Satisfied in You

I mentioned last week about my struggles last year that resulted in me taking antidepressants. Though they improved my symptoms, I still struggled greatly for awhile. I would lie in bed at night plagued by negative thoughts. I felt angry and bitter and guilt and upset over feeling angry and bitter. It was a vicious cycle. One night sometime after I went to the doctor, I was lying in bed unable to sleep. I turned on Spotify and listened to the discover weekly playlist that had been compiled for me based on songs I had listened to. I was lying there not paying much attention to the music until one song came on.  Satisfied in You (Psalm 42) by The Sing Team struck me in ways I had never expected; I had never heard the song before. The lyrics shook me to the core:

I have lost my appetite
And a flood is welling up behind my eyes
So I eat the tears I cry
And if that were not enough
They know just the words to cut and tear and prod
When they ask me “Whereʼs your God?”

Why are you downcast, oh my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
I can remember when You showed Your face to me

As a deer pants for water, so my soul thirsts for You
And when I survey Your splendor, You so faithfully renew
Like a bed of rest for my fainting flesh

When Iʼm looking at the ground
Itʼs an inbred feedback loop that drags me down
So itʼs time to lift my brow
And remember better days
When I loved to worship You and learn Your ways
Singing sweetest songs of praise

Let my sighs give way to songs that sing about Your faithfulness
Let my pain reveal Your glory as my only real rest
Let my losses show me all I truly have is You

So when Iʼm drowning out at sea
And all Your breakers and Your waves crash down on me
Iʼll recall your safety scheme
Youʼre the one who made the waves
And Your Son went out to suffer in my place
And to show me that Iʼm safe

Why am I down?
Why so disturbed?
I am satisfied in You

From the first line, I was hooked. I listened to the cries of a broken soul. I listened to the hope that the broken soul found. I listened as I sighed and traded sorrow for peace.

•••

I still struggled. I still had bad nights. But I would listen to that song. I would read Psalm 42. It became my lifeline. I would ask myself the same question that psalmist did: “Why are you downcast, oh my soul?” God had been so faithful to me. These trials weren’t going to last forever. I stopped trying so hard. I stopped torturing myself with feelings of guilt. I simply gave in to the peace the Father was offering. I became satisfied in Him. Again and again.

•••

To this day that song makes me think about the first time I heard it, the night that it was a life raft for me. Ironically, with this post already being planned for this week, a few weeks ago our pastor spoke on Psalm 42. I again sat and reflected on God’s faithfulness. How I came out of that trial with more empathy and more hope than ever before.

When feelings from before try to creep their way back into my life, I remember the night that I said “no” to my downcast, disturbed soul, the night that I “lifted my brows and remembered better days,” the night that I allowed myself to become satisfied in Him and filled with His peace.

•••

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.

Psalm 42:5

Photo Credit: Gary Bendig

Health{ier} Living

I turn twenty in 72 days (what?! how is that possible?!) Since I started college nearly two years ago (again, what?!), I’ve grown up quite a bit. I work, I pay bills, I’m planning my wedding (again, I strongly emphasize WHAT?!), I make my own choices. I’m an adult and I have to make my own choices now. I have to be responsible with my money, my time, my life.

Now, this post is not about how I’m aiming to become a size x or how I want to only eat x amount of calories a day. This post is about making choices and how I’ve decided to aim for a healthier lifestyle all around.

First off, I joined a gym. Me. Yeah, I’m surprised too. But I figured I’m more motivated to use something if it’s taking money out of my bank account every month. So I’ve started going to the gym. I hop on the elliptical and watch Netflix for 30-45 minutes. It’s not so bad. I’ve also started watching what I’m eating. Notice I didn’t say calorie counting or eliminating carbs or whatever. Those things are fine, I’ve just decided to be more conscious about what I eat, choosing almonds over chips, water over soda.

Aside from the changes in my physical lifestyle, I’ve changed other aspects of my life, too. I’ve started watching what thoughts I let enter my head. I have a problem with blaming myself for things that aren’t my fault, with anger, with depression. So, when I have thoughts that are critical or negative or hurtful towards myself or others I stop them in their tracks; I choose to think differently. It was a difficult thing to do at first, I mean, I thought, how do I stop myself from thinking? But it starts with paying attention to what you think about and when something raises a red flag, don’t entertain it. Put an end to it then and there.

Additionally, a change I’ve made is starting and ending my day well. I start with a healthy breakfast – if I wake up in time to make one (I’m still struggling with waking up on time… 🙂 ) and I read my Bible. I will sacrifice doing my hair and makeup as long as I have time to read my Bible; if I don’t start my day in Scripture, it shows. I listen to worship on the way to work and I’m always looking for new songs so that they aren’t just becoming routine, but I can genuinely worship. I end my day, even if I don’t get home until midnight, with reading my Bible. I also journal at night. There’s a pretty famous quote by Flannery O’Connor that says, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I have to say.” It is so true. If I’m dealing with a particularly stressful issue, I write about it, and I can vent and be honest and a lot of times that’s where God reveals something to me or just brings me comfort. Sometimes I just write about my day, even if it was just an ordinary day; it gives me time to reflect.

So I haven’t set outrageous goals. I just want to be a healthier me. God didn’t create us to live miserable lives that are weighed down by an unhealthy physical or mental state. When you’re healthy physically, you feel better. When you’re healthy mentally, you feel better. The two go hand-in-hand. Since I’m nearly twenty and am adulting, with the freedom to make my own decisions, I’m doing my best to live at least a little bit of a healthier lifestyle.

•••

Photo Credit: Autumn Goodman

Being Still When Life is Anything But

As a full time student, I can say without a doubt that life can be absolutely hectic sometimes.  Between homework, papers, tests, trying to comprehend what the heck that concept means, babysitting, spending time with family and friends, and all the other things that is asking for my attention, it’s hard to feel like I have any peace or any time to just breathe.

This past weekend, Genelle and I babysat overnight. Sunday morning, after making breakfast and cleaning the kitchen, I sat down to read my Bible and to journal.  The kids were actually being decently quiet for the most part – which I appreciated – and I decided that after I read in Matthew to go ahead and read a Psalm as well.  After reading it, I knew God had me read extra that morning for a reason.

Psalm 46 begins with saying, “God is our shelter and our strength. When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help. So why run and hide? No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails.  When the earth spins out of control, we are sure and fearless. When mountains crumble and the waters run wild, we are sure and fearless. Even in heavy winds and huge waves, or as mountains shake, we are sure and fearless.” (verses 1-3).

As I read that, I thought of all the times recently that I’ve just been so stressed out that I felt like I was losing my mind.  School has been overwhelming, I babysat 5 out of 7 days last week, and I just felt like I had no time to just recharge.  Then I asked myself how many times during these past weeks when I felt overwhelmed have I ran to God? The answer is not very often.  When I’ve been overwhelmed or upset, I’ve just wallowed in my feelings rather than taking them to God. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Since God cares for you, let Him carry all your burdens and worries.”  God doesn’t expect or want us to feel like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders.  Philippians 4: 6-7 says, “Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray.  Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.”

I know these Scriptures, I know them well, but I haven’t let them resonate in my soul, they’ve stayed in my head, and that’s the problem.  The Word of God does us no good if we don’t let it pierce our souls and change us.

Back to Psalm 46 and another verse of Scripture that I know well.  Verse 10 says, “Be still, be calm, see, and understand that I am the True God.  I am honored among all the nations. I am honored over all the earth.”   When we really heed what this verse is saying, it is powerful.  When we think about the majesty of God, of all that He has done and all that He is, our problems seem smaller.  Not only that, if you are acknowledging who God is, you’re acknowledging the fact that He does not want you to do life on your own. The verse says to be still, not fret, worry, or try to do it on your own.  Acknowledge who God is, His mighty power and His mighty love for you, and be still.

No matter how busy the life of a college student – or anybody for that matter – can get, God is there, waiting for us to come to Him, and be still.

Photo Credit: Jenu Prasad

For Real

I mentioned in last week’s post that I began the book of Matthew.  The past few days I’ve been in the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7).  I’ve read it before, heard sermons on it before, but this time I noticed a common thing as I studied.

  • Jesus says that we know that God told Moses to tell the people not to murder and those who murder will be judged and punished.  He then goes on to say that those who are angry with their brother will be judged (chapter 5).
  • Jesus again says that we know that God forbade adultery; however, He says any man who lustfully looks at a woman has committed adultery in his heart (chapter 5).
  • Jesus says that we are to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors (chapter 5).
  • Jesus says that when we give, do not do so in front of other people where we will be praised, but to do it secretly in front of the Lord (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to pray in front of others as if it is a show or to ramble on, but to pray privately and concisely (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says to forgive or we will not be forgiven (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says that when we fast, do not make a spectacle of it, do it quietly (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to worry (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to judge others, because how we judge, we will be judged (chapter 7).
  • Jesus says that those who seek will find what they seek, that we should continue to ask for what we need (chapter 7).
  • Jesus says to treat others as we want to be treated (chapter 7).

Do you notice a common theme? All of these things have to do with our relationship with God (e.g. are we praying just so others will see us or do we have a true relationship with God?) and the spiritual condition of our hearts (e.g. yes, murdering is bad, yet God says so is harboring anger at someone).

If you’re like me, you look at this and think that this is impossible. When you’re having a terrible day it’s hard to treat someone how you want to be treated, when things are hard it’s difficult to trust God and not worry.  Yet these things I have listed (only some of the things that Jesus says in this sermon, there is plenty more!) give me hope.

I have hope in the fact that Jesus lived a sinless life.  Hebrews 4:15-16 in the Voice translation says, “For Jesus is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our weaknesses and flaws.  He has already been tested in every way that we are tested; but He emerged victorious without failing God.  So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace when we need it most.” Isn’t that amazing? Jesus knows these things are hard to do, yet we have the Spirit to guide us and the free-flowing grace of God at our fingertips (for more on this topic, check out a previous post: Victory in Jesus).

I also have hope because I know that my relationship with God is what’s important.  I don’t have to put up this charade that I have my life together so that other people will see.  I also know that when I have a real relationship God  I am filled with the Holy Spirit, and Galatians chapter 5 says that the Holy Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  When you have a real relationship with God these things will start to become a part of who you are, and when these things are a part of who you are, doing what God wants you to do instead of what you want to do becomes more natural.

We will always struggle, we are human, but when we take part in a real, intimate relationship with God and allow our hearts to change, we find it is easier to live like Jesus.

Check out the Sermon on the Mount for yourself if you haven’t before, or if you have, read it again.  The Word of God is alive and relevant.

Photo Credit: Cherry Laithang

Victory in Jesus

I woke up this morning with “Victory in Jesus” stuck in my head, which is no surprise because it’s one of my favorite hymns and often ends up rolling around in my head for hours.  This morning, however, the words were really just resonating with me.

Hebrews 4:15 in the Voice says, “For Jesus is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our weaknesses and flaws.  He has already been tested in every way that we are tested; but He emerged victorious, without failing God.”

Jesus was completely human yet completely God.  He walked, breathed, and lived on our very Earth.  The verse says that He was “tested in every way that we are tested.”  Jesus was tempted as we are, but He defeated temptation, as the verse says “He emerged victorious.”

After Jesus is resurrected but before He ascends to Heaven, He tells the people in Luke chapter 24 (NLT) that He is sending the Holy Spirit to them.  In Matthew 28 (VOICE), Jesus tells the disciples that He will be with them “to the end of the age.”

When Jesus left this Earth He didn’t leave us all alone, He left us with the Holy Spirit to guide us, to give us the strength to fight temptation just as Jesus did when He was living among us.

Jesus’ death didn’t just give us the ability to find victory over temptation, but over the everyday situations in life.  Because Jesus died and sent us the Spirit, we now have a personal connection with our Creator.  Philippians chapter 4 tells us that we don’t have to succumb to the harmful clutches of worry and anxiety; we can go to God and exchange our worries for peace.

There is definitely victory in Jesus, and I am so thankful for it.  I do not have to live my life chained to sin or circumstance.  I know that Jesus understands my struggles, He understands my pain, He wants me to come to Him with my problems – and my praises – and He wants to give me peace that can only come from Him.  Such a sweet message my God gave me this Saturday morning.

“So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16 (VOICE)

Photo Credit: Japheth Mast
 

The Missing Peace

Let me set the stage (cue lights, audio, and other technical things I don’t know about): Something happens, something bad, something you just can’t get out of your head.  Maybe you were in a car wreck, or you lost your brother, or you are experiencing heartbreak for not the – but just as painful – time.  You relive it over and over again in your head, especially at night when you have nothing else to keep your thoughts from wandering to the infamous ‘thing’ that haunts you.  They say time heals but it’s been weeks, months, years and you don’t feel like you’ve healed much at all: you’re just stuck in this endless cycle of remembering.  Or maybe in your case it’s not even that, maybe it’s just the balancing act of life that’s got you stretched beyond what you can bear; you have finals and bills and your car broke down and your job doesn’t pay enough and you’re sleep deprived and you just yelled at someone for no reason and the list goes on and on.

Sound familiar?  What’s missing in the scenarios above?

Peace.

Things happen that we cannot control – you can’t control the fact that your sister has cancer or that your landlord raised the rent a hundred dollars that you can’t afford to pay – but you can control how you deal with the situation.

I know, you’ve heard it before.  So had I.  Did you let that sink in, though? You do not have to fall victim to things that happen outside of your control, even the things that happen because of your own bad decisions.

Jesus didn’t die so we could live miserable lives.  He died to give us hope.  He died to free us from sin. He died so that our trials can build our faith instead of ruin our lives.  He died so that death would not be the end for us.  Jesus didn’t die for us to fall victim to a lost and dying world, Jesus died for us to have hope even in the gravest of situations because He overcame the power of the grave. 

But how do we do it?

Philippians 4 is such a great chapter of the Bible and is so relevant.  Check out the whole chapter (it’s short, it won’t take long), but I’m going to leave you with verses 6 and 7.

“Don’t worry about anything instead pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all that He has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds all anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Don’t worry.  Pray.  Give your needs to God.  Thank God. The result? Peace that soothes your soul.  God can handle your mess, I promise.

•••

If you have specific passages, chapters, or books of the Bible that have helped you through hard times, leave me a comment.

Until next time, lovelies.

 
Photo Credit: Aubin A Sadiki