Transparency in Faith

Lately, I think we are all trying a little too hard to look perfect, especially on social media.

But as followers of Christ, aren’t we supposed to be genuine and real? Aren’t we supposed to let others know that we have flaws and sufferings too? That we are imperfect people?

As I read 2 Corinthians chapter 1 this morning, I was overwhelmed by Paul’s honesty in his writing. When I think of Paul, I immediately think of strength, boldness, and courage. Sometimes, I forget that he did a complete 180 degrees in his life: he went from persecuting Christians to being a persecuted Christian. I can only imagine what that must’ve been like.

He didn’t try and hide what was happening to him. He told the Corinthians in verses 8-9:

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself… But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

I wonder if those words were a challenge to write down…to relive those burdens…to be vulnerable and open. I know it would be for me. I do not like to look weak. I do not like to let others know I’m struggling. I bottle my burdens inside.

But if you’re like me, you know this way only ends in destruction. As you self-destruct, you hurt not only yourself but others around you.

To read that Paul struggled this morning was almost a relief to me…to know I am not alone. I’ve known this all along, but God knows me. He knows I need to be reminded, and it is such a blessing when it is through the living Word.

You might be thinking: why does suffering have to happen? Why me?

Paul begins his letter to the Corinthians with: (v. 3-4)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

We suffer, because it is a part of life. We suffer, so that we understand what it is like: that life is not perfect. Life is hard, but with Christ we have comfort. With Christ, we know how to comfort others.

This is what transparency of faith is: to realize and admit that you are not perfect. To admit you have flaws. To show that you yourself are an imperfect being who needs a perfect Savior.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” -2 Corinthians 4:16

“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33

If you are trying to keep up the perfect facade, let it go. He has already overcome all your struggles. He is ready to comfort you.

Be authentic. Be real. Be you. 

You are not alone in your suffering. You. Are. Not. Alone. Keep fighting the good fight, brothers and sisters!

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present life are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us.” -Romans 8:18

 

 

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Change

We humans do not like adapting to change, yet we are constantly changing.

Change, in the lives around us, is odd. We want people to stay the way we know them: the old version of themselves. We look at the new version. We may even listen to what they say, yet we still see the old version we are comfortable with. We don’t give them a chance.

A common phrase we have all used is: “I’ll have to see it to believe it.” Especially when we hear about people changing, why must we see for ourselves? Why is it so hard for us to believe that change is possible? Why is it so hard to believe that someone is growing mentally? Physically? Spiritually?

I look at myself and think back to a year ago, and I’ve realized that I am not the same. I have shed a layer of my old self–dying to the parts I don’t want to be defined by, parts I don’t want to be. It has been a slow change, but I am so grateful for the situations and trials that have led me to where I am, to who I am becoming.

So if I am not the same person now as I was 365 days ago, how can I shut out the idea that someone else is also not the same? What kind of follower of Christ would I be if I looked at others and gave them no grace? No redemption? No mercy for who they used to be?

Life is so short, but it has so much room for growth, for progress.

I challenge each of you like God is challenging me now: Leave your old self behind: the one who could not see the change in others. Do not force your version of who someone is. Be respectful of others and their journey. Encourage and love others in their progress. Be patient with them. Be more than you were yesterday. Shed your judgmental layer! Encourage. Uplift. Be a light.

When I Am Faithless

This past month has been a whirlwind for me. From working four days a week, to fundraising for my mission trip to Italy, to trying to survive this semester, I became overwhelmed very quickly. I could not wrap my mind around how I was going to finish all of my tasks by the end of the semester.

To be honest, I felt hopeless. I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I would pray, but I was holding so much back from God that I did not want to lay at His feet. I would tell myself I could handle all of this on my own, as I have done so many other times in the past…

…and cue the chaos and stress. Handling all of it on my own wasn’t working. I just didn’t want to trust God fully. I had doubt that God could handle my situations, because they seemed so impossible to me.

But that was from my human perspective, the perspective that can only see a fraction of what is actually possible with just me.

In the book of Mark, there is a story of a father whose son was sick, and he says to Jesus, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Do you know what Jesus did? He didn’t condemn the man for confessing his unbelief, his doubt. Jesus simply healed the man’s son. No questions asked.

As I prayed one night, I remembered that story and Jesus’s compassion. I asked God to forgive me, and I asked Him to help my unbelief.

 

The next morning, (no joke!), I was stressed about the money I needed to raise for Italy. I went to the post office to mail out some of my pictures and soaps I had been selling. I checked our PO Box and went back to my car. As I flipped carelessly through our mail, I noticed I had three letters. I was excited, but that excitement did not compare to how I felt when I opened the letters. Those three people and their families gave generously to my mission trip. As I read the letters and checks, I burst into tears and thanked God.

Within one week of that day, my entire trip was paid for. I could not believe what God had done. I could not believe He provided for me so quickly. I could not believe how He used so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ and their generosity.

As of now, I am officially headed to Italy this June, and I only have two weeks of the semester left!!

When I am faithless, He is faithful!! I serve a good and compassionate God! Thank you, Lord, for helping my unbelief!!

The Life of an Introvert

This may or may not be a surprise to some of you, but I’m extremely introverted. Surprised?

Being an introvert doesn’t mean I’m “shy”… I’m just socially awkward (most of the time.) There are days where I am very outgoing. I am be really involved, adventurous, and excited for every circumstance. I think those days you can’t really tell I’m introverted. However, there are days where I do not want to leave the house. I am quiet, reserved, and elusive.

If I do hang out with people, I have a great time. It’s always fun to get out with friends and spend some time in fellowship. I love joking around and making memories. But after the fun times are over, I want to be home. I need to spend time in solitude and in silence. I think that’s hard for some people to understand.

Here’s an easy way to put it: Extroverts get their energy by being around people. Introverts get their energy by being alone. Social interaction wears me out. By being alone, I can refuel for the next time I hang out with people.

I know I sound like I’m making the word “introvert” have a negative connotation, but that’s not my intention at all. I love being an introvert. It has allowed me to separate myself easier from toxic friendships. It has allowed me to empathize more with others: to be there for people when they need someone to just simply listen. It has allowed me to love others easily.

I think the beauty in life is that we are all different. We all have certain characteristics that make us who we are.

If you’re an introvert or an extrovert, don’t wish you could be any more than who you are. You are you for a reason, and you are wonderful!! There were times where I wanted to be more of this or more of that. But as I look back on my life, I realize that God created and molded me into the person He wanted me to be. My identity doesn’t come from whether I am introverted or awkward or shy… My identity comes from God. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am His. 

“But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we are all the work of Your hand.” -Isaiah 64:8

“I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.” -Psalm 139:14

Feeling Average

I know what it’s like to feel average. I know what it’s like to not feel good enough.

I know what it’s like to have younger siblings and friends who are so effortless when it comes to intelligence, grades, sports, etc.

I know what it’s like to have depression, because you can’t see yourself for anything more than insignificant. I know what it’s like to expect perfection in yourself. I know what it’s like to feel like everyone else expects perfection in you as well.

I know what it’s like to be average in a world that demands excellence, and I know how frustrating all of it can be.

But here’s the revelation that God has given me: It does not matter that I’m average. 

It’s okay that you work for your grades. It’s okay that you aren’t the best runner. It’s okay that you lost. There is always going to be someone who is better than you. I would know. I have spent my entire life comparing myself to others. I have spent almost 19 years feeling like I’m not good enough and trying to be good enough.

Listen to me. It’s okay to be average.

In the midst of feeling average, you are loved. In the midst of feeling average, remember that 2,000 years ago you were bought with a price. 2,000 years ago, Jesus didn’t just die for the elites of the world, He died for the average too. Like me, like you.

He loves you. He loves you, despite the way you see yourself.

When I am discouraged or feel like I am not enough, God always brings me back to these verses:

“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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” -2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Our weaknesses are made perfect in His power! They are made perfect, because He is perfect! We don’t have to be enough, because He is enough!

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30

Did you read that carefully? “Come to Me, all…” He wants all of us to come to Him! Even if we feel average, even if we feel small, we are not average or small to Him. Rest in this promise! He knows exactly what we need before we even open our mouths.

“Cast all your anxieties upon Him for He cares for you.” -1 Peter 5:7

Everything you are worried upon, take it to Him! No matter how big or small, He is ready to listen. He is the Great Physician. He can heal all.

 

Whoever is reading this, I am praying for you: that God will give you peace that surpasses all understanding. I am for praying that you know you are not defined by your grades, your GPA, your ACT scores, your major, your job, your clothes, your income, or how average you may feel. You are a child of the One True King. You are valuable simply because you exist. That is how you are defined. I love you. Christ loves you. Rest in this tonight.