Stuck. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think about my mindset the past few weeks. I know that those of you who know me well will wonder how someone who recently got married, graduated from college and moved out of state to attend seminary could feel stuck. Trust me when I say that it is hard for me to understand too.
When I really concentrate on what I’m feeling and the deep places those feelings come from, I find a many faceted answer. One of the biggest things I can think of, however, is comparing my life and situation to those of my friends and family as seen through social media. In recent years, especially with my generation, more and more emphasis is placed on social media and the type of social media presence you have. It is so easy to look at others and be envious or discouraged about the place of life you are in. While I know there are so many things to be proud of and look forward to, I can’t help but think about how I have been unable to find a job yet, how I feel like I’ll forever be floating in an ocean of uncertainty. It seems like everyone I know is starting internships, getting “adult” jobs, having babies, moving across the country, some even leaving the country. And I’m just at my apartment in Waco, day in, day out.
Another factor that I think is equally as heavy on my mind is not knowing what is coming next, or in general, feeling like I don’t know what God’s plan is. I feel like I’m just floating around, waiting for something big to happen. It’s kind of like the feeling before a big vacation. When Lee was planning for our honeymoon, the first seven months seem to go by so fast. The last four weeks felt like they drug on, and on, and on. Each week felt like a month. I would describe this feeling in a similar way. I know that in August I will start seminary and that I will learn so much and become part of a community. It seems like only yesterday that I was applying to Truett, but in reality, that was nearly a whole year ago. The past year just flew by. Now that I’m in Waco, though, it seems like every day lasts a week, and every week a month.
I’ve been feeling really convicted about the anxiety and fear I’ve been dealing with concerning all of those thoughts and situations, which I imagine is normal. However, I’ve read a lot of great Christian living literature over the past month or so, and most state that this is not how a follower of Jesus would respond. Each author has brought up the reality of how selfish and arrogant it is to let myself be anxious, afraid and impatient. In the book Crazy Love (thank you Fellowship Baptist Church, wonderful book; go read it now), the author, Francis Chan makes the following statement:
“Worry implies that we don’t quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives. Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control. Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it’s okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional. Both worry and stress reek of arrogance. They declare our tendency to forget that we’ve been forgiven, that our lives here are brief, that we are headed to a place where we won’t be lonely, afraid or hurt ever again, and that in the context of God’s strength our problems are small, indeed. Why are we so quick to forget God? Who do we think we are?” (pg. 44).
When I first read this chapter, I felt the tears streaming down my face. I had to pause and mark my page and put it down for a minute because the weight of my guilt and shame was so heavy on my heart. I realized deep down that the source of my anxiety and worry was my want for control, and unwillingness to give God the reigns and believe that He is in control. Who am I to think that I am strong enough to change things on my own? My most fervent efforts are in vain without the hand of God in my life. Chan knew what he was doing when he wrote this chapter, which, ironically, is titled “You Might Not Finish This Chapter.” Once I had caught my breath, I finished reading and that night Lee and I prayed together like we always do, and I was more open and real in my prayers than I have ever been before. It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. My feelings of self-doubt haven’t left, but I am dealing with it much better than I was.
A few days ago I finished reading the book Not A Fan. by Kyle Idleman (also a fantastic book, go read it). He also describes what I imagine I was going through. He states:
“… instead of recognizing God’s power and strength I started to think it all depended on me. Fans eventually get burned out from trying to live the Christian life out of their own efforts. If you are depending on your own strength to follow Christ you will soon find yourself drained and defeated. Jesus promised his followers that the Spirit would come on them in power. Followers of Jesus understand that it’s a journey they were never to make alone. Instead, we keep in step with the Spirit and he supernaturally gives us the strength and the power we need” (pg. 97).
Ultimately, I realized that while I want to be on fire for Jesus, my flame has been weak. I am impatient instead of trusting God’s perfect timing. I have allowed stress, worry and anxiety to rob me of my joy in the Lord. Psalms 27:14 says, “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD (ESV)!” This verse is helping me find patience and peace in God’s plan. It reminds me that His timing is perfect. Who are we to rush God or question His timing?
Another verse that has really convicted me is Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice (ESV)!” It doesn’t say, “Rejoice when everything goes your way! Rejoice when everything is sunshine and daisies.” It’s easy to be joyful when you have no problems and there is nothing to be worried about. God wants you to be joyful when you have a million things to do and it feels like you are carrying the world on your shoulders. He wants you to be joyful when you fail, epically. He wants you to be joyful during the hardest times of your life. Is it going to be easy? No; it’s not supposed to be. But like Idleman says in Not A Fan., “followers of Jesus understand that it’s a journey they were never to make alone.”
In conclusion, waiting on God to move can be exhausting, stressful, and draining. Being joyful in the middle of your struggles may seem impossible. But God never intended for us to do it alone. He intended for us to walk holding Jesus’s hand, filled with the Holy Spirit, and laying it all at His feet. My prayer for myself and for all of you is that we will relinquish all the fear, anxiety and worry to Jesus. I pray that we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us daily, for without the Spirit we can not follow Christ the way God intended for us to. I pray that we find patience and peace in the midst of our struggles and that we realize that we are not “stuck,” but that God is preparing our hearts for the next chapter of the beautiful, amazing story He’s writing for us.