Gentle Reminders of Love in Suffering

This story starts with loss. With pain and suffering that still assault me.

32 years old. Husband. Father. Son. Brother. Friend. Uncle. Gone.

Too young. Too loved. Too unexpected.

Too heart-wrenchingly painful.

When loss confronts us there’s nothing to say or do to explain it or fix it. There’s no sense left in the world. Only suffering that causes one to doubt God’s goodness. Only more pain that causes more anger.

When loss confronted me I felt betrayed, confused, and heartbroken. There were no answers to silence the questions rising up in me.

So I walked away from God. It wasn’t in an instant. It wasn’t obvious. At first, I clung to God. But over the months I went to church less, I read my Bible less, I listened to K-LOVE less, I saw my Christian friends less, I prayed less. It wasn’t a bold choice, but rather a passive erosion, this distancing myself from God.

There were terrible days and there were bearable days. There still are.

 

Over the past 8 months, God has never walked away, not boldly, not passively.

Sometimes when I’m angry, I want the person to walk away. To leave. To give up trying. But in the end, that would hurt more. I’d be lonelier, more broken.

God also didn’t rush me. He didn’t shove the good news of his everlasting love down my throat. I didn’t want to hear it. I would’ve rolled my eyes at the promise of supposedly good news. Depending on the day, I still might.

But do you know what God is doing? He’s gradually reminding me of his goodness. Soft, sweet, gentle memories of a time when I loved to sit in His presence.

The past couple weeks He’s brought up songs or verses that once meant something to me, to us, in this love story God’s writing with me. And I’ve found, these memories, and my God, they still mean something to me.

Music has a transcendent quality, how a single song can carry you to another time or place, bringing a fresh encounter with old memories. When God handpicked the song and verse I needed to hear, when He spoke those words and melodies into my soul, I remembered another time. I remembered many other times. Times when I felt lonely or overwhelmed and yet God met my every need. Times when He pulled me from the miry pit and gave me a firm place to stand.

1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.

Psalm 40: 1-3

But what God gave me wasn’t just a memory of another time, a former time when God loved me and cared about me and answered my prayers. It was also a gentle reminder that God still loves me. Evidence that He still cares enough to speak to me, through a song, a verse, a memory.

It was the little glimpse at hope, at promise, at love, that I needed to make it through another day.

It was His unfailing love. His unconditional love.

A promise that He will never leave me, or stop loving me, or give up on me.

 

Yes, I am broken, and angry, and lonely, and bewildered in this life.

Yes, it’s a new battle but the same battle every day.

Yes, there are bad days and there are better days.

Yet, He loves me.

The days I seek Him. The days I fight. The days I distance myself.

Yet, He loves me.

The days I feel His love. The days I feel tears on my cheeks and anger in my heart. The days I don’t feel anything.

Yet, He loves me.

“Greater Things Have Yet To Come”

For those of you who have had a real conversation with me about college, or talked to me more recently, you’re probably aware that it has been hard for me, and that I’d rather be home than away at school. (To describe this sentiment: last year my mom and I were talking about whether or not I would go back to Gordon, and I told her if I didn’t go back there was nothing I’d miss. It’s safe to say that, as my mother, this concerned her a little.)

So I think it’s a great sign that I was actually sad to leave college this year. I had grown to love, and would soon miss, things at school.

This year God brought me friends who prayed with me, kids to love on, and teenagers to mentor. All of which have been wonderful blessings.

But with close friends and invested relationships, there’s always a heartbreak at the end. The hardest part for me was leaving the girls I tutored this semester in Lynn. During the last few weeks of College Bound, God broke my heart for these girls even more. I felt a burden and love for them that only He can give. As I prayed for the girls and gave them a glimpse of God’s love, I was so thankful for the time God gave me with these precious ones.

   College Bound   

And as I said goodbye with so much sadness, I had to trust God. I had to remember that He alone saves. I was humbled and blessed to be used for a time, but God is not done. He will continue pursing these children, because He loves them. Because He desires all people to be saved. Because His love is everlasting and unrelenting. Because He is love.

As I left Lynn that day I played one of my favorite songs, “God of this City” (and I kept playing it all week).

“You’re the God of this city. You’re the King of these people. You’re the Lord of this nation. You are…For greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done in this city…There is no one like our God.”

Although it was time for me to leave Lynn, and the people I had come to love, I knew that God remained. I prayed over the neighborhood and community, and I trusted God. Because He is sovereign. He is big enough. He is present. And He is trustworthy.

I know that though my time in Lynn is over, at least for a period, God remains, faithfully working in Lynn, touching lives every single day.

I believe in a God who was at work before I came, moved powerfully while I was there, and will continue to reveal himself and His saving grace long after I am gone.

Finding a Calling

When I left Cornerstone (my high school), I had no idea what I wanted to major in. Well, that’s not entirely true, I actually had too many ideas of what I wanted to major in: education, psychology, social work, business, communications, law. And there wasn’t a single one that stood out more than the others. And this bothered me. I’m a planner and I like to know what’s coming next, and to feel like I’m in control. But God had another plan, and by His timing I would learn patience and see His hand at work, see that He was in control all along, and I never needed to worry.

I was interested in event planning, and the summer after graduating I interned with my youth pastor as he helped direct The Hartford Project, or THP. My plan, was to gain experience in event planning, even a week-long event like THP. But throughout the summer God mostly grew my love for the city and the people of Hartford and afterwards I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go into event planning.

Entering college in the fall, I was an undecided major, or as Gordon says to be more positive, a “deciding” major. But I didn’t look at it positively. Instead, I felt lost. At one point I was asking my roommate why we were even in school. Being an art and education major, she responded reasonably by saying, “I don’t know about you but I’m here to learn how to teach art and how to manage a classroom.” Oh, right, that makes sense. But why was I in school? What was the plan in all of this? Would I graduate better prepared for the world, ready to enter any profession? Or would I be just as lost in four years as I was right then?

Well, first semester I explored the idea of law by taking a politics class. I thought I could practice law, working for Hartford residents. But once I realized how much I HATED doing research, I decided being a lawyer was not a good fit for me.

So where could I turn next? Education certainly seemed like an option, so I registered for 3 ed. classes in the spring. One night I was on the phone with my mom, talking about how education just didn’t seem right for me, for a variety of reasons. And she pointed out an obvious fact I couldn’t see on my own: my heart wasn’t in teaching; it was in helping the people of Hartford. I never wanted to teach for the sake of teaching, I wanted to teach because I liked kids and wanted to work in the city.

But what work did I love? What talents had God given me? I loved planning; I loved organizing and running things. And that all sounded like a great fit for a business major. Near the end of my first year of college, I finally declared a major – Business Administration. And two minors – nonprofit management and urban ministry. It was a perfect fit – combining the practical talents and passions that God has given me.

Last summer, after completing my first year of college, I again interned with The Hartford Project and another organization called Urban Alliance. My desire to work in the city only grew as a result, and I learned so much about nonprofit organizations and the work God is doing in Hartford.

This past semester I took 3 business classes, and found confirmation that God is calling me into the field of business. One class in particular, intro to management, was taught from such a strong Christian perspective. When I tell people this they are often confused or surprised. They wonder how business and Christianity can be connected. But thanks to my professor, thinking about business from a Christian perspective seems natural now. God created work, and in the Garden of Eden, before the curse, work was good. And management, well that’s all about people and relationships – who better to look to for guidance on relationships than God?

In business, as in all areas of life, God uses Christians to restore His Kingdom. So whatever majors or careers you enter into, even in your current classes or jobs, remember God is present there too. Yes, He can call you into business. Just like He can call you to be a missionary, a teacher, a journalist, or anything else. Because God has purposefully created you. And He has a unique plan for each of you. Who God made you to be fits wonderfully with God’s plan for you. And if you don’t feel prepared, He will provide what you need. If you lack direction, He will show you where to go, even when it’s just one step at a time.

And it’s in taking the first step that God further reveals His plan. So even today, remember He is with you, He will guide you. It’s okay to try one thing, and keep searching until you find the right fit. Because as you step out in faith, God will continue to show you the next step, in His perfect timing. We might get stressed out, wanting to know more now. But God has been teaching me this comforting truth: God already knows the plan; He is in control and we can trust Him.

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