Faith Without Works

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A picture of me painting a tiny human’s face

 

For a long time I believed in God but I didn’t do anything about it.

I didn’t read the Bible. I didn’t go to church. I didn’t try to help anyone or share my beliefs. I thought believing was enough.

Then I went to college. I found Progression. My church is full of people honestly and whole-heartedly seeking God. It’s been the best thing to happen to me. Because of their influence, I am now honestly and whole-heartedly seeking God. I share my faith. I read my Bible.

Most importantly I get the chance to help people through church. This past Saturday I helped at our Community Egg Hunt. I was supposed to be the face-painter, but instead some tiny humans painted my face because that meant they were having a great time. I got to talk to people and see people decide to come to Progression.

I saw people like me a few months ago, finding home. And it was right in this moment I realized why my faith before college felt weird. It was empty. I was empty. My faith was dead because there was no work involved (James 2). Once I started living purposefully, living for God, I found a true faith that is better than anything. My faith is alive and breathing. It just took a little work.

A Life in Shambles

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I have anxiety. It’s rough. I’m also at the most stressful point in my life, and right now a lot of things feel like they’re crashing down around me. My life feels like it’s in shambles.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness and let it have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete and lacking in nothing. -James 1:3-4

This past week in my church community group, the ladies of the group and I agreed to read James 1 together. My heart has been ripped to shreds over and over reading through all the sins I’ve been committing. My heart has been convicted, but mostly of the fact that I’ve been sinning to begin with.

That seems weird to say, but some of the sins I’ve been committing most have been being so anxious and not having complete trust in God. That also seems weird, because here’s the thing. I trust that God is in control and He won’t give me anything I can’t handle. He’s taking care of me. I get it, right? No. I sometimes find myself thinking that maybe God won’t take complete care of me, He’ll only take partial care of me. Maybe He isn’t big enough for my situation because my problem is just too big, too great. But that’s the thing about God, He’s bigger. And these problems I’m having? They’re here to make my faith bigger and stronger, and to make me bigger and stronger.

Reading James has made me realize a lot of this again, because like He does, God keeps calling me out for this continuous struggle. So as this great state that I might only get to live in for a few more months floods, as I continue to struggle through some of my classes, and as I continue to struggle through some family problems, I’m going to take a step back and see this problems as what they are. I’m growing. I’m getting stronger, my faith is getting stronger. With God on my side, nothing is too big or too bad. With God on my side, my life might be messy, but it is certainly not a life in shambles.

Good Deeds and Good Feels

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My church has some swaggin lights swagged across the courtyard (I’m so punny)

Isn’t it just the best feeling to help people?

It’s just heart-warming to know you’ve done something good, something that made someone else’s life a little better, something that seems so uncharacteristic of modern society.

Since Saturday I’ve gotten the chance to do this twice. My heart is overflowing with joy. I don’t really want to brag about what I did though–this isn’t about me. I only did the good things because my heart has been changing throughout school, opening up and softening and letting love in and out more freely than ever.

I didn’t realize this was happening. Today my friend Emily told me that her and her fiance were talking about how proud they were of me. She said that it’s become obvious what the Lord’s been doing in my heart. This might sound weird. She was scared I was going to be embarrassed. I think it was actually one of the highlights of my life. Hearing that just made me happy beyond belief–I’m changing. I’m growing. I’m getting better at being a kinder person. It isn’t just me noticing, apparently the people around me can see it to. I think that’s the best part, that this change is so visible.

Helping people is my jam. It makes me incredibly happy. I’m just glad I get the chance, that I’ve had the chance to grow to a place where this is my mindset. I just can’t wait until I get a chance to help people again.

Let’s Be Brave

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Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp and some coffee in a cool cup

Today I was lucky enough to meet two really kind-hearted souls. I already forgot their names. Shame on me.

What I’ll never forget, though, is how brave they are. I go to an SEC school. It’s big. It’s in the south. I’m surrounded by fellow Christians. I’m surrounded by people of all different faiths, or no faith at all. Today was sunny, and I was laying in the quad, with some of my other classmates. It was bright and warm, and we were enjoying the weather.

These two guys, who didn’t know anything about anyone, went up to people laying in the quad and asked what they believe. They asked what my name was. They asked if they could pray with me. It turns out they know some of the people I go to church with. They were sharing the good news. When they knew I had a church, they didn’t try to push me to attend theirs, but they still invited me.

This is something I’ve been struggling with. God wants us to share His glory. We want to share His glory. I want to–I want everyone to know the same love I do. It’s hard though. It’s intimidating. But it’s what we’re called to do, to be a light shining to the Lord. So let’s be brave. Wherever we are in our faith journey, let’s ask, “What’s your name? What do you believe? Do you mind if I pray with you?”

Being Faithful Where You Are

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I’ve been struggling lately. This might seem small, or it might seem bigger than it is, but I might have to transfer colleges. And honestly, it’s taken me about two and a half weeks to become completely content with whatever happens.

The bigger problem though, and the problem I only realized I had actually been struggling with last night, is that I’ve let my heart grow bitter against God. Yep. That’s right. I let myself start to be utterly disappointed in the purest love I will ever know. That’s not really good, and it’s warped a lot of my perception about the thought of transferring. It’s left me with a lot of self-pity, and a lot of unnecessary anger.

I was mad. I couldn’t figure out why God had led me to what I feel is my absolute dream school, led me to a place where I feel comfortable, let me put down roots and dare I say grow and flourish, only to potentially lead me back home just a year later. It didn’t seem fair. I couldn’t understand what I had done and why He felt I deserved this. Because, in my anger, I thought God gave us what we deserved, completely forgetting that He has given me the sweetest gift of all: forgiveness and the chance for a relationship with Him.

I realized my awful mistake last night when I was reading my Bible. Genesis 37 tells the story of how Joseph was almost killed by his brothers, and then instead sold into slavery by them. That’s much worse than transferring to a different college. But Joseph, unlike me, didn’t get mad. He trusted the Lord. He was faithful where he was. In the bottom of a pit, he still believed that God was on his side and would help him through. He wasn’t mad at God for letting him be sold into slavery.

That was a convicting thing to read. My heart was full of sin, and I didn’t even realize it. Along with letting myself get bitter, I stopped being faithful where I was and with what I was given. I let myself be consumed by what I wanted, not by what I was so gracefully allowed to have. I started to realize that if I was truly following God’s plan for me, I wouldn’t be angry about what was happening. Sad, maybe. I mean, my dream school might be taken away. I can’t be angry though, because even if I have to leave coming to LSU was absolutely what God intended for me to do. Being here has grown my relationship with my Father more than I had ever imagined. I knew I wanted to start going to church, but I never imagined being so invested and not just going to church, but being part of a church. I always wanted to be the girl that read her Bible every day, and not only in the confines of her room but out in the quad or the Union where everyone could see me, but I never thought I would get there. I always wanted to talk about my faith with other people, but I never thought I would actually do it because I believed a number of lies of talking about faith. But in the course of a semester and a half, I have become all of those things, things that I will carry with me no matter where I go, even if where I go is back home.

God wants me to be faithful where I am so He can use me for His plan. It’s taken two and a half weeks, and I’m not all the way there, but I’m on my way.