Posts

Pure Joy

Title: Pure Joy
Artwork by: Ross Boone (@rossboone)
Description: James 1 says to consider it pure joy when we have struggles because it is building perseverance into us. I made this picture to help us visualize how what seems like a burden may actually be a huge gift with which god is equipping us for something in our future.

 

 

 

A Letter To My Future Self in 2027

Written By Debra Ayis, Nigeria

Dear Debra,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to you from the tail end of 2017, a perfect time in which I find myself reflecting on my achievements and failures and reviewing what the year has meant to me.

I believe I have grown a little this past year, graduating from a child in constant need of attention and milk to an adult ready to try some steak. But there’s so much I still need to learn, so I hope by the time you read this, you would have made progress beyond expectations. That you are continually learning not to be anxious, and to wholly and truly trust in God in all circumstances (Philippians 4: 6-7). That your faith drives the wheel and fear takes a backseat. That your decisions follow the path you believe God is leading you to take and not simply “logical” reasoning. You have done this in the past, so I am hoping you can continue to do this.

Remember to continue dreaming, striving, and putting your best into everything you do. But in that process, do not forget to enjoy the moment, and do not let delays and challenges draw you into a pit of despair and discontent. Always be content in the now, and be grateful with all God has blessed you in the present. No matter what the situation is.

Even if you are going through the greatest physical, mental, or spiritual battle you have ever faced, always remember what God has faithfully brought you through, even though it took longer than you had expected. Remember how you applied almost 100 times over several years to your dream job before you finally got a position in that organization? Remember how you never gave up, and how you kept up the faith and pushed forward despite what people said?

In the spirit of owning the moment, I hope you are happy in your own skin, remembering there’s only one you and God loves you just the way you are. You are the apple of His eye; He knitted you while you were in your mother’s womb and He loves you unconditionally. As you continue to endeavor to be more like Him, remember to let Him shine through the real you, and not a version constructed for society’s benefit.

I pray your faith in God has grown stronger by now. That you have indeed grown deeper in your faith. I hope that the zeal for God’s house has burned brighter and you have become an integral part of not only the church community, but of any community you find yourself. I trust you have had opportunities to open your arms and your heart to people. To host those who need a place to sleep, to open your home to church events, to volunteer with increased passion, and to build His house with joy and a thankful heart.

I hope you have been working hard, but still have time for friends and family. Have you attained a better balance in all aspects of life now? I know it’s been an uphill battle, but I hope you don’t give up.

Remember how you were so inspired by Paul’s accounts that you were fearless in sharing the gospel, especially during your school years? With all my heart, I pray that you are still stepping out of your comfort zone to do so. That you have moved past fears of rejection and found the courage to share the gospel with anyone God brings your way. Remember to let that light shine, remember that you are the salt of the earth, and remember the great commission to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

Above all else, remember to stay focused on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith, who willingly went to the cross to secure your salvation. Remember you have been bought with a price. Continue to live a life that aims to glorify God.

If you continue to do this, I am 100 percent sure you will turn out all right!

 

With much love,
Your younger self

4 Reasons Why Not Knowing Our Future Is Good

Written By Ruth Lawrence, UK

My sister does this thing that drives me bonkers. She will take a book and, rather than reading it from start to finish, she will skip around the chapters, often reading the last page first. She says that it takes the stress out of reading the book if she knows how it will end.

I might hate to do that with a book, but I would love to do that with life. It’s for the exact same reason my sister reads a book from the end: I dislike the feelings of stress and uncertainty. When I was in school, I wished that I could be certain that I would pass all my exams and be settled in a job in 10 years’ time. Then I could sit back, relax, and just enjoy studying (yes, I am a geek).

To combat day-to-day uncertainty, I make lists and plan my day so that I know how I will be spending every single minute. No second goes unaccounted for. Wasted time makes me feel terrible because it can never be got back, and one thought that always goes through my mind is this: What if I’ve failed to do something that will be really important in the future? For example, would I have a novel published by now if I had spent more time working hard on writing it?

As you can imagine, living like this isn’t really sustainable. Things come up and plans have to change (Proverbs 16:9). There’s no way I can come up with a plan that will take into account every possible life event.

While I was writing one of my many lists one day, I started to think about why I was so desperate to control things. One of the reasons that surfaced after some time of honest reflection was that I didn’t really trust that God was in control. I thought that I could control things if I planned and did things in a certain way. Essentially, I wanted to be God. Being patient and trusting that God knows what He is doing is not easy.

But the reality is that I am powerless to control things. I can’t stop illnesses, deaths, or disasters. All I can do is manage my own response to such events. And even that requires me to seek God’s help on how to respond well and deal with what life throws at me.

Coming to terms with my own limitations and weaknesses has helped me to see more clearly why not knowing the future is a good idea.

Here are three reasons (in list form!):

 

1. Knowing the future is overwhelming.

If we knew everything that was ever going to happen to us, we might not want to keep on living. For me, that involved going to university. There were many things that happened in those three years that I did not enjoy, and if I’d known about all of them before I started, I would never have dared to take that step.

But those were experiences that I needed to go through in order to grow, and God used them all. For a little while after I graduated, I was able to help new students who were trying to adjust to life away from home. Thankfully, God kindly reveals His plans to us one step at a time, along with all that we need for each day as it comes. Only He is able to handle knowing everything, and His plan is infinitely better than any one that we can come up with ourselves. Colossians 1 describes what Jesus has done for us and how He is completely in control. Whenever I feel worried, I read that chapter; it gives me confidence that nothing that happens to me is a surprise to Jesus. It tells me that He has a plan and that He is good.

 

2. Not knowing the future can deepen our walk with God

God did not create us to be self-sufficient but to be dependent on Him. When we don’t know what will happen in our lives, we learn to trust Him—not ourselves or our resources.

God isn’t being mean by holding back information so that we will be forced to trust Him. Instead, He’s giving us opportunities to experience the goodness of His faithfulness and wisdom. Because I don’t know what’s coming, I can go to God and tell Him what I am worried about and leave it with Him. Taking everything to God like this can deepen my relationship with Him by causing me to explore His character and learning to trust Him.

At the end of the day, we can rest assured in God’s plans: His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not the same as ours (Isaiah 55:5-9).

 

3. Not knowing the future makes me recall God’s goodness

Not knowing what is coming next allows us to focus on what we do know—that God is good and faithful, and that He gives good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:9-11).

In Matthew 6, Jesus taught that sparrows do not worry about what they will eat because God takes care of them. His point is that if God cares so much for birds and plants, what more us? He doesn’t just know the future; He has planned it and made sure that everything we need is there for us.

We might not know the details of how our life will pan out, but we can be secure in the knowledge that God does, and that He has our best interests at heart. As I think back to 10 years ago when I was setting off to university and wondering where I would be in 10 years’ time, I can see how God has taken care of me and provided for me throughout. Not only did I pass all my exams, but I am now working in a non-profit organization, and I think my 18-year-old self would be surprised by it!

Looking back and seeing what God has done gives me confidence that for the next 10, 20, or however many years are ahead of me, He will keep on providing for me, probably in ways that I don’t expect. And it’s okay that I don’t know how it will all work out, because God does.

 

With that, what should now be at the top of my to-do list each day is a reminder that God is in control (even when it feels like He isn’t), and that having to change one of my plans is not the end of the world (because God already knows it’s going to happen).

Knowing everything isn’t the answer. It can’t deepen my walk with God or teach me about His character. It won’t even help me deal with the things life throws my way. What is worth knowing is who God is, and that knowledge leading to trust is what will help me navigate the future. It’s much more reliable than any to-do list or plan.

The Great Unknown

Title: The Great Unknown
Materials: Illustration
Artwork by: Veronica Corre
Description: What comes to mind when you think of “the great unknown”? Do you picture something adventurous and exciting or something scary and uncomfortable? Oftentimes the phrase “the great unknown” is used to describe a place between the start and the end of a journey. It is the middle ground, the open space between destinations, and often, the home of obstacles and challenges.

It is not uncommon to feel slightly uneasy when thinking about “the great unknown”. It is undefined and unsettled. It is an arena where we have the choice of turning back to where we came from or leaning forward in the understanding that we are never traveling this space alone. From first to last step, God is walking right there beside us — guiding us and leading us — to move through “the great unknown” to a place where He makes all things known.

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)