Finding Contentment in the Struggle {Guest Post at the Unbound Blog}

Finding Contentment in the Struggle

Do you ever feel stuck, dry of joy, just going through the motions of mundane life, day after day, wondering when the cycle will ever end?

 

Sometimes I do too.

 

Last week, I got the chance to write for my college’s student life blog. As much as the post applies directly to Lumerit students — (Lumerit is an accelerated distance learning program for people pursuing a college degree) — I’ve been learning a lot about what contentment means.

Not just as a student, no — as a person, a Christian, a girl trying to make her way in the world.

Here’s an excerpt from the post, and a peep into my current musings on the subject:

And slowly, slowly, through the ruts, the challenges, the pain, the stress – I’m learning that contentment starts in the little moments. That if I’m depending on my next achievement to make me content, I’m missing what contentment is: joy right where I am.

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How Vulnerability Can Bring Us Beyond Ourselves

How Vulnerability Can Bring Us Beyond Ourselves.png

Sometimes we really don’t need someone to come along and give us a pep talk.

 

When life’s breaking us, we don’t need someone to come and shout, “Hey! You can do this! You’re amazing! Make your life whatever you want it to be! You are unstoppable!” because we’ve felt firsthand that those things are not right all the time.

 

We’ve all experienced failure.

 

We’ve hit roadblocks of all sorts.

 

We’ve felt that cluelessness when it comes to knowing what exactly we should do.

 

And so the pep talks often feel empty, shallow, phony. Hollow and falsely encouraging comments coming from people who seem to have their lives together when we do not.

 

Because often, instead of hearing “Hey, you’ve got this,” we long to hear Someone say, “I know this seems impossible, but I will be with you through all of it.”

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More Of My Book: Mending (+ free wallpaper!)

More of My Book_ Mending

Happy Tuesday, lovely readers. I hope you’ve had a wonderful week.

Tuesday always creeps up on me and I almost forgot to post. But I suppose I didn’t, since I’m here now.

 

I was inspired this week by one of Ann Voskamp’s blog posts. It made me cry (in a good way), and I highly recommend reading it. Her writing is exquisite.

 

Anyway, I wanted to share the final segment of chapter one of my book. I’m at 13k right now, and because April so far has just been chaotic and impossible, I’ve brought my goal down to 20k. That doesn’t mean anything significant – it just means I’ll be writing at a more manageable pace.

 

My book is turning out to be different than I imagined, but I’m really happy with it. And my cabin mates – Hannah, Jonathan, Hann, Jessi, Anna, Rachel, another Anna, and a few others still – are some of the most encouraging people I’ve met. I’ve accomplished more than I ever would’ve without the encouragement.

 

Today’s segment is on depression. Sound depressing? Maybe. It’s a tough topic. But instead of giving us the excuse to wade neck-high in self pity over our feelings, I want us to find hope in the truth that we have to hold onto.

 

Enjoy!

 

The word depression used to frighten me. I thought of teenagers sitting alone in their rooms, wearing all black, blasting rock music, and choosing not to be happy. It was always a touchy subject in my mind, and a bit intimidating.

But then I experienced depression of my own and my entire perspective changed.

Contrary to popular belief, depression is not a bad word, nor is it entirely a bad thing. We shouldn’t act as though topics such as depression should be avoided; rather, we should confront the problems we have without shame.

The problems arise when we allow our depression to control us. Bad things happen when we let our minds wander much too far, when we allow ourselves to think such negative, distorted thoughts, and when we trade God’s truths for our feelings.

And as much as depression has become such a cultural norm, and it should not be brushed under the rug as “a ploy for attention,” we need to face it and learn how not to be consumed by it.

 

What is Depression? Can Christians Be Depressed?

 

As I’ve said before, I have nowhere near all the answers. I’m not a professional. I’m just a girl wanting to share what I’ve experienced and what I’m learning in my crazy life, and the things that have immensely helped me.

I know that depression can have multiple forms, none of which should be taken lightly.

Whether your depression is medical, clinical, or emotional, it hurts. I know it does. It hurts to feel empty. It hurts to feel like nothing matters. It hurts to feel constantly weighted by a seemingly unshakable dark cloud. It hurts, because depression is a fog, and you can’t see anything in front of you except the inky blackness. All that’s visible is the here and now, which can seem to be so overwhelming when everything feels utterly hopeless.

People often attempt to say that Christians can’t suffer from depression for the simple reason that our lives should be in total order once we’re saved. Or, that being depressed is a sin or a petty feeling and we should just get over it.

I highly disagree.

Instead, I’d say this. Christians often suffer from depression, and torture themselves over it because they believe they shouldn’t feel the pain or numbness. This only leads to feeling worse, because you can’t just whip yourself out of a mindset or condition – especially one that’s not even a spiritual problem in the first place. Healing is a process. If it’s medical or clinical depression, a person will need medical attention, and not just lectures from someone ordering them to “snap out of it.” Similarly, those with emotional depression will need time to heal. Time to rebuild the joy in their hearts. No amount of sermons, books, blog posts, lectures, or conversations can heal a tormented soul – only God can.

 

Is There Anything I Can Do About My Depression?

 

What sets us apart from the rest of the world is the fact that we have a hope to hold onto. We know that God will hold us up when our weakness is the greatest. We know that God cares for us and loves us unconditionally. We know that in our Lord, we can find true rest. We know that God’s presence is with us always. We know that in our lowest times, God still reaches us. We know that even when life is full of torment, God loves us and wants us to rely on Him for strength.

Hearing those things doesn’t make everything instantly feel better; of course it doesn’t. It may take years to grasp those concepts, even the ones found in the verses we memorized as kids. In the middle of our depression, those truths, while comforting, may seem distant or not applicable to us. This is normal. We’ve trained our minds to think things contrary to truth, and it’s only natural for it to take time for us to come back to what’s right and good.

Nevertheless, we must keep feeding our minds with what the Bible says. Thinking the thoughts that God says about us. Reading the Scriptures over and over. Praying for God to bring us through. Meditating on verses that remind us that God has a plan through it all. Believing God for the strength and peace He promises.

And while none of these things are magic, they help. And slowly, with the proper approach and by filling our minds with truth, we can begin to mend.

 

*aj

 

Still reading? Enjoy a free wallpaper!

mend wallpaper

Independence: The Good and the Bad

Independence- The Good and the Bad

 

I caught myself the other day thinking something I tend to say a lot.

 

“I’ve got it.” I say it when I’m trying to do something on my own. I say it when I’m trying to take the burden off someone else to do something. I say it when I’m trying to handle something on my own. I say it to be independent.

 

And in this world, independence is such a thing that’s admired. That somehow by doing whatever we want because we’re strong and free, we are superior people. It’s a message that gets pushed and shoved in our faces – You can do it; don’t let anything stop you. You don’t need help.

 

And for some, this is an empowering message. An inspiring one that keeps us going on, knowing that we don’t have to give up. But it soon turns into a dangerous message, and here’s why.

 

The “just do it” message only works if you can do it. That is, if you’re capable.

 

And being human as I am, I’m not capable of everything. I collapse under stress. I don’t have perfect faith. I’m tempted at times. I stay home alone for one afternoon and find that OH MY GOODNESS WHAT WOULD I DO WITHOUT MY FAMILY. (I love you, family.)

 

Frankly, I live needing help. But we were meant to be this way. In needing help, we allow ourselves to be dependent on God, and we do not need to suffer alone.

 

Hebrews 4:15-16

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

 

Jesus sympathizes with us because He experienced everything we do. He was tempted. He experienced pain – He was crucified, for crying out loud! To think that we must always be independent is to deny the strength and peace that He offers.

 

Check this passage out as well.

 

Philippians 4:4-7

 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

I like being independent, I really do. But I know I can’t always. I’m not perfect, nor should I try to be. It’s a good thing to lean on God, to rely on His strength. It’s a good thing because He has no capacity to fail. He will never leave, never stop loving us, never give up on us.

 

No matter what we do, we are loved and cared for. Our bad choices are not counted against us. And even when we doubt, God proves Himself to us.

 

Instead of chasing independence, let’s chase the One who gives us true freedom to rest in Himself. Because that’s the most freeing thing of all.

 

*aj

When Happiness Isn’t Enough

When Happiness Isn’t Enough

Dear Readers,

 

I want you to know that sometimes, I dream.

 

I dream of a big future, a bright one, a happy one.

 

As I get older, I’m thinking more and more about where and who I’ll be in a few years.

 

I’ll be honest, I want to be an editor. Most of you, if you know me, have probably heard me blabber on about that. I want to edit books, and live in an adorable top floor apartment in New York City, drinking coffee and cranking music at all hours of the day, wearing cute clothes, reading lots of books, and hanging with my good friends on the weekends.

 

While that whole scenario seems highly improbable and dream-like (not the editing part, I’m actually serious about that), there has been an underlying wish there that I’ve had my whole life.

 

Before I completely reveal that, I’d like to take you back to when I was five years old. My cousin and I were always close, and still are to this day. She and I were at our grandparents’ house, and she asked me, “Amanda, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I thought for a moment, and then replied, “I want to be a singer or an actress.”

 

I always hated to sing or speak in front of people, because I was painfully shy and self-conscious, but I still had a dream in my heart that one day, I’d find something to really make me happy, and right then it seemed like acting or singing was the way to go.

 

I love to sing, and I also love to entertain the delusion that I can act. But as I’ve matured, I’ve realized that neither of those is probably the path I’ll wind up taking. I enjoy those things, but I don’t feel a passion for making either of them my life’s calling.

 

However, I do love words, if you hadn’t already noticed. So for me, it seems like editing would be a good career, at least for the next couple years or so.

 

And sometimes, when I think of my mental “wish-list” for the future, I put an asterisk besides everything, saying “as long as it makes me happy, which I’m sure it will.”

 

I think that by having a certain job, a certain sized paycheck, a certain house, certain friends, certain environment, certain material possessions, that then, I’ll be happy.

 

But you know what?

 

Chasing happiness is like pursuing a shadow, or trying to catch the wind. You’re always striving, but never savoring what you have.

 

And while this seems a tad depressing, keep on reading, because I promise that it doesn’t have to be.

 

I told myself when I was young that when I “became a teenager,” that I’d be happy and free and all that jazz. I told myself that when I finally got a job and paycheck, I’d feel contented that I was somewhat independent. I told myself that when I finally started a blog, I’d feel an overwhelming sense of peace and purpose, and feel like I was important, that I was contributing something to the world, that I was valuable. I told myself that when I started dressing with more style and less Aéropostale graphic tees I’d feel more beautiful. I’ve told myself so many things over the years about what new thing would make me happy.

 

And I have news for you.

 

That happiness is so short-lived and shallow, and so easy to move on from as soon as we find “that next thing” to chase after. All those things have happened, and I’m not any happier because of them. Perhaps they’ve added some dimension to my life, but nothing on this earth can fulfill the hole in my heart for something more.

 

But there is One who can.

 

If I didn’t have my faith, I don’t know where I’d be. I don’t know who I’d be.

 

Things don’t make me happy, per se, but I am still a satisfied person, with joy in my life.

 

Philippians 4:11-13

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

 

This is one of the most quoted passages in the Bible. The last verse, at least. In this chapter, Paul tells us that in everything, the key to contentment is facing all things with the strength of Christ.

 

Now strength may not seem to connect with being content or happy, but let’s think about it.

 

This isn’t the strength that athletes claim before a competition. This isn’t “I can win this thing because I’m mentioning Jesus, and then I’ll get this gorgeous trophy showing how amazing my life is.” It’s facing every aspect of life with the mindset that we are never alone in facing trials. It’s knowing that life won’t always be good, but trusting God that He has a plan in all of it.

 

That, my friends, is what brings us to true contentment.

 

We can chase things, but they’re never going to fill us 100%. Or we can choose Jesus, to sustain us, to strengthen us when we succumb to our weaknesses, to hold us together when we fall apart. We can look to His grace when we fail, and mess up, and our lives are in disarray.

 

And that’s satisfying to me.

 

I know that I’m doing right now what He wants me to. I know that I’m letting Him lead my life. I know that I’m imperfect, but He has forgiven me.

 

That is what fulfills me.

 

That is what brings joy to my heart when I’m depressed.

 

That is what gives me meaning, a reason to go on, and inspires me to move forward.

 

I might not ever be rich, or famous, or have really wonderful stuff. And you know what? I’m okay with that.

 

Because life is about so much more than just being happy.

 

*aj

Where Does Your Strength Come From?

Where Does Your

I think this is one of the most honest posts I’ve ever written. It’s nerve-wracking to post something so open, and even though I’ve talked to so many of you through comments and emails and everything, it isn’t easy to be straightforward. But here I am, and here’s my post. I hope it encourages you.

 

I’m not always sure how people perceive me, whether online or in real life. Like, what’s the impression people get when they read what I write or listen to me talk? Am I quirky? Confident? Cold? Bubbly? Fake? Scared?

 

I don’t know exactly how people see me, but I know how I see myself so many times.

 

Stressed. Weak. Afraid. Uneasy. Uncomfortable. Anxious. Frozen. Apprehensive. Shall I go on?

 

In my prayer journal this week, I wrote this.

 

“Please give me strength to face this day, this year, this life. I can’t do it on my own.”

 

It’s not as though there are too many major things going on in my life. In my head, of course, I run through a million things I need to do, tests to study for, situations and people to pray for, words I need to write, things I need to practice, jobs I need to do for people, how much I need to work, how long it’s okay to spend reading.

 

And it stresses me out.

 

The more pressures I’m put under, the weaker and more vulnerable I feel. I feel these ugly doubts creep up into my mind, that say things like, who do you think you are? A ‘writer?’ Blogging doesn’t even count.  A musician? An editor? *laughs* You think you could actually ever be good at any of those things?

 

I never voice these things out loud, but I hear them.

 

And when I become conscientious of these thoughts, I realize, wow. I really can’t do this by myself.

 

The more I feel this stress and pressure, these things that I feel like I’m drowning under, the weaker I find myself. But the beautiful thing about my weaknesses is that I do not need to rely on my own strength.

 

2 Corinthians 2:9-10

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

If I am self-sufficient and relying on my own strength to survive, I reject God in my life. And for the love of all things that taste like coffee, I don’t want to do that. I know I can not sustain myself and succeed, and so I gladly surrender.

 

Matthew 11:28

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

 

Psalm 18:2

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

 

Rest. Rest is what I need. When I know I can collapse into the arms of Jesus and give Him my burdens, I can face my day. My year. My life.

 

Are you overwhelmed? Run to Jesus, not away from Him. Are you scared? Seek refuge in your Heavenly Father, and not in yourself. Are you weak? Find your strength in your savior, and He will give you everything you need.

 

*aj

Confusion in Doctrine: I Can Handle That.

Confusion in Doctrine- I Can Handle That.

It’s crazy how many things go around as universally acknowledged truths when in actuality, they’re just some random person’s thoughts that people think sounds good.

In Christian circles, quotes become doctrine, and people get…confused.

A lot of people say, “God will never give you more than you can handle.”

Okay…well, if this is true, then why does cancer happen? Why do loved ones die without being saved? Why do disabilities happen? Why do thousands of casualties happen when fighting for freedom? Why do school shootings happen? Tsunamis? Hurricanes that wipe out entire cities?

So apparently, I can just “handle” all these bad things? Um, no, I can’t.

I can’t handle these things because I’m human. God never meant for us to handle these things alone, because welcome to the universe, we’re fragile.

However, it doesn’t stop there.

When bad things happen that we cannot handle, we are forced to rely on God.

Hard times come – trust me, I know – and in them we have a choice. We can either say, “I’m going to do this by myself,” or “God, the only way I’m going to get through this is by trusting You to help me.”

I can either rely on my strength, or God’s.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Romans 8:37

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

We are more than conquerors because Jesus is the conqueror. We weren’t the ones who did the conquering. He is, and gives that victory to us.

I read a blog post recently on a favorite blog of mine by Phylicia Masonheimer. It got me thinking, because I’ve thought this way for a while now.

I love how she phrases this point.

God gives us more than we can handle because what we can’t handle drives us to dependence on Him.” – Phylicia Masonheimer, Why God WILL Give You More Than You Can Handle. http://phyliciadelta.com/why-god-will-give-you-more-than-you-can-handle/

When we depend on Him, our relationship with our loving Heavenly Father is strengthened. It’s not because He wants to control us. He loves us, and wants us to know Him.

He created us, and saved our souls.

Life throws us more than we can handle all the time. He’s not the One who tempts us (as it says in James 1:13-15).

He has promised us that He will never leave us or forsake us.

Hebrews 13:5-6

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”

Deuteronomy 31:8

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

 

It all comes down to this. Are we going to rely on ourselves, or on God?

Are we going to trust ourselves, or God?

Are we going to depend on ourselves, or on the only One who can handle our troubles?

*aj