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.

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. 

By Kelsay Parrott

In this world, it is extremely easy to hide personal scars. This is not the case for me. My scars are worn like armor around my body.

I was burned when I was four years old. My body has 45% full-thickness third degree burns. The scars are on my arm, face, back, chest, abdomen, and leg. I could go into detail of surgeries (all 52 of them), the time in the hospital (almost a year total), and everything that has stemmed from being a survivor. This season of difficulty, ironically, is all about the Lord in my life.

We often want the perfect life, no struggles, no pain, and no suffering. However, we know this is not the case. The difference between “the perfect life” and a life with the Lord is seeing the good that comes from the bad. I have endured a lot due to my burn injuries, my struggle and suffering has often led me to question God’s love. “Why would a loving God be so cruel and hurt one of his children?” But after some time, my questions changed their focus to self-hate. “How did I do this to myself? What did I do wrong to deserve this?” This caused me to go down a deep path of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts and attempts. I was ashamed of who I was, what I did, and everything about my existence upset me. I was so ashamed of myself that I avoided looking in a mirror for an entire year! The person I saw was so terrible that I tried to hide her away. Self-harm became a daily occurrence since the age of nine. I was not living the life God wanted me to live.

Something had to change! I finally said enough is enough! After my one suicide attempt, I realized I am here for a reason. God gave me a purpose for this life. It was time to get help and seek God again! This is the moment I became a seeker in Christ and not just a spectator. I went to counseling, went to church, and began to become a better me. Because I struggled for so many years being a burn survivor and being ashamed of who I was, I had to learn self-love. It took years for me to accept myself and who I was. Self-harm has become less and less as I search for the Lord as my refuge instead of the blade (and I am proud to say I am almost two years clean!). Worship music and the word of God became my refuge from the terrible things people were saying to me. My self-love grew as I grew to understand more fully God’s love for me!

God saved me. He walked along side me every step of this long and hard journey, never leaving my side. He molded me into his image and made me a beautiful young woman! My chains are gone! I am no longer ashamed of who I am and what happened to me! I proudly wear my scars as beauty marks and signs of God’s strength through me!

By Meghan Vermeer

When I first came to campus as a scared little Freshman, I remember listening to a certain speaker.  I’m not sure if it was chapel, class, or just unsolicited advice from an upperclassman.  Or maybe it was something else entirely.  I don’t remember.  Honestly though, it was probably chapel; this was back when we had it four days a week!

But anyway, the unknown advice-giver said something about how we should honor God in everything we do.  Pretty normal, right?  I’d heard it a thousand times before.

Then, they said we should honor God through our studies.

Through our essays.

Through our homework.

… What?

This was a completely foreign concept to me.  I knew that we were supposed to honor God in everything we do and that he wanted all the good stuff, but he even wanted my homework?  I didn’t even want my homework. But, somehow, it began to make sense to me.  The whole reason I came to NWC was to be a student.  My entire life consisted of studying, and if that’s the case, then God should be a part of that too, right?

I worked really hard to remember God while I was studying.  I tried to think of my Christian perspective while reading a text for class (this was particularly easy in Christian Story I, but not so easy in an algebra class).  I loved the idea of pausing to devote my study time to God, of thinking of Him in the most mundane moments of my life.  So I did it.  I prayed every time I sat down to study, and I found that I was more prepared and more excited to work than I ever had been before because I was doing it for more than just myself. 

I think back to that time, and I’m a bit surprised by myself.  Not that I tried to honor God with my studying, but rather, that I hardly ever do it now.  When did studying and working on homework become more about checking tasks off a list than honoring God by furthering my education?

Being a junior, the excitement of the first year of college has long-since worn off and I find myself wondering what would happen if I started to devote my studies to God once again.

If I love my major now, how much more could I love it if God was in it?  Would it make me a better student?  Would I learn more by devoting my studies to God?  Would it make me a better teacher in the future?

Does any of that even matter?  “Of course it does,” you say.

But maybe all that really matters is that God gets all of me–the best stuff, the eh stuff, and the bad stuff. 

It doesn’t matter what’s in it for me.  What matters is that I’m in it for Him.

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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.