“I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell; and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself.” –C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
This quote from C.S. Lewis brings to mind my last year of college. Praise God that Heaven awaits me, and my eternity will not carry the pain of that year. To this day, I reflect on the thoughts and emotions of that season, and my stomach rolls.
The vividness of my memories has not diminished, but the lens of truth through which I view them has shifted, thank the Lord!
What would a personal hell on earth look like for you?
For me, during my senior year pursuing an elementary education degree, I was told by authority figures I would never be a good teacher. Miscommunications, spiritual warfare, my lack of confidence, and personality differences all were at play. For years, I’d worked toward my degree, and as the journey neared the finish line, I received deep criticism rather than encouragement.
For a people-pleasing perfectionist with a strong desire to be part of a team, the slow and bitter rejection and injustice of my senior year created physical, mental, and social torture. I lost weight. I battled fear. I understood how the devil could make the lie of suicide solving all problems so very palatable when life clenched a stranglehold on hope. I cried myself to sleep most nights.
I was miserable.
I was also desperate for the Lord in ways I had never been before.
Many nights, as tears streamed down my face, I clutched my Bible to my chest. John 1:1 says the Word was with God and the Word was God. In those moments, I was literally holding Him close.
During that year, I was devoted to reading the Word and expecting the Lord to speak to me. Countless times, I started my Bible reading time begging for the Lord to bring His Word to life. I knew how desperately I needed His voice of authority covering me.
My heart-cry echoed the psalmist’s words:
“I call with all my heart; answer me, LORD.
I will obey your statutes.
I call to you; save me,
and I will keep your decrees.
I rise before dawn and cry out for help;
I put my hope in your word.
I am awake through each watch of the night
To meditate on your promise.
In keeping with your faithful love, hear my voice.
LORD, give me life in keeping with your justice.”
He proved faithful. He provided His manna for the day, and I left nothing behind for the next day. (Exodus 16:31-35)
By the time I graduated and became a certified teacher, I was no longer the same person. Much healing still needed to take place, but I walked away from my college years with much more than a degree.
It has been years (*cough* decades) since that year of struggle, and in preparation for this Journey Study, I pulled out my journals from that long-ago season.
What I found made me weep and fall face down before my King.
10/22/03 “Lord, I am struggling. I feel weighed down, overwhelmed, and lost. I cannot carry this burden. I can’t. I lay my stress, concern, anger, hurt, shame, and defeat at Your feet. I want Your peace and Your joy. I need Your strength alone, Lord. My strength is so weak, unbelievably weak, and yet I still try to do it on my own. Forgive me.”
11/8/03 “God, I need You desperately. I want You to use me, grow me, keep me humble. Lord, I do not know how to deal with this year. What is its purpose, Lord? Please help me obey and remove my pride. Please, Holy Spirit, teach me. Turn this struggle into a growing and refining time.”
11/12/03 “Lord God, You are awesome. This has been the hardest week thus far of this semester. I praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and amazing grace.”
12/10/03 “Lord, increase my faith that You are in control. Turn this negative experience into a positive one. God, use this experience to make me a better teacher, person, and Christian. Thank you, Father, for the growth I have experienced this semester. I have learned how to cling to You in a new way. Glory be unto Your name!!”
As I read through countless journal entries, prayers of thankfulness filled my heart. The Lord has faithfully answered those prayers. Clinging to His Word, His promises and His precepts, have brought about good fruit in my life.
“Consider how I love Your precepts;
Lord, give me life according to Your faithful love.
The entirety of Your word is truth,
each of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”
He used that prolonged, hard season to uproot what could not remain in my life. He provided time for my heart and mind to begin to consistently search for Him and His perspective, to bring about a humility resulting in fertile heart ground, and to teach me to trust His voice of authority over all others.
In essence, He took a year that felt like hell and planted seeds that drew me closer to Heaven.
I declare with the psalmist,
Your compassions are many, Lord;
give me life according to Your judgments.
For indeed, He HAS!
Worship XI Day 14
The psalmist understood something important: he had an ongoing relationship with His creator because of God’s coming near! The psalmist continually called out to God from his heart. Through the day and the night, he walked with God by obeying His word, putting hope in His word and meditating on His word.
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This Week's Lock Screen
Authentically living out a life of worship to the God who rescued us from darkness requires accountability and intentionality. Join a GT POD and take the next step in your faith journey!