This summer has been one of tests and trials, joy and heartache, and overwhelming love. I have been out of high school for almost three months and strange enough, it feels like a lifetime ago. College is just around the corner and I could not be more thrilled to see what the future has in store. This summer, I read David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell and Start with Amen by Beth Guckenberger. Both books were truly inspiring and uplifting, and I urge you to read them. You may be familiar with the biblical story of David and Goliath in which the shepherd (and underdog), David, defeats the ruthless giant, Goliath. In the novel, Gladwell describes the art of battling giants and how weaknesses unknowingly give us more strength than we ever imagine. In Start with Amen, Beth explains that amen is more than just a word and can allow us to lead a life of submission, giving glory to God. From reading these books, studying the Bible, and experiencing my share of struggles and moments of joy, I learned a few important lessons that really changed my thinking. I applied these lessons to my life and saw changes in the way I treat others, how I confront situations, and how I view the world. That said, I hope you find truth in these words…
- Even the One who has the position to punish and judge does not. God is perfect. He is gracious, all-knowing, and always forgiving. He sacrificed his only son for us to be free of the weight of our sins. Jesus loves us unconditionally and removed the chains from our shoulders, so we did not have to carry the weight anymore. Not only does God forgive our sins, but he forgets them as well (Isaiah 43:25). He knows that we are imperfect humans and we are going to make mistakes, but he forgives us anyways. So, why do we judge others? Why do we hate one another? The Lord loves us no matter how many times we mess up or how badly we mess up. A friend explained it to me like this, God sees our sins from a birds eye view. If you sinned by lying and you were standing next to a murderer, your sin would be the same. You both sinned and even though you did not kill someone, God sees it just the same. He will still love you and accept you. We do not even have the position to judge, but we still do it. When a friend hurts us, we automatically jump to conclusions and want to punish the friend for the way they made us feel. Ask yourself, would Jesus do that? Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19). That friend needs your empathy and your forgiveness because you are not perfect either. It surely is not easy, but it is right. Do not be prideful because you have not made as many mistakes as the person standing next to you, but be more confident in the Lord. I will say it now and a hundred more times, even the One who has the position to punish and judge does not. Neither should we.
- Find joy and strength in your weaknesses. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 says,
I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Admittedly, I have been hurt by others or fallen victim to my own insecurities and found myself in a rut that seemed inescapable. When I read these verses for the first time, I felt my heart start to stir. I memorized the words because I knew if I ever found myself feeling worthless or damaged that this would bring me back and remind me to rely on the Lord. We were not meant to carry our own burdens and rely on our own strength. We must rely on God-strength in desperate times and quite frankly, all the time. He wants us to lean on him when we are struggling, so he can show us our beauty and true strength. He wants a close relationship with us and is delighted when we call out to him in times of need. Once we get through the bad times, we realize that they were not that bad and find the strength to overcome any adversity. Remind yourself, when you are weak, then you are strong.
- Give people what you crave and what you search for the most. This may be the biggest and most significant lesson. What do you seek in relationships? What do you desperately want in your life? The answer for everyone is different. When I was confronted with this question, I answered “love.” Oftentimes, I think that I am never going to be good enough. I am never going to be the perfect daughter, the perfect friend, or the perfect spouse. Truthfully, I am never going to be “perfect” at relationships. Because I sometimes feel unloved, I doubt myself and question my own worth. But, what I forget is that God loves me unconditionally. He loves me at my worst, He loves me at my best, and He loves me with all my flaws. No one is ever going to be able to love me like that and that is okay. He sees beauty in me that I sometimes forget to see myself. I get so caught up in this world of instant gratification and selfish desires that I forget the One who wants me to focus on not what is temporary, but what is eternal. When I feel unloved, I focus more on me and less on Him. But like I said before, He wants us to draw near to Him in times of need. I now focus on loving others more than loving myself because I want to be more like Jesus. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain or conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” It is not our jobs to carry the burdens of others, but just loving on someone can make them feel valued and have a powerful impact. It is written best in Matthew 7:12 of The Message, “Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.” Let go of your expectations (or “premeditated resentment”) and stop hoping that others will finally treat you the way you deserve to be treated. You cannot control the actions of others. Instead, treat others how you wish to be treated. Remind people that God loves them and anyone can be used to show it. After all, we love because He loved us first (1 John 4:19). The immense joy that is found in loving others is indescribable and most importantly, spreads the love of the Lord. He will use you to do amazing things and impact the lives of many. This is how it should be… less of me, more of Him. If you have the time, read Titus 3:1-9 in its entirety. Just a part of it says, “When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…” We do not deserve anything in this life. We owe everything to Him. He did not save us because of anything we did, but because of His mercy and overwhelming love. In everything that you do, glorify God for you have been graciously saved.
If you asked me if I was nervous about the next chapter of my life, I would truthfully say no. Yes, it is scary starting over in a place where I know absolutely no one. But, the truth is that I know God has gotten me this far and every experience I have had the privilege of living has been purposeful. I find joy in the tiniest victories and gestures now. I find myself driving in the afternoon and admiring the beautiful world God created for us. I find bliss in loving others, despite their flaws. If I can find joy in my weaknesses, in the world around me, and in other people now, then I have faith that the next chapter of my life is going to be filled with immense joy. There will be more struggles, more hardships, and more tests, but peace follows that. I find peace in knowing that I cannot rely on my own understanding, but have hope for the plans He has for me. I see college as an opportunity for me to grow in my faith and for me to spread the love of Jesus to others. In everything I do, I want to glorify God. So, He’s got this. He knows what I need and who I need in my life. He hears my prayers and He cares about what I care about. He has plans not to harm me, but plans to prosper me, to give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).