ncourage-07By Bailey Banwart

We will all go through seasons of life in which we feel God’s presence fade, for the lucky ones, it will fade the smallest amount. But for others of us, we will lose this presence altogether. This loss is what I’ve been working through lately. As I await God’s promises in this new season of life, I often feel as though He has left me defenseless. I’ve been combatting this feeling of emptiness and isolation every day by allotting myself time with God, and for God, and reading His word. Perhaps my greatest tool in this fight against my feeling of abandonment is the book God, Where Are You?! by John Bevere. This book, along with my wonderful support system of family and friends, reminds me that God has not left me alone, rather He is right alongside me. It’s me who has turned away. I’ve made the decision to put God on the back burner and go through my days alone. It’s me who has chosen to tune out the sermon or the speaker. It’s me who says, “No, I don’t have time”.  

God has shown His faithfulness to me in small ways every day. And it’s in the little things and the small moments that I gradually turn back toward His love and kindness. It’s in the chills I get at P&W, in the faces of my classmates, and in the sounds of my roommates’ laughter.  Our God is so much greater than our doubts, our fears, our rebellion. He holds tightly to us, even in our time spent turning away from Him. I’m reminded of his love when I read Psalm 37: 23-24, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they may stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.”  

I want to point out two different things here. One: God delights in our lives, in every single detail. In the bad times and the good times God is watching over us and is delighted in us. Even when it feels as though I’ve failed, or turned away, God is there with me, delighting in my steps leading back to him. Second: the difference between stumbling and falling. God prevents me from falling, even if it feels as though I’ve just face planted, God was right alongside me and He has kept me upright. God does not promise our journey of faith to be easy, He knows I will stumble. Even if I feel as though I’ve been stumbling for days, weeks, maybe even months, it’s a comfort to know that God will prevent me from falling over.  

The season I am currently navigating through can sometimes be referred to as the desert or the wilderness. A time in which I don’t exactly know where God is taking me or when He will move me next. This desert land, I will point out to you all, is not void of God, however. The desert is a place to rebuild and challenge our faith. The desert can be a spiritual wall we’ve hit, or a spiritual dry spell as we listen for God’s call. We will go through so much in this life, whether it be trekking through deserts or sitting through storms. But one thing is for certain, although God will not always calm the waters right when you ask him to, He will be there with you through it. I encourage you all to fix your eyes upon God, even when it feels as though all is lost.  


ncourage-08By Ali Almail

I am sure all of us have encountered the 
popular phrase of the Imago Dei, emphasizing that we are fashioned in the image of God. This phrase is instrumental in fostering an environment that values humanity through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. However, this term is often applied in reference to a single person, which I find dissuades us from a more holistic definition.  

Stepping back and observing creation as a whole, we can observe that all of us reflect the image of God. Creation is a beautiful mosaic where each component is a masterpiece by itself and becomes an even more grand work of art when combined with fellow masterpieces. I see God weaving his beautiful tapestry of grandeur and faith when I look into the lives of people around me, as each person humbly reveals a unique aspect of God. 

Throughout my journey with Christ, I have found that when I surround myself with people who share in the Christian faith, I feel full yet empty. Conversely, when I surround myself with people of different faiths, I feel empty yet filled. These thoughts and feelings have prompted me to ponder this odd occurrence. Due to these continued feelings, I have come to believe more in the communal Imago Dei. Each of us reflects God’s nature, and we can perceive parts of him through the lives of other people. Oh, has it been a blessing to nourish my faith amidst people who present a different element of God’s unified nature!  

Northwestern has been and will continue to be a place where I can learn more about Christ’s nature by surrounding myself with people from different walks of faith. From those who approach God with a child-like faith, I have learned trust and humility. Looking into the eyes of the skeptic, I have found comfort in their questions that they pose to God. As I shared in the pain of others, I have learned to surrender my cares and worries to God.  From the reverent Muslims I have learned that we cannot pray to God enough and that we must earnestly seek an intimate connection. From the Hindus I have learned to love and respect people who walk a different path in life. From all my friends I have glimpsed the love of God, and oh is it so sweet. All these people, who share in the communal Imago Dei, have nurtured my faith and helped its roots soak into Godly soil. These lessons have taught me about the sacrificial and loving nature of Jesus Christ which is best reflected in his ultimate sacrifice where he shed his blood for us.  I am thankful for these people that God has placed in my life, who have taught continually drawn me in to the infinite nature of Christ. 

As colors are to a painting, we are all masterful creatures that when combined together, form a glimpse of Christ’s awe-inspiring nature. 



100819-07By Andrea Freeman

Making choices. For some, it might seem easy, but for us mortals, it is the worst thing to do. It seems every decision I make has a thorough vetting process through which I weigh the pros and cons, think about how it affects my future, and considering how it might affect others. 
Above all, I worry if what I am doing is a part of God’s plan, and it seems that I might never get a concrete answer. A lot of choices are made quickly with little thought to the consequences, such as picking a cereal to have for breakfast, or choosing what pajamas to wear that night. When I was young, I had a system for making choices: do what I want to do or what my parents would want me to do. But when I started thinking for myself more in high school, I realized that I did not want people to make choices for me. That shift did not start easy.  

At first, I let my friends make my decisions, because I wanted them to like me. Decisions like, how I should dress or what my hair should look like, or even, what classes I should take the following year. If I couldn’t ask my friends, I would ask my parents. I found that doing things because other people wanted me to, did not make me happy. I did not want to be anyone’s doll, devoid of thought for themselves. I did not want to ask for advice anymore, but I had never been taught how to make decisions. So, I didn’t. I froze. Hard decisions like picking a college, or major, or what I wanted my career to look like, went unanswered for so long.  

I was terrified of making a choice I would regret for the rest of my life and being unable to go back. What if God had a specific plan for me, and one wrong move would ruin my life? This buildup followed me for so long, I couldn’t eat or sleep. I had mounting anxiety as graduation loomed closer. I was depressed because I felt like I couldn’t make a choice and that I would die, lonely and unaccomplished because of it. Every night I would pray that God would somehow reveal to me, clear as day, what I should do. My older sister was the one who finally threw me into the deep end. After a family night, she took me aside and set me on a laptop to apply for at least one college. I told her I couldn’t, that I did not even know where to start.  

She asked me what college I had heard of recently that I was mildly interested in. I pulled out all the crinkled fliers and pamphlets at the bottom of my backpack and the top one was Northwestern College. It was a free application and took a short amount of time and little effort. I was surprised and relieved. When we got to the section full of possible majors, however, that relief drained away. I had no idea what to pick. I enjoy so many things, but what would give me the best career, what would make my parents proud of me? Once again, my sister came to the rescue. I had told her I like science among other things, and she knew I liked art. She chose computer science as my major (even though it isn’t what I normally think of at the word science), and art as my minor.  

Looking back, I could have picked undecided, but that was not the lesson I was about to learn. When I visited for the first time, I felt, for the first time, excited to make the step into college life. Terrified, but excited. Finally, it seemed like God was giving me a concrete answer, shouting “Yes! This is the one! This is what I want for you!” I knew, at the end of the day, I was going to Northwestern College. Every day felt amazing, because even if the day didn’t go as I expected or wanted, I knew this was a part of God’s plan for me. I felt so relieved. My first year here was amazing, and I felt great about how it went, but was afraid of where I was going. I considered switching my major and at the end of the summer, decided to switch to ecology, but the classes I wanted to take were full. Once again, I was petrified. I could stay in my current major, but if I decided later that I wanted to change it, I probably wouldn’t be able to graduate in four years. But I couldn’t think of another thing I wanted to switch to.  

That’s when I realized the lesson God was teaching me. God promises that whatever choices you make in life, He will be there with you. No matter what you decide, God’s going to be there with you to help you through it. What I learned, was that the important thing isn’t what choice you are making, it’s that you make it. Being frozen was not going to help me. An answer was not going to fall out of the sky. So, I’m sticking with computer science for now. It may not be where I stay, but that does not matter to me right now. What I have learned is that you must make the decision, even if you are not sure it is the best one, because then you can keep moving forward, learning, growing, and changing. I do not know what the future holds, but I don’t need to! God is taking care of it. My job is just to keep walking through life, one decision at a time.

100819-08By Jeremiah Mitchell

These are three words that have stood out to me in one way or the other. I think that forgiveness is something that we as Christians don’t talk about enough. We talk about how we should feel towards certain topic
s as Christians, but we do not talk about how forgiveness works within ourselves.  

I went through a tough time as a kid. I moved when I was seven to Mansfield, Ohio, and I thought that things would go well for me. I thought that I was going to make new friends, but when I went to class, I was ignored. This happened for the first week. After being ignored I was bullied. One person was behind most of the bullying that I received for seven years at that school. He would insult me, call me names, and make fun of the fact that I would take my faith as seriously as I could. My classmates would regularly use derogatory terms to insult one another, and I would try and explain and tell them that the language they were using was unacceptable. Instead of stopping, they started to call me those same terms. Mostly there was one kid who started to call me those things.  

I was hurt. He would mentally and verbally bully me most days. Some days it became physical as well. I had a tough time dealing with it. We are told to pray for those who persecute us, and to forgive our enemies, but I was not willing to forgive this person. I resented him, and I became bitter towards him. It was after seven long years that I moved away, and that bitterness came right along with me. 

I had been hurt, and now I was hurting myself. I was angry and bitter. I could not think in a positive way about that person, and even about myself at times. I harbored so much bitterness that it felt like a physical weight on my back. I would even make myself sick physically because of how I felt about this one person who had mistreated me. 

I then started to hurt others. I was so angry and bitter that I started to lash out at people who I thought even came close to that in my new school. None of them knew what I had been through, but honestly that was not an excuse.  My bible teacher, and a pastor of a small church pulled me aside and said that he saw that I was hurting, but that I had to forgive, because according to him I was “a pot on a steady boil, that if the heat turned up just a bit, would boil over.” And he was right. I prayed and asked God to help me forgive this person that had hurt me. I, with the help of God, was able to forgive the person who for so long had hurt me. I felt a physical weight leave me, and I felt so relieved.  

Between my junior and senior year of high school, I went back to that school. They were still in session, and I saw the bully I had, he was down the hall. I was so worried. He started to walk up to me, and I could feel the fear that I had felt for so long well up again. But something different happened. He looked at me, and he said “Hey man, its been a while, and I wanted to say I’m sorry for all the things that I did to you when we were younger. I did a lot of maturing, and I realize now how badly I treated you. Could you forgive me?” 

To be able to look at him and say “I forgive you” was such a relief. I meant it too. If you pick up one thing from reading this, forgive. Forgive, because it is what God tells us to do, not just because God wants us to be nice, but because if you don’t forgive, it hurts you more than it hurts anyone else. That bitterness that I carried hurt me, more than anything the bullies I had ever did. I hurt myself by not being willing to let go. Yet I had to look at myself, then look at my savior. God forgave me, even though what I had done, put Him on a cross. If God can forgive us for the sins that we commit, why can we not forgive those who simply hurt us? 

ncourage-template-08By Brad Laackmann 

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3 

Trusting in God – it‘s easy to say, but it is incredibly difficult to put into practice. As someone who finds comfort in the certainties of life, I immediately try to solve my situation by myself whenever uncertainties arise. As I enter my senior year, the number of uncertainties may be higher than they have ever been before. Where am I going to live next year? What kind of job will I land? How will all of this affect my family and friends? Whenever others are looking for help or comfort, I will usually tell them something along the lines of, “God will take care of it.” However, how can I expect others to adopt this practice when I find it difficult to do so myself? 

During the spring semester of my junior year, the Northwestern Symphonic Band went on our spring break tour to Spain. As incredible as the history and the sights were, the most memorable moment for me occurred in an auditorium in Madrid. A couple months before our tour, my grandmother passed away after a well-lived journey. The months following her passing were difficult to process, especially with the role she played in my life. During our concert in Madrid, we performed a piece by the name of “Only Light,” a piece we had played numerous times before that night. This time was different, though. In a time when I was struggling to come to terms with the grief of loss, God was displaying a message through the music. Looking back, I know that the message was, “I will take care of it.” I will never know how our concert that night impacted others-that is part of their story. One thing I do know is that God used every part of that situation to bring honor to Him. I was not fully trusting His providence in my life, but He used each note, each person, and each moment to illuminate the blessings of looking to His plans instead of my own. 

Even after that performance, I still struggle at times to see the importance of trusting God in our times of uncertainty. It is much easier to consider how I can plan out my steps instead of turning it over to God. Every time I think about this story, I am amazed by God’s constant reminders to us. Sometimes, the busyness of life blinds us to His messages. However, He is always with us, He will display His love for us in the most unexpected times, and He will provide clarity when the future is unclear. When uncertainties of the future arise, God has continually surrounded me with people and moments that display the extent of His care. In these moments, God gives us the freedom to struggle, to doubt, and to worry, but He will equip us with everything we need in order to excitedly shout His praises again.