NEVER WORSE AND NEVER BETTER. (March 21, 2016)

one year ago today was the best day of my life. it took me twelve months to realize that it was also one of the worst. even writing about the past year of my life is emotionally draining, which would explain why I have hardly blogged any of it.

I struggle to find the words to explain exactly what was so horrible. all I know is that as soon as I got accepted into college, it was like a switch flipped in me. I was no longer the happy, independent, fearless young adult that I so desperately wanted to be. I was no longer excited about going to college, or motivated to finish the current chapter of my life well. I was no longer me. I always knew that going to college would be a difficult transition, but this was something entirely different. I have never struggled with so much anxiety, stress, and fear.

and for a long time, I had convinced myself that if I could just get to athens, it would be better. I would be better. in a lot of ways, I was.

my first semester at uga was better than anything I could have ever expected. athens has so many incredible things to offer, and getting involved with the wesley foundation and freshley has made a huge difference in my freshman year. but every week, I would go, and worship, and fellowship, and still come home feeling empty. I knew that there was something in my flesh that was holding me back from experiencing God the way He desired for me to, but I didn’t know what that was or how to even figure it out. so I went through the motions. I half-heartedly signed up for a mission trip to jamaica over spring break because I knew that the Lord wanted me there, but in no way did I want me there.

as second semester rolled around, not much had changed. I still had this horrible feeling in my spirit, but I could not figure out what the Lord was trying to tell me. the week before spring break was the absolute worst week of college, by a mile. looking back, I realize that all of the things that I had been letting build up inside of me were finally coming to a head. so many relationships in my life were falling apart or being redefined, I had so many questions about the Holy Spirit, and I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more lost in my entire life. the night before I left for jamaica, I laid in my bed and cried because I didn’t want to go. I didn’t believe that the Lord truly had a purpose for me being there, and I didn’t trust that He was going to reveal it to me if He did.

the first few days in Jamaica didn’t even touch those feelings. I felt even more lost than when I got on that plane. but God. man, does He have a way of absolutely wrecking everything you thought you knew about Him.

monday night, our pastor, Bob, spoke about the hearing the Lord’s voice, and with every word he spoke, I felt God tearing down the walls that I had built up around my heart. I asked one of the interns to pray over me, that I would stop letting my questions about the Holy Spirit get in the way of me experiencing God fully. as I made it back to my seat, praying and asking God to make it so obvious what He wanted to do in me, I had a vision of myself in complete and utter darkness. I had no idea which way to turn, but it didn’t matter anyway, because I was completely paralyzed by my fear. in the midst of my panic, a thin strip of light appeared. I followed it with my eyes, and suddenly, I was face to face with Jesus, and all I could hear was, “I love you. I love you. I love you.”

I opened by Bible to pick up where I had left off reading that morning in acts 5. Everything I read kept pointing back to one simple truth: fear of the Lord’s power is not going to stop what He’s doing; fear of the Holy Spirit cannot keep Him from doing what He wants to do in your life.

throughout the rest of the week, I continued to wrestle through things in my heart and mind. I know I seemed so distracted to everyone around me, and I was. I was completely overwhelmed by all of the different situations and questions I had on my heart.

then came wednesday. I spent the entire day really trying to figure out what it was I was still struggling with. I did a lot of praying and a lot of listening. and when that night rolled around, I knew that every single issue I’ve ever had in my entire life has pointed back to one deep-rooted sin: fear. I had spent an entire year of my life paralyzed by fear – fear that the Lord was going to ask me to do things that I didn’t want to do, fear that He was going to take people I love out of my life, fear of being uncomfortable, fear of being rejected, fear of my life not turning out the way I had planned. I was drowning in fear.

that night was one of the rare times in my life where I felt like all of my problems were solved all at once. the Holy Spirit spoke straight to me through bob’s preaching, and every question I had was answered. once again, I went to be prayed over, but this time, I knew exactly what needed to be dealt with. “I am so sick and tired of being paralyzed by fear! I want it gone. I don’t want to deal with it anymore!”

while she was praying over me, my small group leader, lauren, had a vision of me running as hard and as fast as I could away from my fear. fear was big, and it was chasing me relentlessly. but as they prayed that God would remove fear from my life, He struck it down, and I was completely at rest. no longer running, no longer striving.

coming home from Jamaica, I have had to make a lot of tough decisions. all of the situations I was dealing with before the trip didn’t magically change while I was out of the country. and I wouldn’t say that I changed either. I just returned.

I returned to that happy, independent, fearless young adult who has a passion for the Lord that is unmatched by anything else in my life. I have never had so much peace and joy and contentment. so many of my friends that didn’t know me before college have commented on how different I have been since coming home from Jamaica, and I’ve told every single one of them the same thing… I didn’t change at all. I’m just finally myself again. I’m finally living in the identity that Jesus died on the cross to give me. I finally let him tear down the walls I had built up around my heart and come inside.

I don’t know how it’s possible, but this has been both the worst year of my life, and the absolute best. what I do know is that suffering is absolutely worth it, if it means I can be even the slightest bit closer to Jesus. I do know that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light (matt. 11:30). I do know that the Lord will fulfull His purpose for me (ps. 138:8). I do know that in His presence, there is fullness of joy (ps. 16:11). And I do know that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 tim. 1:7).

He is so good, and He is waiting to rescue you out of whatever pit you’re in. whether that’s fear, lust, hopelessness – the Lord is waiting to turn your mourning into dancing.

we sang these words countless times in Jamaica, but they hold so much meaning to me now:

 

He gave me

beauty for ashes and

joy for my morning and

praise for heaviness

He put a

new song in my mouth and

a crown upon my head

He gave me life forevermore

 

He’s been so good, so so good to me

so good, so so good to me

so good, so so good to me Jesus

He’s been so good, so so good to me

so good, so so good to me

so good, so so good to me Jesus

 

You picked me up and you turned me around

and you placed my feet on the solid ground

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

 

Hallelujah. Jesus has been so, so good to me.