Encouragement & Hope
Submitted by Jennifer Lutz
Hold On To God
We are living in strange times, full of uncertainty and struggles. It may seem like God is distant or doesn’t care about what is happening in the world. But in my experience, even when it seems that way, that is not the truth.
I grew up in the church, but was bullied and had many bad experiences. I hated going each week. My mother made me go but I was miserable and did not fit in. So, while I believed in God, I did not have a relationship with Him. I was diagnosed with depression when I was ten years old and given anti-depressants. I hated myself and most people around me. I was filled with anger and hatred. I was not a very pleasant person to be around most of the time. I contemplated suicide several times. The medication helped, but I still wasn’t happy.
My freshman year of high school, my mom made me go with her to the Alpha Weekend. On the second day, there was a time to ask Jesus into your heart and pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I decided to pray because I felt like I was making a mess of my life and had nothing to lose. As I prayed, I did not have an amazing mountaintop experience, but I did feel an inner peace. As the weekend continued, I noticed I did not feel the sadness or anger anymore. When I got home, I realized I had forgotten to take my anti-depressants during the whole weekend, but I felt fine. I did not need them anymore and stopped taking them permanently.
After that, I felt completely different about myself. I knew if He could love me, then I could love myself. I had a newfound confidence; other people's opinions did not matter. I suddenly had a desire to have a real relationship with Jesus and to not just read the Bible but also really study it. I changed churches and started attending Trinity UMC when Pastor Deborah was there. I became excited to go and learn more about Christ and became very involved in various church ministries.
By my junior year of high school, I felt God was calling me to ministry. At first, I obeyed His calling and attended a Christian university. But the further along I went, the more fear began to take over. I started questioning my call and eventually gave in to the fear. I changed from majoring in biblical studies to behavioral health, was less involved in church, and started living a more secular lifestyle. This lasted for a few years, but you can only run away from God for so long before He catches up with you. In 2017, I finally gave in to God, and in obedience to Him, enrolled in seminary.
Looking back, it is clear God was present in my life, even when I felt very far from Him. As they say, hindsight is 20-20. I may have wandered away from Him, but He never left me. Fear is what pushed me away from God and fear is what is spreading in the world right now. God does not want us to live in fear. We need to focus on Him, instead of this crazy world we live in.
I’m no expert, and there are times when fear starts to take over in my
mind. During those times, I find it helpful to cling to God’s Word, especially Psalm 91: 14-16. The Message translation is particularly powerful.
“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
“I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!”
So, when God seems far away and fear starts to seep in, hold on to God! Trust in His Word and know that He is always with you.