In the past few years, I have experienced so many blissfully happy moments. I’ve gained a new gorgeous nephew, traveled to new (and old) favorite places, snorkeled in the Caribbean ocean, met amazing people, laughed a LOT, discovered yummy new foods, learned how to shoot a crossbow and killed my first deer, joined a kickboxing gym, saw NEEDTOBREATHE (again, finally) live and, most recently, welcomed my brother back home after an 8-month deployment serving in the Middle East.
The past few years have had so many amazing moments, but there have also been some extremely hard moments. I have grieved and mourned and cried a LOT. I’ve asked “why?” probably one million times. I wasn’t my best self a lot of days. But I encountered Jesus in a more real way than I ever have. In the fall of 2016, I sat under the stars in Arkansas at a retreat, and reflected on the past year and how truly hard it had been. Tears ran down my face as I realized how near He had been, during every moment of confusion, sadness and heartache. Deep within, I felt God whisper, "Yes, life has devastated you, but it has not destroyed you.” As I have obeyed and let the dead things go, God has breathed new life into me.
At some point, we are all going to go through seasons in life that are devastating. We are all going to face some type of storm: financial hardship, broken relationships, rejection from family/friends, etc. If you haven’t yet, you will. The biggest challenge I faced in 2016 was having God ask me how I was going to ride out the rest of my storm. We have a choice. We can either lie down and let the storm defeat us or we can choose to stand firm and choose joy while it rages around us.
Steven Furtick puts it like this describing the Apostle Paul’s storm & shipwreck: Where I finally found freedom is when I heard God ask..."Well, what if? What if you lost that thing you value most? Would you still serve Me? Would you still love Me? Would you still follow Me?" And I said, "Yes, Lord. I'll still love You. I'll still serve You." It is a wonderful thing when you take your hope out of the boat. And yes, it is ok to tell God you love the boat. It is ok to say, "God, the boat is awesome. I want to row, row, row the boat. Actually, I really want a yacht. And it's great if I can sail on a yacht but if I have to doggy paddle my way to the shore, I'm still coming after You. There is no devil in hell that can stop me from pursuing Your purpose for my life."
Though I have thought at times they would kill me, I am extremely grateful for the storms I have faced. I’m not the same person I was when I encountered them. So, in the midst of really, really tough days, unrelenting disappointment and fear of the unknown future, I choose to remember that it’s not about me. It’s about giving God the greatest glory in my life in the face of the greatest resistance. I choose to remember that people will never see how strong my God is if my battles are never fierce. So, I choose Jesus and His plan for my life, and I choose joy no matter the circumstance.