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I May Not Be Happy, but I am Joyful

By Abbie Hutchins


Lately I've been thinking a lot about grief. I feel like for the last year of my life, I've been grieving. I've been grieving the deaths of loved ones, and those people who could have so easily been me but somehow I was spared. Lately I've realized that I've been grieving the loss of past or potential relationships, the loss of childhood ignorance, and the loss of the life I'd so perfectly planned out in my head my entire life. So many different kinds of grief piling one on top of the other. 


In the last month I've taken inventory of all of these losses and while I'm sad about losing all these things in my life and having to live without them doesn't necessarily make me happy, I was so confused to find that when I counted up and gave names to all this hurting in my life I still felt this deep sense of joy throughout all this grief. This might sound completely crazy, I know, but it's not really like the "Everything is going right in my life so I'm going to be joyful," type of joy or the "I just got a Moe's burrito, so I'm going to be joyful" kind of joy. This kind of joy isn't coming from within me, but rather the God that invented joy. The God who is the only source of real joy. Like capital J Joy


Multiple times this year I've found myself in a place of total devastation (with ugly crying and everything), but at the same time I feel a overflowing joy inside me that gives me hope and makes me want to do nothing else but fall to my knees and worship at His feet with a face cracking smile on my face. I think that's the game changer: Hope. The fact that I know that God has a plan and a purpose and an unspeakable love for me and everyone else in this world. The fact that He loves me so much and has it all handled gives me so much peace and hope about the situation that I can't help but be joyful.


Anybody who knows me will tell you how happy I am all the time and I can see why people say that. I'm a talker, I love being around other people, and I get excited over simple things. A trifecta of happiness. Only it isn't. I was talking with my roommates the other day about one of the bigger obstacles I've had to face in my life and amidst their pep talk they both told me "Abbie you're easily the happiest person I know." I realized in that moment that I wasn't happy, not even close. I told them haven't been a happy person for months. After a beat of silence one of them responded, "Okay, you may not be happy right now. That's okay. But you should never lose your sense of joy because your joy is from your hope in what God's love and plan for you." 


The bumps and scrapes of my life and the grieving that comes as a result are chump change compared to what God has planned for me. Romans 8:18 says similarly,"The pain that you've been feeling can't compare to the joy thats coming." Let yourself grieve and be unhappy, even live in that state for a while if you need to, but remember that even though you may not be happy, you can always choose to be Joyful.

Do You Know God?

By Mary Catherine Conner


“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.”

// Ephesians 1:17-20


Do you know God?


Not the type of “know” as in, you know of God. Not the type of “know,” in that you know all the correct answers in Sunday School. But the type of know where you have a deep intimate relationship with Him, with the One who came to rescue you. Do you desire to personally know more about Christ?

Do you have a head knowledge of who God is or a heart knowledge?


I used to think I knew who God is. I went to church my entire life so surely I knew who Jesus was, and still is. I knew all the right answers in Sunday School, I knew it all, but I only knew Christ in my head. It was in 5th grade when I had that heart transformation to know Christ personally, in my heart.


Knowledge of God is to know Him personally and experientially, not to just know Him intellectually. 


Think about it this way: When you meet someone new, how do you get to know them? By reading biographical information or historical data about them? That will enable you to know about the person, but not actually know them on a deeper level. In order to actually know someone you have to spend time with that person, there is no shortcut. The same holds true to God. In order for you to actually know God you must spend time with Him. Reading the Bible and devotional matter is wonderful, but there is no substitute to knowing God personally. The difference is spending time with Him. Study Jesus’ life in the Gospels to see what He was like on earth two thousand years ago, and get to know Him in prayer now.


Personal knowledge of Christ will transform your life.


“And this is the way to have eternal life– to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” // John 17:3


Just as you get to know a person, you form a relationship with them. The more you personally know God you form a relationship with Him. To know God is to have a love for Him and obedience to Him. It’s to have intimacy with Christ.

Many people today only have a head knowledge of who Christ is and that honestly breaks my heart because having that personal one-on-one relationship with Christ is 10x better. When you experience the Holy Spirit filling you as you grow to know Christ more, you have the desire to continue to know Him and more about Him.


My prayer for myself is to contine to seek God and know Him personally more and more each and every day.

I pray for the reader that wants to actually, personally, know Christ. I pray “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you,”  just as Paul prayed in Ephesians.


Blessings,

Mary Catherine Conner


First appeared on Mary Catherine's blog https://alliamisurrenderblog.wordpress.com/

Who is the Gospel?

By Emily Arnold


Jesus. 


That is who I think of when I think of the Gospel.  The single person who changed the fate of the world some 2,000 years ago and who continues to work in lives today.  The question of who Jesus is has torn nations and peoples apart for years and how you answer this question determines how you view the Gospel.  I believe that Jesus is the Son of God sent to the world to be a new covenant for God’s chosen people.  


This act of love by God radically changed the world and the centuries old idea of religion.  In his time on earth, Jesus pushed the boundaries of what a faithful follower of God should look like to an uncomfortable limit.  He came as the Savior of the world in a manger, not a throne; grew up a carpenter’s son, not a prince in a palace; performed miracles through love and received rebuke; offered every person eternal life and received death on a cross by those same people.  


Yet, despite the rebuke, he looked through the cross, sin, and shame and chose to love us simply asking that we accept who he is.  I look at the life of Jesus and see every act as an intentional step toward bringing heaven to earth, divine love to a world of hate.  I see him as the Son of God, Messiah, and Savior of the world.


Accepting this truth has changed my life in more ways than I’m sometimes willing to admit.  Jesus has changed my mourning into joy and my anxiety into peace and because of this, I choose to follow his example and love like he loved.  I fail constantly, but with the grace of God I can try again with no fear of condemnation.  As I live in this love, I am called to share it through service to others, spending my life in ministry.

Home Is Where the ______ Is

By Matthew Balte


Home is where the heart is. We’ve all heard that, we’ve all had it beat into our brains through motivational posters, trendy wall art, and through other words. Through this, we often think that we can only have one ‘home’, and I get that. There may be one place that speaks to us more, or that we’re drawn to more easily, but we can have more than one ‘home.’


"Home is wherever your momma is.”–Janice Balte, my mom. That couldn’t be more true, and I hope I always remember that, no matter where I end up. This is true because there is no love like a parents’ love for their child, also home cooking. Because home cooking is delicious and that’ll never change. That is home number 1. Always, always, always.


To me, home is where you’re surrounded by those you love and those who love you. I’m convinced that we all have more than one place where we are surrounded by that love. And while it may be hard to balance multiple homes, it is an incredible blessing. It’s an incredible blessing to know that you have people 4 minutes away that have your back just as much as people 4 hours away.


I have homes in Watkinsville, Dahlonega, and now Statesboro. It’s huge for me and an amazing thing to know that I have three foundations supporting me that will always be there.


This weekend I leave one home to visit another, and as excited as I am to be back in Dahlonega for a few days, when it comes time to leave I’ll be just as excited to be back in Statesboro, because that’s another home for me now. I have amazing friends in both places that are supporting me every day in everything I do. That is a nice, warm feeling to have.


For the longest time I tried to reject the idea of having multiple homes. Although everything pointed to it being nothing but great, I kept pushing and pushing it away. Finally getting over myself and letting God do His thing of surrounding me with awesome people was the best thing I’ve done for myself in a long time.


Home may be where the heart is, but your heart may be (and absolutely can be) in multiple places. Home is always wherever mom is. Home is where you’re surrounded by those you love and those who love you. Home is safe. Home pushes you. Home loves you. And to have that in multiple places, that’s a great feeling.


As always, thanks for reading. Be you and be awesome.


This post first appeared on Balte's Blog: OnBaltEaglesWings

Why I Choose To Be A Christian

By Emily Arnold


Let’s start with an important fact: I am a Christian.


This means I believe in an omniscient God, who is the only god, who made all that we see and even more that we don’t see. I also believe that this God sent His one and only perfect son, Jesus, to die a brutal death as a sacrifice for human race’s sin so we can spend eternity with Him in heaven that I also believe exists… spiritually, at least. Becoming a Christian is simply truly repenting for your sins and accepting that Jesus Christ’s death is enough to save you.


For me, the most important and exciting part of being a Christian is the Jesus part. The idea of a perfect person dying for me is enough to give me chills and bring me to tears, because let’s face it, I’m anywhere from perfect, yet this perfect person died for me?


That’s what I believe wholeheartedly.


So, what does it look like for a 20 (almost 21) year-old college student to be a Christian? There are the obvious outward things that I don’t do: I don’t spend my nights drinking and my days hungover, I don’t blaze up (do people still say that?) before class, I don’t have sex with anyone, and I don’t cuss every other word. Honestly, I don’t want to do these things. But I do want to spend time with the God who made everything we see and more, I want to read the Bible, and I want to live a life that will last longer than nights at the bars ever will.


Then there are the inward feelings that come with being a 20 year-old Christian: like the feeling of knowing I am loved enough for someone to die for me, how I no longer feel anxiety every day about what I should do after receiving that coveted diploma, how even when I go through a breakup or drama with friends I know there is someone faithful to stay with me through it, and when I do something I know I shouldn’t have there is unfathomable grace to take away the pain.


Being a Christian isn’t about following a list of rules, but about experiencing a love that will last longer and satisfy more than anything in this world.


Because of these feelings I get to experience and the facts I believe are true, I choose to follow Jesus and his example. 1 Timothy 1:5 says “the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (ESV). A Christian’s aim is to love with a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.


Because I follow Jesus, I aim to love everyone that I come in contact with. 


Because I am also human, I fail to do these things more often than I would like, but that just means I work again and again to love and live better than I did before.


This is what I mean when I say I am a Christian. I praise God and I strive to live and love like Jesus. And everything that comes with it is worth it.


This article first appeared on ReflectorGSU.com