Is it okay for a Christian to feel lonely?

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Surely someone will be there to sit with… If not, it’s okay, I convinced myself. Sitting in my usual pew, I thought, There’s still a few more minutes; maybe someone will show. When no one I knew walked in those doors, I subconsciously gave myself a little pep talk. Maybe church alone will be neat. Just me and the Lord. But as the music started to play, I felt alone. Christians aren’t supposed to feel alone. Why do I feel like this? I’m at church. I’ve grown up in church…

And you know how it is…once your mind starts, it doesn’t stop. Well, I guess I better get used to this. The rest of my friends are graduating this year- most of them in just a few months…Then I’ll really be alone. What if I don’t find a housemate? What if next semester my extroverted self does nothing but eat, sleep, and do homework? I can’t take a year and a half of that. I’ll go crazy.

I was still mumbling the words to a song as my mind was racing faster. I knew I had to put a stop to these thoughts before they consumed me. I prayed. I prayed that God would remind me of His friendship, His love, and His plan for me. I began to think about the promises in God’s word- that He will never leave me nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). That He is truly ALL I need.

Then, a tear fell down my cheek. I’m not even sure if it was a tear of joy or sadness. As I tried to wipe it away discreetly, I noticed what song I was mumbling the words to…

He knows my name
He knows my every thought,
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call

I have a father,
He calls me his own
He’ll never leave me,
No matter where I go

This brought everything back into focus. I’m never alone. Christians can FEEL lonely, but they are NEVER truly alone.

Loneliness is a part of our human nature. Even Jesus in the flesh felt lonely at times. “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani” My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? he said just before he died on the cross (Matt 27:46).

Sometimes we’re not as honest with God as Jesus was in that moment. Instead, we reach out to something or someone more comfortable- family, friends, pets, food, money, and even social media. Sure, these things can temporarily soothe our loneliness, but they can never take it away. “Loneliness is a homesickness for God.” Expecting someone other than God to cure our loneliness is unfair and unrealistic.

Instead of reaching out to someone the moment you feel alone—go to God first. Wait for Him to make himself known. Before you even send that text or make that call, take time to be with the Lord. I can guarantee he has nothing but truth and love to speak into your heart. You are never alone!

More, More, More

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I know when God says “no,” it’s a blessing in disguise, but what if He says “no” 5 times, 20 times, 100 times? That’s the way it has felt with my summer plans. As if I wasn’t dreading being home enough, everything that I thought would make it tolerable fell through almost instantly. Last summer, I had the most amazing trip of my life studying in Spain for two months. The summer before that I spent 10 weeks working with precious kids in Dallas. So, a summer stuck in my hometown of Louisville seemed terrible. My heart had been set on interning with a Christian organization in Latin America, but that wasn’t going to happen, so I decided to work on saving money for that trip next summer. Long story short, God said “no” again. So, as of now, my summer plans include taking a class online and taking care of my mom after knee surgery (No, Mom, you’re far from a burden. Just keep reading).

Lately, I’ve been trying to dodge the question “What are you doing this summer?” because to be honest, it has been hard to accept my mundane summer plans, especially in comparison to my past summers.

After weeks of wallowing in self-pity over my lame summer plans, I had a wake up call. We always want more, more, more. Bigger summer plans. Better memories. Cooler pictures. However, when we want more, we are indicating that everything else in the past is worth less- even in terms of spirituality.

I was underestimating what God could do with me in my hometown. I wanted to serve Him in Honduras, and I pray that there will still be a time for that, but for now, I have to love and serve where I am. And that should never be a burden.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 says “…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

A quiet life for the Lord is still a life for the Lord. A summer at home is still a summer I can serve the Lord.

So, instead of saying “I have to stay at home. I have to take care of my mom. I have to take a summer class.” I’m learning to say, “I get to have time at home. I get to take care of my mom. I get to earn some extra college credits this summer.”

And with this newer, more positive attitude, I’ve added more exciting possibilities. “I get to join a college-age bible study through my new church. I get to take a family vacation. I get to volunteer with Spanish-speakers in my hometown.”

May my summer and your summer glorify the Lord wherever we are.

I Was Not Created for Marriage.

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Where do you see yourself in five years? No really. What would your answer be? If I had to guess it would include your ideal spouse and dream job. The reason I say that is because I know what my own answer would be: “Married (or at least engaged) and teaching.” While there’s nothing wrong with that, I hope I always remember that I was not created to simply get married and then die. There is so much more to life than a romantic relationship and even a good career. Like any college girl, I do want Prince Charming and a family, but I’ve finally learned that I was created for more than one man. God’s #goals for me include so much more.

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It’s depressing when you think about it- that our society, even our Christian community, has made it seem that our sole purpose in life is to get married. If it were that simple, the Bible would be one verse: “Fall in love with your high school sweetheart, get engaged (oh and 100 likes on the picture of the proposal), have a beautiful wedding, and then have perfect children.” But last time I checked, that’s not what it says.

In fact, Paul actually encourages singleness. Read 1 Corinthians 7 if you don’t believe me. Verses 34 and 35 say “…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. 35 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.”

Okay, take a breather. To us not-yet-married people, this doesn’t mean we have to be single forever. And for the taken/married, it’s not to offend you either. God loves marriage. He even says, “it is good for man to not be alone.” He created Adam and Eve! But like Paul says, it’s also okay to be single. As we’ve all heard, “there’s a reason for everything,” or as I prefer to say, “God gives a reason for everything that happens.” That includes the seasons of singleness.

I guess all I’m saying is stop searching for Mr. Right. Live in the present, and “Step back and be amazed how short Valentine’s Day, marriage, and even our lives really are by comparison to glory. Know that they will all pass away in an instant and pale in beauty, worth, and happiness before … our Savior.” You were not created for marriage. You were created to glorify God. If that is through a marriage, so be it. But don’t wait to get married to do that.

Take a moment to ask yourself- can I imagine a full, happy life without a husband or wife? If you can’t, your focus is more on a person than Jesus. Your self-worth, joy, and peace come from a temporary thing that isn’t even guaranteed. The Lord assures us that true joy is in Him alone.

“You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Psalm 16:11

So, “…as much as God loves marriage, he didn’t design it to bear the burden of our eternal purpose and happiness.” We were made for more.

Calling Bull on “Self-fulfillment Trips”

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Okay, the talk of the town (at least at my Christian university and among my Facebook friends) is whether short-term mission trips are meaningful or not. I recently read the article “7 Reasons Why Your Two Week Trip to Haiti Doesn’t Matter: Calling Bull on ‘Service Trips’,” and it filled me with sadness and anger. I must say- the title is much harsher than the article itself, but my point is: short-term mission trips have real value. Yes, motives vary person to person and trip to trip, but as my friend puts it, “don’t ever put someone down because they aren’t serving in your ideal form of ministry.”

Popular arguments against short–term missions include abandonment issues- can you even bond with the people you’re working with in so little time & if so, is it fair to love on them for a week and then leave? At first, this seems like a valid point, but how many Christians say that week-long Vacation Bible School is a waste? Not near as many as those who say that week-long overseas trips are. But why? Just like a short-term trip, at VBS you’re investing in kids you’ve never seen and probably will never see again. But that doesn’t mean you’re wasting your time. I accepted Jesus as my Savior and became a Christian at a VBS at a church that was not my home church. Without that week, my entire life would be different. Thank you to those VBS workers who realized five days was worth it.

Also, we as Christians have got to stop being so quick to judge! I think we judge our own family of believers even more harshly than we do nonbelievers. Those that do not support my short-term mission trips may look at my photos on Facebook and roll their eyes. And if you only think about 17 days in Cambodia or 8 days in Guatemala, it’s easy to assume that each trip was to check “good deed” off my annual To Do list. But hear me out…

By no means am I perfect, and evangelism is still not totally comfortable for me, but do not judge my heart based on my Facebook album of my short-term trips. You don’t know what I do the rest of the year or behind-the-scenes. Do you know that I’ve been learning Spanish for the past 8 years? So that I can love on those who are different than me. So that I can do international missions without being that white girl who knows nothing about the culture she’s serving in. And do you know that I donate? I help out organizations on a regular basis. Because when I’m not serving in places like Guatemala, others are. And finally, do you know my plans for the future? Do you know that I’ve always considered and prayed about being a teacher and missionary full time in a third world country? Do you know that I’m saving up for a long-term trip to Central America? The internship I have in mind is one that you have to pay for, and it’s a lot. Yes, pay to do work. To help people. To teach. To love. To serve. All for the sake of the gospel.

I know there are plenty of stories like mine. Plenty of people have found their calling and chosen their careers based on what some call “self-fulfillment trips.” I don’t know many missionaries who left the U.S. spontaneously to serve in a foreign country full time without ever seeing the suffering in another country first. Likely, that full-time missionary you’re thinking of went on short trips first, felt a call, and answered the call.

And if short-term trips are so useless, why do full-time missionaries organize them? Because they have a purpose.

You see a self-fulfillment trip …. I see a mission trip

You see a desperate GoFundMe… I see a chance for those who can’t go to support those who can

You see selfies with the poor… I see a newfound joy in the one holding the camera (and the children huddled around)

You see a meaningless short-term mission trip… I see relationships built, hope renewed, and souls saved

The Bible tells us to go. To love people. And to spread the Good News. It doesn’t say to do these things only if you have a long time to do them. It simply says “go.”

If you’re curious to learn more about short-term missions, check out an older blog post of mine here.

Note: not every short-term mission trip is done well or with the right heart, but these types of trips are a disgrace to the church, and they should not be used to stereotype all short-term trips

20 Signs You’ve Studied Abroad in Spain

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  1. You can’t get used to the fact that the U.S. doesn’t have siesta.
  2. ….or tapas!
  3. You can’t stop saying “vale” in Spanish class…even though nobody in your class is from Spain
  4. You learned pretty quick that “going out” before midnight is embarrassing.
  5. You thought Walmart was big, but now you’ve seen El Corte Ingles– the definition of one stop shopping
  6. Bread made up like 75% of your diet.
  7. You witnessed a lot of good flamenco
  8. but you still can’t do it yourself
  9. You ate churros con chocolate no matter the time of day
  10. When you got back, you actually had to remind yourself of English words
  11. …and you realize how young the U.S. really is
  12. You never drove a car during your entire stay
  13. You still can’t believe you ate dinner at 9:30.
  14. Oh & Cien Montaditos. Need I say more?
  15. You now appreciate refills and split checks in restaurants…
  16. …and wearing t-shirts and tennis shoes in public!
  17. You feel like you’ve mastered public transportation
  18. You’ve seen more beautiful cathedrals in one country than most people will their entire lives.
  19. Oh and beaches. So many beautiful beaches!
  20. And you really know you’ve studied in Spain… if you can’t stop talking about it!!

Part 2: Why God isn’t Answering

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Why isn’t God answering your prayers? For starters, are you saved? Have you put your faith in Christ and called Him Lord of your life? If not, maybe God isn’t listening. Okay, let me back up. There’s a difference between hearing and listening. I think God hears all prayers, but he doesn’t listen to them all. He is Creator of the entire universe and more than capable of hearing prayers by any person in any language any place at any time, BUT sometimes he doesn’t. Before we are saved, we are separated from God. The way I see Isaiah 59:2 is that God does not listen to the prayers of unbelievers. Until we accept the truth of the gospel and receive forgiveness of our sins through Jesus, we are enemies of God. Only once we have a relationship with Christ do we have access to God. THEN, our prayers can (and will) be heard and answered.

If you are a believer and a prayer of yours didn’t get the result you expected, it doesn’t mean God didn’t hear. So, if you got a “no” or a “wait,” remember these things:

  • Our prayers have to line up with God’s will. Perhaps one of the most misused verses in the Bible is Psalm 37:4 “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” That doesn’t mean God will give you everything you want. What our flesh wants is usually not what God wants. BUT, if we are constantly filling ourselves with things of God, our desires begin to line up with His.
  • Don’t give God allotted time. I’ve heard the saying “Give God a deadline,” and those words make me cringe. Don’t give up praying just because God doesn’t answer within 24 hours or even in ten years. His timing is perfect. Keep praying. And expect Him to move.
  • General prayers lead to general answers. Maybe God is answering, but you’re totally missing it, because your prayers have been “safe,” vague, and repetitive. You’re more likely to notice God at work if your prayers are specific & expectant rather than general & full of doubt.
  • Sometimes God says no. And that’s okay. Imagine if your mom or dad never told you “no” when you were a toddler. Or a teenager. Things would’ve ended in disaster. I think that’s how it is with God, too. He tells us no because He loves us and because He’s wise. What kind of God would He be if He said yes to things He knew would hurt us? Remember, He knows the big picture; we don’t.

So, as I keep telling myself, keep the faith. Scripture says over and over that God hears the prayer of the righteous.

“I wait for You, Lord; You will answer, O Lord.” Psalm 38:15

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Part 1: You Think You Know All About Prayer

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Christians think they know all about prayer. It’s just talking to God, right? Well, yes and no. Before you decide you know everything about prayer, answer these questions. Be honest with yourself.

Do you pray to God like he’s Santa Clause or the Almighty God?

Think about the last time you prayed. Whether it was this morning or a month ago, what were you praying for? Did you ask God for something before taking a moment to praise and thank Him? He deserves more than our wish lists. He wants us to come to Him for everything – for wisdom and for help, yes, but also for praise.

Do you pray expectantly?

1 John 5:14-15 says, “ This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

Do you truly believe that? God doesn’t want half-hearted prayers. He doesn’t want prayers out of guilt or obligation. He doesn’t want you to have a plan B if your prayer doesn’t “work”. It’s kinda like this- if you’re praying for a weekend of no rain, don’t bring an umbrella. Expect God to answer and bring your sunglasses.

James 1:6-8 says, But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

Ouch. Did you catch that? If we ask God for something yet doubt that He’ll actually do it, we should not expect to receive anything from Him. That verse in James is hanging over my bed. It’s a good reminder. It’s convicting. It’s truth.

And finally, do your actions match your prayers?

“You cannot pray for an A on a test and study for a B. You cannot pray for a faithful relationship and still live an unfaithful life. Moral of the story is you cannot pray for something and act less. Don’t question my God and His abilities when your actions don’t match your prayers”

2 Chronicles 7:14 “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Are you seeking Him? Are you listening for Him? Are you living for Him? If one of these is missing, maybe that’s why your prayers don’t seem to be getting answered.

Deuteronomy 4:7 “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?”

So, give God your best prayers. Prayers of praise. Prayers of belief. Prayers that are not a last resort. I promise He is listening.

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