What Is God’s Plan For Me?

This past weekend, I attended a conference for Christian women. It was an event filled with inspiring speakers, great food, and amazing girls. It also required more walking than I ever thought I’d do in a lifetime. This conference was held on a large college campus and every workshop, dinner, and worship time were all located at least two miles apart from each other. One night, we all walked to a dinner party and it rained cats and dogs the whole way. We sloshed through the puddles in skirts and sandals, trying not to get run over as we scrambled across the streets. Needless to say, our hair and makeup were thoroughly ruined by the time we arrived at the party. It was all I could do to keep putting one soaked foot in front of the other, reassuring myself that we were almost there, even when we still had a ways to go.

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Sometimes this is what life feels like. As a senior in college, I am desperately searching for a plan, a straight and narrow path that I can follow. Instead, I am walking too slowly in the rain, praying that I can somehow get to my destination quicker. Christians are so often told that we need to give our lives to God and trust in the plan He has for us. But many of us still struggle because in spite of trusting God, we don’t know what He wants our next step to be. I’ve heard many Christian women say that it was a challenge for them to give up the plan they wanted for themselves and follow God’s will instead. And I’m always tempted to ask, How can you tell the difference?

I have the hardest time discerning God’s plan for me when it comes to dating. A few months ago, one of my best friends married a wonderful guy she met on Christian Mingle. I decided that it was time for me to find a partner as well so I signed up for the site. And it was a complete waste of my time. Not because there weren’t any good guys on the site, because there were. No, it was a waste of my time because I could not have cared less about starting a relationship with any of those men. The entire time I was on this dating website, I felt ridiculous. Because for my entire life, I had dreamed of getting married right out of college and starting a family. God had given me an opportunity to make that happen through online dating and I continually turned Him down. I prayed constantly. And I worried constantly. I tried so hard to figure out if I was following God’s plan or fighting against it by signing up for online dating. Then, I tried to figure out if God really wanted me to reject those guys or if I was turning away from the person He had chosen for me. I combed through Bible verses but didn’t get the answer I was searching for. Scripture makes it clear that God is just as happy with His children being single as He is with them being married. We all have a different purpose in life. I just wish I knew what He wanted from me specifically. I did find in my reading, however, that I should not be afraid of what I do not know:

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

There was an amazing speaker at the conference I attended who talked about doing a triathlon after she finished chemotherapy. She said that when the task seemed impossible to finish, she focused on the next hundred yards in front of her. Against all odds, she finished the race because she took it one step at a time. This is how life needs to be looked at. Whether you are stuck out in the rain, trying to finish college, or going on a date. We are not meant to know God’s whole plan for our lives. We are meant to focus on overcoming the next hundred yards in our walk with Christ. If He got us this far, He will continue to lead us to the finish line.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy The Guilty Christian and Who God Made You To Be

Glorifying God in Singleness

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Being single is often frowned upon in the Christian community. What’s even worse is when someone says that they want to be single, that they would rather not get married and/or have children. Anyone who says this, aside from nuns or the Pope, is thought to be ungodly and selfish. After all, critics will say, God made Eve to compliment Adam. He told them to be fruitful and multiply. A marriage relationship is, without a doubt, considered sacred by God. The importance of marriage is highlighted in these verses:

The Lord said, “It is not good for a man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” – Genesis 2:18

“He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” – Proverbs 18:22

Some people will use these verses to justify their claim that marriage is a necessary rite of passage for good Christians. However, these verses do not mean that someone has to get married to glorify God. The Lord wants us to treat marriage with the utmost honor and respect, similar to how we treat our relationship with Him. Yet sometimes, the best way to honor the bond of marriage is to remain single. Consider these verses:

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others–and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”- Matthew 19:3-12

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. – Corinthians 7:8-9

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. – Corinthians 7:32-35

As the verses above explain, marriage is a wonderful thing. If you want to get married then you should. However, a person should get married for the right reasons. A couple should make their vows fully intending to spend the rest of their lives together because that is how God designed marriage to be. If a person gets married for any reason other than complete love and devotion to their spouse, then is it really worth the trouble? Is it necessary to tie yourself to someone for life just for the sake of doing so? I see so many Christians waiting, begging God to send them a spouse for one reason or another. They don’t want to be alone. They want to have children. They don’t believe that adulthood starts until one is married. They believe that marriage is in God’s plan for them and they just can’t understand why He hasn’t sent them Prince or Princess Charming yet. I have fallen into this way of thinking in the past, which is easy to do, especially as a Christian woman. However, anyone who thinks these things is missing the point of God’s plan for them and for marriage in general.

There are several verses that compare the world’s relationship with God to a wife’s relationship with her husband:

“ I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” – Revelation 21:2

Jesus chose to love the world as a husband loves his wife and vice versa. And when Christ died for us, He did not do so because He was lonely or because He thought we had anything to offer Him. He did it because He loved us with selfless, crazy devotion. Do not marry someone unless you feel the same way about them. Jesus and His disciples were able to glorify God in their singleness. We can do the same if we choose to.

If you like this post, you might also enjoy: Who God Made You To Be and The Guilty Christian

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The Guilty Christian

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I have always struggled with feeling guilty for my mistakes. And as a Christian, it is easy to think that guilt is a good thing. After all, doesn’t Christ want us all to realize that we are lost sinners without Him? Doesn’t He want us to feel guilty for our wrongdoings so that we will repent? In a sense, yes He does. But the devil can easily take Godly, repentant guilt and twist it into a trap that we feel is inescapable. What I mean can be best summed up by this verse:

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” – 2 Corinthians 7:10   

When the devil takes hold of our guilt, suddenly we don’t make mistakes anymore. Instead, our mistakes make us. Our faults are not things we’ve done and can improve upon. They feel like character flaws, inherent and unchangeable. When we regret what we’ve done, the devil enables our regret to destroy us. That is what worldly grief feels like. Godly grief, on the other hand, paints a very different and redeeming picture of our mistakes.

So how is Godly grief different from worldly grief?

Godly grief does not compare:“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”- Romans 3:23. It’s easy to feel guilty when we look at people who seem to be doing so much better than us. I know that I feel like I am a ‘good Christian’ until I see people who appear to be much more passionate about Christ than I currently am. Then I suddenly feel like I am not doing enough to glorify God. In reality, we are all sinners and no one Christian is better than another. Most of us are doing are best to follow Jesus and He is using us in different ways.

Godly grief does not condemn: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1. The worst part of guilt is the fear that we have disappointed God and that He will punish us for what we have done. But scripture reminds us that this fear is unfounded. God knows what we will do long before we ever do it and He has already forgiven us. So we have His permission to forgive ourselves.

Godly grief brings peace: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 5:1. It is unnecessary to have any regret over our sins because Christ already took care of them on the cross. Our faith in Jesus means that we can let go of our past mistakes.

Godly grief does not worry: “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7. We need not worry about the effects our mistakes will have on our lives. Any time you catch yourself getting caught up in the should haves, would haves and what ifs of regret and worry, remind yourself Who is really in control. God took our mistakes into account when He devised His plan for the world. Things will work out the way they are supposed to when you put your faith in Him.

Godly grief removes shame: “As far as the eastern horizon is from the west, so he removes the guilt of our rebellious actions from us.”- Psalm 103:12. God wants us to feel guilty for our sins so that we will repent and come to Him. But once we do that, guilt is no longer needed. The devil may lie to you and say that because God holds Christians to a higher moral standard, we have more reason to feel guilty for our transgressions. But Christ says that because of Him we should not feel any guilt at all. We don’t need to dwell on the past or feel shame for what we have done. God will turn our mistakes into something beautiful when we let Him.

If you like this post, you might also enjoy: Who God Made You To Be and Ruth

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Burning Out

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Ever since I entered university, I’ve noticed that burnout has become a sort of statement. Sleepless nights prove that we are hard workers. Investing in full-time education, part-time work, volunteering, internships, and clubs all in one semester show that we are committed. When people do allow themselves the luxury of having fun, they become so drunk in trying to forget their stresses that ‘fun’ is hardly the right word for it. People are suffering. Mental illness has become so rampant that nearly everyone I know is on drugs for anxiety, depression, or attention issues. And it’s not just students who are overworked. I know adults who are working between 75 and 95 hours per week, then coming home to walk the dogs and do the dishes. What is going on? Why do people refuse to take care of themselves? What is the point of working to achieve our goals in life if we are too busy and miserable to enjoy the fruits of our labor?

This is not how God intends for us to live. Even the Creator of the universe rests when needed, as said in Genesis 2:2: “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”

So if God Himself takes time to relax, then why do we mere mortals expect ourselves to keep going? Making a living is necessary and meaningful. However, that does not mean we should disregard our physical and mental health in doing so. The bible warns against pushing yourself too hard:

“Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit.”- Proverbs 23:4

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.”- Luke 21:34

We live in a culture that invented caffeine pills. Where the average adult gets five hours of sleep per night. Where half of us will develop an anxiety disorder at some point in our lifetime. And our Creator did not design us to keep going at this pace.

The work we do should glorify God, not bring us to early graves. When we feel tired at the end of a long day of work, we should be able to sleep soundly with a sense of accomplishment. Instead, we force ourselves to stay up and work even more, feeling nothing but weariness. Our bodies our temples to God, we should honor and respect them. We should let ourselves sleep in. We should cook and eat healthy meals. We should exercise. Pray. Spend time with friends and family. Daydream. Read for pleasure. Make plans. Make mistakes. We should respect the person who can achieve a healthy work-life balance, not chastise them for being ‘lazy’ while we suffer behind our success. Hard work is worth it but only up to a point. We should remind ourselves to work so that it enhances our lives rather than destroying them. After all, God intended for Christians to be the light of the world. Let us not burn ourselves out when we could be shining so brightly.

If you like this post, you might also be interested in:

Who God Made You To Be

To All Those Not Good Enough

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Who God Made You To Be

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Sometimes I just feel worthless. I feel like I can’t do anything right. As an example, I wandered around campus today because I had forgotten where I parked my car. When I did find it, it was parked in a spot labeled: 30 Minute Parking. Flashers Must Be On. I had parked there to unload my groceries the day before and forgot to move it back to a lot farther away, where students are allowed to park. I had left my car in that spot with the flashers on. Now, my car was dead and I was going to be late for work. After I had made an embarrassing call to the campus police department and got my car charged, I commuted to work, mentally kicking myself the whole way there.

Why am I so stupid? Why can’t I pay more attention to things? How am I going to take care of myself? And on and on my brutally unproductive train of thought went until I arrived at work, thoroughly ticked off. Then today, with my self-confidence still bruised, I came across this bible verse:

You are the one who put me together inside my mother’s body, and I praise you because of the wonderful way you created me. Everything you do is marvelous! Of this I have no doubt.Psalm 139:13-14

This verse really got me thinking. When is the last time I’ve done that? Have I ever praised God for the wonderful way He created me? Heck no. As a matter of fact, there have been times, many more times that I’d like to admit, when I asked ‘God why, just why would You make me this way?’ And I think that because I am insulting my own self that I have the right to question Him, to be angry at Him even, about the way He created me. But I don’t. No one does. Just as I trust that God has a plan for my life, I need to trust that He knew what He was doing when He created me, even the parts of myself that I don’t like. My forgetfulness is a huge weakness, of course, but as He said in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “my power is made perfect in weakness.” I need to trust that even my undesirable personality traits are also part of His plan. I am not a perfect Christian. I am a work in progress. God is living in me and working in me to make me who I am supposed to be. And He will not give up until I get there because He loves me.

We must learn to love ourselves the way that God loves us. Remember this the next time you want to change something about yourself: The Lord does not make mistakes. Everything He creates is marvelous and perfect. You are one of His creations. To say that you are anything less than marvelous is an insult to the One who made you. God doesn’t just accept you as you are, He adores you as you are. He would not have created you if He didn’t.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy reading To All Those Not Good Enough and Burning Out

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To All Those Not Good Enough

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There are many days when I feel as though I am not good enough. I don’t work enough, I don’t study enough, I don’t pray enough. I know that I am not alone in feeling this way. Most of us strive to meet ideal standards set by ourselves and others, then beat ourselves up when we fall short. Often, when I am angry at myself for failing, I feel like God is angry with me too. After all, Christians are supposed to be like Christ, who was and is perfect. Or at least that’s what I thought. I have spent far too much of my time trapped under a bar that was set too high for me to reach. It says in Matthew 5:48, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.’ Hebrews 10:14 also says, ‘For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.’

I used to hear about how Christians are supposed to be perfect if they truly know Christ. I used to dwell on my sins and feel like my faith wasn’t strong enough, that I wasn’t a ‘true’ Christian. And now I am realizing that God does not want me or anyone else to live this way. Christ died to free us from guilt and shame, not pile on more as we struggle to attain His perfection. When the Bible says that Christ makes us perfect, it does not mean that we become so the moment we accept Him, at least not on our own merit. God makes us perfect because by accepting Christ, we allow Him to work in us and change us into who He wants us to be. Evidence for this is given in Philippians 1:6, “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.”

We as Christians are works in progress. Christ makes us perfect, not because we are perfect, but because He makes up for what we lack. When I am weak, He is strong. When I am doubtful, He is certain. When I fail, He has already succeeded. God makes up for our failings and we trust that one day, He will bring us to where and who He wants us to be.

If you like this post, you may also like:

Who God Made You To Be

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Love Beyond Obligation

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Ruth 1:16 has always been my favorite scripture verse. I always get puzzled looks when I say this. For Christians who pick a favorite verse, it is usually in the New Testament and refers to God’s love for us after the death of Christ. The book of Ruth, however, is in the Old Testament and chronicles Ruth’s love for Naomi, her former mother-in-law:

Ruth answered,

“Please don’t tell me to leave you and return home! I will go where you go, I will live where you live; your people will be my people, your God will be my God. I will die where you die and be buried beside you. May the Lord punish me if we are ever separated, even by death!’ – Ruth 1:16-17, CEV.

Both of Naomi’s sons had died, Ruth having been married to one of them. Naomi tells her two daughters-in-law to return home to their parents and remarry but Ruth refuses to do so, as she states in the verse above.

Ruth is under no obligation to stay with Naomi but she is fiercely devoted to her regardless. Ruth travels to a new town where she and Naomi live in poverty. She works tirelessly in the fields collecting wheat so that she and Naomi will have something to eat. Ruth does eventually remarry a man named Boaz, who helps her and Naomi get back on their feet. And when she and Boaz have a son, he is known as Naomi’s child, even though she bears no real relation to him.

The book of Ruth tells a story of love that stretches beyond blood ties or obligation. This story is so touching to me because it shows that God’s love for us was real long before Jesus was crucified. It shows that God has always expected us to be compassionate and selfless toward one another, even before Jesus came down to say so. We were made to love as relentlessly as Ruth did, no matter what it costs us. That kind of love is what made Jesus die for us and it is through loving one another that we can honor His sacrifice.