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.  

feb3-07By Emma Van Meeteren

“Trust the process.
” My fellow cross country teammates know these words well. Coach Carrie Krohn, who learned this from her NWC coach Dale Thompson, uses this phrase often to remind us to trust our training progression. In running, achieving one’s optimal race performance is not something that happens overnight. It requires a training progression strategically planned to prepare our bodies to peak at the right time. Often, it is difficult to be patient, and the desire for quick results causes one to want to work too hard, too fast. If there is one thing I have learned as a collegiate athlete, it is that I have been able to become a much better runner than I ever could have on my own by trusting my coaches and having the patience to see out the full results of my training.  

Now you may be wondering, what does my training progression have to do with my faith? Over Christmas break, I had a lot of time to think. And being the nostalgic senior that I am, I couldn’t help but reflect on the changes I have experienced during these past four years at Northwestern. The person I am now with one semester left of college is completely different than the person I was one semester in. The change from my freshman self to senior self was definitely not something that happened overnight. Instead, much like trusting my coaches to train me to run well, my college experience has been a time of continuously seeking the Lord and trusting His timing and process of transformation in my life.  

Freshman year Emma is someone I don’t really like to think about often. She was overly stressed, extremely anxious, and absolutely terrified at the thought of having to decide what she wanted to do with her life at the age of 18. Classes were hard, her life was unbalanced, and she had no idea what her parents were talking about when they said, “College was the best four years of our lives!” She knew the Lord and trusted Him with her life, but had a hard time understanding why she felt so lonely and distant from her loving Savior.  

Fast-forward three years, and here I am counting down the days until I can return to school after Christmas, excited to get back to a life and people that I love. I now 100% agree with my parents that my college years have been the best years yet. Looking back, instead of being completely astonished at this attitude 360, I can confidently attest to the powerful work of the Lord in my life. Philippians 1:6 reminds me of the confidence I may have knowing “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God never leaves or abandons me, but instead promises that He will carry out what He started. I must learn to simply trust in His process.  

However, trusting the Lord’s process does not mean passively stepping aside. The familiar words of Proverbs 3:5-6 say “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” In these verses, I am reminded that putting my trust in the Lord involves submitting myself to Him. I must seek Him, acknowledge Him, and follow His leading in order to partner with Him in His process. The changes I have experienced during my time at Northwestern would not have been possible without me learning to submit to the Lord and follow His leading to try new activities, participate in His global mission, take on leadership positions, and seek out life-giving relationships.  

Despite all the times I have felt stuck, frustrated, and wanted to be anywhere else but at college, I am now beginning to see the fruit of the good works God has promised to fulfill in me. Whether I am worried about making the grades, finding the right career path, gaining solid friendships, or whatever it may be, I must simply hang in there and trust the process. I have learned that if I submit my entire being to seeking Him, He will transform me into something that is absolutely worth waiting for.

120319-07By Lauren Johnson

Flashback to last fall
, when I was mildly irritated with God. I was beginning my sophomore year at Northwestern, and I, quite frankly, was freaking out. My music major was not fulfilling me the way I thought it should, and I was beginning to consider teaching music as a career, something I swore I would never do when I began my journey here. Why was I freaking out? This was not in “the plan”. I did not color code this in my planner. I did not envision this in the timeline of my life. I was thinking, why me? Why do I not just know my calling to a career like everyone else seems to?  

I discussed with professors why they thought I should consider teaching and asked them questions. I asked friends how they just knew what they wanted. I talked to family members, and even made a mental pro and con list. And man, did I pray. I prayed and prayed and prayed. To be honest, this became my most repetitive and sought after prayer. I just wanted an answer!! I wanted a big sign, a huge divine something that told me yes or no. Could I not just have a big moment where the music swells, the conflict is solved, and I live happily ever after? Yet, I seemed to receive no answer. Weeks went by, and I still felt nothing and did not come to a decision. I began to be annoyed at God. I wanted to plan my life out. But here’s the thing: I wanted it to be my plan, and not God’s plan.  

One day when I was feeling particularly frustrated at God, I opened my bible and turned to Habakkuk to focus on a new book, and was amazed at what I found. In Habakkuk 1, Habukkuk complains (that’s literally the title of the chapter) and the Lord answers. The whole chapter is astounding, but these verses stuck out to me: “Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5).  

Wow. I felt amazed and a little reprimanded by God. To me, this was a direct answer from him, and he was telling me that even if he gave me an answer, I would not believe him because his plans are so amazing for me. In the words of Michael Scott, boom. Roasted. Except he did not “roast” me. He boom loved me. And he still does. He made me realize that my journey is not just about me. It’s about him too, and he should be at the center of my journey. 

A good friend once told me that it does not matter what you do, as long as you are doing it for God. Wow, that is convicting, yet so true. Through this experience, I realized that I do not need music to swell and a gigantic sign to blink an answer. I am going to be a music teacher because that’s how I feel I am best going to serve God. There are some days I feel that this career was definitely not my choice. Then I am reminded that it was not my choice, it was God’s. How cool is that?

111919-07

By Abigail Moody  

I’m sure every one of us has been around a three-year-old at one point or another who is going through the “Why?” phase. “Why?” is their response to every question, statement, and well, basically anything that comes out of your mouth. 

Sometimes, I find myself feeling like the three-year-old, while God is the ever-patient parent. 

I’m a planner. I have all of these ideas in mind of how my life is going to go. More general than specific, but still. 

Then God throws a curveball. And in the moment, I don’t understand why. I find myself asking that oh-too-familiar question. “Why?” “Why can’t it be the way I want?” 

At the beginning of last year, I experienced one of the hardest seasons of my life in the form of a broken relationship. But it reminded me that God is in charge of my life. Not me. He knew how my life was going to turn out long before I was even a thought. This relationship was eventually mended, but it took time, and realizing that God was in control. He had a plan, and He was with me through every painful and confusing step. God isn’t asking for my instructions and my plans. He’s asking for my cooperation. 

The journey of life is going to happen no matter what. The clock keeps moving, the months go by and the seasons change whether we like it or not. This year God has shown me that life keeps going, and I can either trail along, grumbling, complaining, and wishing I was somewhere else; or I can dance through life being present, and looking for the joy in the everyday moments. All while holding the hand of my Heavenly Father, because He is walking through it with me every step of the way. 

Sometimes my life isn’t going to look the way I expected. And that’s okay. It’s like putting a puzzle together. If you are holding one puzzle piece, there is no way you can get an idea of what the finished picture will look like. But eventually, it fits with another piece, and another. There is a master plan. It’s on the puzzle box. But only God has the puzzle box.  

Sometimes God gives me glimpses of the finished product, showing me hard and confusing pieces of my life that fit together into something beautiful and it all makes sense. Other things won’t make sense until I’m looking at it through the lens of eternity. And that’s okay. God doesn’t promise that everything is going to make sense. He promises that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that all things work together for good for those who love Him. 

A verse that started showing up prominently in my life earlier this year is Ephesians 3:20. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It hadn’t ever stood out to me before, but I read it in a book, and then it started appearing everywhere around me. It’s the verse I cling to when I don’t understand God’s plans, when I want to ask why. 

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory…” – Ephesians 3:20-21a 

So next time you feel like a three-year old holding single puzzle piece, remember that God is able to do immeasurably more than you can imagine. And it’s all for His glory. 

 

111219-08By Amy Tuttle 

When I was little, and I couldn’t sleep, I would often find myself chatting with God. Sometimes it went like this: 

Hey, GodI know you know that I’m thinking about you. And I know you know I know you know I’m thinking about you. And I know you know I know you know I know… 

It went on and on. Other times I’d ask questions like, 

Jesus, when you were a baby did you think about baby things or did you think about God things? 

Once in a while, I would just lay there, trying (and failing) to wrap my little mind around eternity, and the thought of spending forever (forever!!!)  in heaven. 

I wonder when that child-like wonder of God began to fade from my heart. I think it happened so gradually that I didn’t really notice until I found myself in a pretty dark place, full of anxiety and apathy.  

There were bright moments, too. Moments when God’s beautiful, relentless, and patient grace broke through my hardened heart and ignited a passion for Christ again. Then the enthusiasm would dim as I turned away again, caught up in busyness and worry.  

But God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He didn’t give up on me.  

Earlier this semester I found myself at Trinity for Centerpoint. I had the privilege of worshipping with others who were praising God with heartfelt abandon. The Holy Spirit began stripping away my indifference towards God.  

In the coming weeks, I felt newfound excitement for engaging difficult texts in the Bible. I experienced the indescribable comfort of being completely known, understood, and loved by God. My heart broke in a new way for those who are living without the hope that comes through Christ. I rededicated myself to pursuing the counter-cultural lifestyle that Christians are called to. 

Don’t get me wrong, I do not have this all figured out. Actually, most days I feel pretty confused, and I’m more aware than ever that I have a lot to learn. I’m realizing that my sinful heart is even more twisted than I ever imagined. 

At the same time, though, I’m so in awe of our perfect God. God is indescribably glorious and wonderful. Psalm 145:5-7  states this far more eloquently than I ever could: 

5 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty  
and I will meditate on your wonderful works. 
 6 They tell of the power of your awesome works 
 and I will proclaim your great deeds. 
7 They celebrate your abundant goodness  
and joyfully sing of your righteousness. 

I don’t have a pretty ending to this story yet. But I’ve decided that my difficult experiences don’t have to be resolved before I share them with others. For now, I want to invite others into the messiness and pray for a child-like heart that marvels openly at God’s goodness.