The Life God Designed for You

How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

(Psalm 104:24 NIV)


On Tuesday, January 23, I was in prayer during my morning quiet time. Just as I began praying, I felt a sudden chill. I was sitting near an open window, but I didn’t feel a draft whatsoever moments before.

Before I knew it, the sky darkened, and rain began pouring down. Heavy, hitting the cement in hard, rhythmic drops. Loud. Out of nowhere.

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The window I sat next to that day.

Within three minutes or less, the rain stopped. Silence all over again. The clouds parted slightly letting in some light back into the room.

Talk about a dramatic change.

It got me thinking about how miraculously God works. When God moves, He moves. It’s obvious, it’s clear. You know He’s present. You see His fingerprints. You see doors open. What might take a human years to do, God can do in the blink of an eye.

Now, almost two months later, Thursday, March 22, I was again reminded of this phenomenon. This time, my morning devotions didn’t involve a sudden shift in the weather. Instead, it involved a look into Psalm 104.

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Battling Through Uncertainty

My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.

Psalm 130:6 (KJV)


Without batting an eye, I can tell you the top three most nerve-wrecking moments in college:

  1. The first day of class ever as a freshman…For me, it was a typical scene from a college movie. A gloomy, rainy day, and I walked into the wrong room for French. I survived, and it wasn’t really embarrassing.
  2. When final grades are posted. Even if you know your grade, something about those email notifications are absolutely unsettling. But you learn to just log in, take a look, and breathe.
  3. Starting your paper the day it’s due. There’s no better adrenaline rush than knowing you have 5 1/2 hours to write a research paper on a topic you haven’t actually researched.

These three instances have something in common: UNCERTAINTY. There was no worse feeling in those moments than thinking: What’s about to happen!? I’ve done all I can, and I have no control in this!

Beyond the classroom, uncertainty hits us in other areas of our lives. Our purpose: Am I following God’s will for my life? Our relationships: What if I don’t get married? Am I going to have solid friendships? Our finances: How am I going to pay this bill? How soon am I going to get another job? It can be completely overwhelming. Yes, God promises He will provide for us, but does that mean He will specifically answer a prayer we’ve been requesting for days, weeks, or years?

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3 Ways My Faith Has Changed Since College

Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore. Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth;

(Psalm 105:4-5 KJV)


Recently, I started my final year in college.

As the day I returned to campus approached, I found myself reflecting on my past three years as a student. I’m definitely a changed person. I’ve stepped into my skin, gotten acquainted with myself, and I’ve stepped out and explored areas outside my comfort zone.

Picture_20160825_005913446The changes I’ve been through have been essential, even though many were the result of difficult times–yet I’m grateful, because I’ve come out stronger as a follower of Christ.

Whether you’re starting college, finishing college, somewhere in between, or nowhere there at all, you should strive to grow in your faith. Here are three areas of my faith that have changed since I’ve become a college student:

1. My alone time became my quiet time.

Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart (Psalm 119:2).   

One thing about college that quickly became clear is that people are everywhere. This might sound obvious, but I really mean everywhere. My first lecture had 700 students (of course, class size depends on the size of your school). When I started college, I loved interacting with many people on a daily basis, but when I finally had time to myself, I just wanted to kick back and relax. When I became busier, down time became shorter, and I felt I had no time for God. I attended church, Bible studies, and prayer groups, but my personal time with God was virtually nonexistent. I’d go weeks without even talking to Him, until I realized how much I needed Him. When things became stressful and I needed direction, I turned to God, and He happily welcomed me back. Reopening dialogue with the Lord made me realize how much I had missed out all along.

An intimate relationship with God sets your life on the right path. Your perspective is directed, your attitude corrected. Spending time with God better equips you for the day ahead. Through prayer and Bible study, you hear God’s voice, His secrets, and He’s able to reveal His plan for your life. I missed out on several days of this, wishing I had direction in various scenarios–yet the One who had all the answers was right there!

Since then, I’ve learned to make God a priority throughout my day. If I’m walking to class, have a morning alone to myself, or have time between classes, I communicate with God and meditate on His Word, instead of being idle. It’s fine to relax and enjoy your favorite hobbies in your free time, but if these things take precedent over your relationship with God, you’re missing out on crucial moments with Him.

2. I learned to value community more.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Though I love my alone time, I love being around others as well. However, when I first started college, I didn’t realize how valuable and essential a Christian community was for my walk with the Lord. I grew up in church and accepted Christ at a young age, but I never had many Christian friends, because there weren’t many believers my age around me. I entered college ready to find them.

It took time, but when I built relationship with other believers who shared my values, I noticed how impactful these friendships were in my life. I have had the most challenging and encouraging conversations with other Christians. When I felt discouraged, it was amazing to know there were others who could pray for me–and I could do the same for them. I’ve grown as a leader in my Christian fellowship because of these relationships. God has given me a heart to know others and care for them.

I value all solid friendships–with believers and non-believers–but as a Christian in college (or anywhere, really), it’s vital to have people around you who share the same beliefs and can push you forward. Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). Those you spend time with will rub off on you, so if you want to grow in Christ, stay connected to those who want to do the same–whether it’s on campus, at church, or another Christian community.

If you’re having trouble finding these people, bring it up to the Lord, and be patient. When opportunities to build relationships emerge, be a friend, and be consistent. God will provide the company you need in your life.

3. God’s power became more evident to me.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust (Psalm 91:2).

In high school, I often noticed that after I prayed, I wouldn’t always have peace. I’d ask God to help me not to worry, yet I still found myself worrying. I didn’t realize at the time, but I had little faith when it came to prayer. I doubted whether whatever I prayed about would come to pass. Ultimately, I was doubting God. Even when He was answering prayers, I wasn’t able to see His blessings, because my perspective was wrong.

I also failed to realize that answered prayers didn’t have to manifest the way I wanted them to. Nevertheless, I only wanted my way–not God’s way.

However, in college, my mindset changed. I learned to surrender large and small requests to God. When I was a freshman, I had lunch with a dear friend who was a junior and a fellow believer. I told her about all the assignments I had coming up–particularly a paper due soon that I hadn’t started. She had a simple response to my workload: “Don’t worry. Trust God. Everything will get done.” It was a simple answer, yet it inspired me to change my entire mindset.

I started seeing my assignments in this way–that as long as I put in the necessary effort, the work will get done. Not only that, but God was with me wherever I went–in and out of class, even if I had forgotten.

Over time, I saw God in every detail of my life as I continually pushed to have this mindset. All my successes and failures could and would be used for His plan for my life as I walked with Him. As I grew in my relationship with God, spent time with Him, and spoke about Him with others, I realized He was everywhere. I prayed and left things up to Him. Even if I didn’t know how to surrender, I asked Him to help me do so.

Through faith, I now pray and leave things up to God–and praise Him through it. When my prayers aren’t answered as I think they should be, they are answered nonetheless–only His solution is better–whether I realize it now or a year from now.

 

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)

Transitional periods in our lives can be fruitful experiences. I cannot express the gratitude I have for not just the good times but the hard ones that God has allowed over these past three years in college. We can use trials and triumphs to grow in our relationship with Christ–or let this relationship crumble. I’ve realized for myself that it’s up to us to make this choice. God will not force us to choose Him, but if we do choose Him, He will help us through it all. Please, make it easier and follow Him. There’s no better way to transition into a new season than with the God who brought you there. And if you didn’t get a great start, walking with Him will get you a strong finish.

For my final year of college, I’m excited to take the lessons I’ve learned with me, and I’m ready to learn new ones. I’m ready for the challenges, the blessings, knowing that I get to experience them with my heavenly Father by my side.


“…Look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The Truth About Praise

O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory. The Lord hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen. He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

(Psalm 98:1-4 KJV)


I look forward to looking back. I love to understand what I’ve learned in the previous months, what God has been doing throughout the whole process and how my faith has changed. One thing that became more apparent to me recently was the significance of praising God.

At the beginning of the summer, I wrote a blog post called “The Choice,” which you can read here. In that blog post, I spoke about the nervousness I felt starting a new internship but how I was deciding to make the choice to trust God through it, even though I didn’t know what the outcome.

What I learned is that through discomfort God often grows us the most.

I can happily say that I’ve had an incredible experience this summer, and I can only attribute that to Him. The funny thing is that I had a positive experience not because it was easy but because I realized that God was pushing me to grow. I realized that God was in the process of opening doors in my life with new opportunities and relationships. Yet if I hadn’t focused on what He was teaching me, I probably wouldn’t be satisfied in the way that I am. I probably wouldn’t have been able to clearly see the ways in which He was moving in my life.

I learned that I wasn’t supposed to simply sit through any initial discomfort and let it pass. Instead I was to lift up God and understand that He was truly working things together for good. I challenged myself to praise God everyday, especially in situations that were daunting. No matter how I was feeling, I wanted to hold onto one true fact: God is good, and because of that, there is hope, and I am taken care of and watched over.

Reflecting on this, I’ve asked myself: What exactly is it that praise does for us?

Praise is such a powerful manifestation of faith.

We are able to acknowledge God’s goodness and authority in our lives. His glory becomes more real to us. Instead of focusing on our challenges and shortcomings, we recognize the truth that He is able. This truth overpowers any hindrances in our lives. Nothing else matters. Nothing is impossible. Because God is good, and this goodness supersedes everything. When we praise God, it is surrender. It is allowing God the space to do everything He needs to do, instead of us fighting against Him in the midst of His work.

Surrender is understanding that we fall short but that God saves us from our weakness and raises us up in strength.

The enemy doesn’t want to see us acknowledging who God is and increasing in faith, so often he attacks us with thoughts of doubt, hopelessness, and despair–these things that gnaw at us from the inside. However, praise is nourishment to our faith.

Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”

When we praise God, we acknowledge who He is, and we believe in His promises. The Bible has so many excellent verses that serve as examples of this in which God is acknowledged for who He is within His promises:

“But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3 (KJV)

  • We are given the promise that the Lord will protect us from evil things and stabilize us, in light of His faithful character.

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV)

  • What is incredible about this verse is how God is differentiated from men–unlike our nature to be slack, God is accountable. In fact, He is so loving to us that instead of allowing us to perish, He gives us the opportunity to come to repentance.

“For the word of the Lord is right; and all his works are done in truth. He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” Psalms 33:4-5 (KJV)

  • This verse is similar to the previous one; although the world has fallen, God is so full of truth, love and righteous judgment that He still provides a fallen world with His goodness and mercy–in the form of salvation.

What all these verses have in common is that they display the promises of God that will come to pass–His protection, His goodness, His gift of salvation–and they shed light on who He is: a faithful God, a God who is longsuffering, a God who does things in truth. In a similar fashion, when we praise God, we acknowledge His promises that will come to pass, which we can be confident in because of who He is.

Our eyes open to how God is working in our lives when we praise Him. Praise is a weapon against the enemy’s deception. I once saw a quote that read: “I will see it, when I believe it.” In terms of faith, when we believe God’s goodness–when we decide to come to that understanding and acceptance of what is already true–we will see it in our lives.

You don’t need all the answers to what’s going on. It’s unfortunately in our nature to doubt, to question, to forget what we’ve been delivered from. However, I encourage you to remember that no matter what you’re going through, God is the same, and He is taking care of your burdens.

The first verse in Psalm 98 powerfully reminds us that God has done marvelous things and that He has already claimed victory. As followers of Christ–members of His kingdom–this is victory is for us to claim as well. Don’t allow your emotions to cause you to miss out on what God is doing in your life. Pray and ask God for the faith to trust Him and the ability to surrender everything to Him, and praise Him for all that He has done and continues to do.


You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.

(Psalm 63:1-7 KJV)