I just came off of another semester of college. On the surface, I had a really great semester. I started a new major, uncovered my passion for film, began a journey as an RA (Resident Assistant), made new friends and strengthened other relationships. I learned a lot this semester and it would be silly of me not to acknowledge all of the good that has happened. Unfortunately, underneath all of the good things, there was lots of bad as well. This semester, I had a reintroduction to anxiety. Some nights, I found it very difficult to fall asleep. Other times, it was hard for me to wake up and face the world. Through much of the semester, I had a lingering sadness that never quite left me alone. I stopped reading my Bible, I stopped praying, and I stopped acknowledging God in my every day life. I befriended doubt and I stopped caring about finding an answer to my questions.
None of this made sense to me. When I entered this past semester, I had just come back from the greatest summer of my life, working with teens and traveling to summer camps every week. God had answered many of my prayers and I saw Him at work in those around me. It felt like I was on the mountaintop before school started. How is it possible that I could crash down to the valley so quickly and without warning? I would pray and not find an answer, so I prayed less. I continued to not hear from God, so I prayed even less. I went from praying multiple times a day to praying before bed. Bedtime prayers turned into Monday, Wednesday and Friday prayers. And those prayers turned into sporadic praying which turned into praying only with the congregation at church. And if I missed church, I just wouldn’t pray.
Scripture stopped seeming appealing to me. What once felt like the guiding instruction for my life had become pious words that were impractical to live out. I would hear a verse at Sunday worship and I would tune it out from fear of being irritated by the impossible demands of my Lord and Savior. Occasionally, I would find a verse on my own that really spoke to me and for that week, I felt a spiritual high. But a high is a high is a high, even if it is a spiritual one. A high doesn’t last long enough to sustain you more than a day at most. I realized that the hard way. Soon, bitterness became my best friend, and I couldn’t even sing a worship song and convince myself that I still loved God with all of my heart, mind, and strength. I gave the Lord a tenth of a tank of gas at best. I exiled myself from everything I knew to be true. The more I tried to distance myself from God, the better it seemed to work. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just be happy? Why couldn’t I just be satisfied with the Lord? I never found an answer.
Today I am home from school. After spending most of the morning in bed and staring at the television, I decided to read the Bible again. I found Ecclesiastes 11:1. It says, “Cast your bread upon the water, for after many days, it will find you.” I initially started to read past it, but something about that verse made me think. I usually think of that verse as a call to do good, but today, it seems like more of an explanation of why things may seem so bad. The bread I was casting out was bitter and stale. I was casting out leftovers from the summer. I stopped caring about freshly baked bread, or even the cheap bread from the supermarket. I was just rehearsing the same old song and dance I learned from living a Christian life for a few years. But here’s the kicker- the Christian life is not stagnant.
Even if your faith goes nowhere and does nothing, the world continues to turn. No matter what type of bread you cast unto the waters, it is still going to come back to you, and you’re going to have to deal with the consequences. I was giving God my apathy and I found apathy in return. Because of this, life seemed so much heavier. I worried more because I didn’t give my troubles to God. I slept less because I was trying to deal with life by myself. The Christian life isn’t one lived in solitude. It’s not one that stops moving, and it’s not one that waits for you to have your life figured out. I learned this the hard way.
I had to understand that I am not alone and that I never really was. God has always been with me and at work in me. We all struggle and we all feel alone sometimes. I’m not going to make a bold declaration that the sorrow is going to leave or that hardships will never return. Instead, I will declare that God’s strength is sufficient for me, whether or not my emotions agree. I don’t have to feel like God is strong in order for God to be powerful. I just need to continue asking God for grace as I continue on the path that He has me on. I don’t believe in a god that doesn’t work when I don’t feel very good. I believe in the God that never lets go of me, even when I’m kicking and screaming in my own entitlement.
Now, I have the responsibility of crawling back to God. I am learning that not every return is an emotional breakthrough. Sometimes it is a small and subtle realization that causes you to slowly but surely turn back to the loving arms of Jesus Christ. Do I have my life figured out? Of course not. Am I still going to struggle with life after I post this? Definitely. But that’s not really what’s important. What is important is that God is sovereign through it all. It is His strength that will guide me through. I am just as broken and messed up as everyone else I know, but God shines bright in my darkness. I’m doing the easy part. All I have to do is decide to follow Jesus despite my troubles. God is the one at work here. He’s the one who let His Son be murdered on my behalf so that I could even make a decision to turn away from my sin. I am crawling back to God and I am not ashamed. When I am weak, then I am strong.