God continues to strengthen these relationships and teaches me to love those around me like Christ did. 

I am also hoping to continue to see his faithfulness and direction in Anna’s life and my own. We know we’re going to be moving to the Minneapolis area after we get married, but we still don’t have everything figured out. God has been good to us in the past and I trust that He will continue to lead us, I’m looking forward to seeing what He has in store for us. 

What advice would you give to underclassmen regarding their personal faith walk while here at NWC? 

I would tell underclassmen to not be afraid to embrace situations where your faith is challenged. I have had opportunities to get to know a number of people on campus who do not hold the same beliefs as me and it has helped me better understand my own beliefs. 

Additionally, I would advise taking full advantage of opportunities to learn more about the Christian faith. In my Christian Story II class, we were given an assignment to write a paper about an issue that is debated among various Christian denominations. After completing that assignment I can now better articulate my views and I also have a better understanding of what other Christians might believe about the topic. 

In what ways is God challenging you to grow more? 

One way God has been challenging me is to be more intentional about caring for the poor. For my senior seminar class, we read a book called The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. Claiborne’s main message is that Christians need to abandon the trap of the American dream and be more intentional about following Christ’s call to care for the less fortunate. It has been important for me to realize that God does not just call us to avoid sin, he calls us to action. 

 

Processed with VSCO with b5 presetI came to Northwestern wary of Christianity. Although I grew up in a Christian family and was saved at a young age, I came in as a freshman with a lot of skepticism and even cynicism about organized religion. I had seen and experienced spiritual abuse and hypocrisy in the church, so I was very unsure of what my commitment to the church would be during college. 

However, God has used those experiences and my skepticism in transformative ways and shown me what authentic Jesus-followers look like through my theatre professors and peers. This year in particular, the fall retreat, the middle school retreat, and my SSP to Compton had incredible impacts on me and how I view God. I understand better than ever that God does not expect perfection but desires authenticity. As the song “Pieces” by Bethel goes, “You don’t give Your heart in pieces/You don’t hide Yourself to tease us/Uncontrolled, uncontained/Your love is a fire, burning bright for me” God’s love is all-consuming, unconditional, and redemptive. 

It has been this redemptive, powerful love of God that became the resounding theme from my time here at NWC. Mistakes, pain, loss, hurt, are all transformed by God’s redemption. I used to believe that redemption was the one-time event that happened with Christ on the cross, but I’ve learned that redemption is an ongoing force in the world, wherein God restores and transforms his people for the building of his Kingdom. 

One person who really showcased the authenticity of God’s redemptive love in the past few years is Julie Vermeer Elliot. She is my all-time hero and has been a huge source of support for me. She’s walked alongside some of my toughest journeys without ever judging me or shaming me but rather cheering me on to restoration, health, and community. She’s set such an example for being a Godly and female leader and I so appreciate her contributions to my journey and to our community at large. 

After graduation, I’ll be making the terrifying transition to adulting in Orlando, FL. There’s so much uncertainty surrounding post-grad life, but God keeps gently reminding me that He has provided my every need during college and He’ll only continue to provide for my needs and surround me with a community of support and love. It’s not easy to trust Him in new and unknown territory, but I’m so much better for it when I surrender to Him. 

As for my remaining days at NWC, I’m looking forward to spending the last few weeks living in the moment and finding the joy and love in every situation. Even though graduation is bittersweet, I want to actively seek “King-sightings” and relish in the joy of our God. It is through His love and strength alone that I made it thus far, and I look forward to seeing how He continues to transform my life.