Put Yourself out There!

A lot of people talk about stepping outside of their comfort zone. A lot of people never do.

Talk is cheap when it comes to changing things in your life. And if you want things to change in your life, you’re going to have to step outside of your comfort zone. I don’t mean you have to strap on a parachute and jump out of a plane on a whim. Stepping outside of your comfort zone means something different to all of us. But when you do it, it may just change your life.

So you ask, why would I ever need to step outside of my comfort zone? I like it right here. And there’s your problem. We get so content with our lives, our sins, our day to day actions and the same toxic people and bad situations and decisions that we’re used to. We shouldn’t be used to it! If you want things to change in your life, first you have to realize that there’s a problem with where you’re at right now. Are you in a bad relationship that’s going nowhere? Are your friends a not-so-good influence on you? Are your relationships with people you love broken and confusing? Are you lonely, bored, unsatisfied, stressed, confused, heartbroken? Then it’s time to make a change. And change requires action.

Before you make a move on a whim, sit down and talk to God about your situation. What is His purpose for this? What does He want you to do in this? What is He trying to teach you? Ask Him to grant you confidence, wisdom and kindness.

Taking the first step is the hardest. It might mean that you have to bring up something in conversation that makes you feel uncomfortable, stand up to someone, walk away from something, walk towards a new situation, introduce yourself, apologize to someone, tell someone how you feel about them – anything! Big or small, stepping out of your comfort zone in any way is downright scary.

But here’s the thing. You have nothing to be afraid of. I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking – yes, I do, I’ve never been more scared, and I can’t stop thinking about this, and it’s gnawing and me and I just can’t bring myself to move. I’m scared.

Think about who is on your side though. Think about who is at your side right now. The God of all things! The God who created you, who sent His Son to die for you, who loves you more than you can even possibly imagine. Do you think He would ever put you in a situation that you couldn’t handle? No! That’s why you’re in this situation! Think of who you’re dealing with – people! And who’s on your side – God! Just take a look at Psalm 118:6: “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Nothing!

And if you find yourself about to turn back, think of it this way. There’s a quote from the movie We Bought A Zoo that really resonates with me when it comes to stepping outside of my comfort zone: “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

 

Finals Inspiration

It’s that dreaded time of the year again – finals. What a shame that this time also falls in with the Christmas season! There will be a lot of cramming, stressing, and late nights for the next few weeks, so if you are a student, please accept my advice for getting through this. You can do it!

1. Stress is not needed.

Stress? It’s unnecessary! Stress and worry does nothing but get your mind messed up and always thinking of the worst case scenario. Pray that God can relieve your stress through His love and care. Don’t fall into the temptation to embrace earthly pleasures to take your stress away. Only God can give you true peace.

2. Work hard, but take breaks. 

Your mind can only take so much. While it’s good to work hard, overworking yourself will only damage you more than benefit you. Remind yourself to take breaks, drink water, eat healthy, and be with friends and family.

3. Keep your go-to Bible verses handy.

John 14:27, Psalm 118:5-6, Proverbs 16:3, Psalm 94:19, Philippians 4:6-7, Romans 8:28…just to name a few. Post them where you’re most likely to be. Read them when you get stressed. Memorize them so they’ll come to mind when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

4. Remember that everything happens for a reason.

Sometimes, you study, work hard, prepare yourself, and it’s still not enough to achieve what you wanted. That’s life. Remembering that everything that happens for a reason gives me so much comfort about things like finals. So work hard, prepare yourself, and study, and then put it into God’s hands. Remember that no matter what you do, God will always be there. Although getting good grades should be your goal, finals and school aren’t everything. One bad grade is not the end of the world.

 

Lost

For the past month, I have just felt completely and utterly lost.

One minute I feel one thing, the next I am on the other end of the spectrum. One minute I want to cling to God, the next I want nothing to do with Him. One minute I want to hole up inside myself and do nothing, and the next I am tempted to sin, to turn back to the things that hurt me in the first place.

It always seems to happen this way in my life. My relationship with God grows so strong and solid, my love for him is completely on fire, and before I even realize what’s happening, I’m spiraling into sin and temptation and I can hear a voice in my head saying “don’t do this”, but I still do it, and before too long I am left broken, hurt, lonely and confused and I wonder, “How did I ever let this happen to myself?”

I let it happen too often, and I should learn from this. Yet I don’t. And after the worst of my suffering is over, I feel too guilty to turn to God. I think, I’ve ignored him for months, I have not included him in my decisions, I have knowingly ignored His pleas for me to turn to Him and instead have focused on earthly pleasures. How could He ever want me back? When most likely I will tumble into this cycle again before too long?

But He does want me back. He wants me to turn to Him, no matter how many times I turn away from Him. He forgives me. And likewise, He forgives you. I know there are so many other people in this same situation, and it’s hard. You know that God is there, you know that His path is the right path to take, but you consciously choose to go down the other path. And after you’ve seen that that path only leads to destruction, you know you need to make a turn in your life.

God is there, with open arms. He will love you and accept you no matter how many times you tumble down the wrong path. And hopefully, we will learn from our mistakes. We will turn to God the next time we meet a fork in the road and are tempted to embrace earthly pleasures. We will no longer have to feel lost, because we will know that we are always found and always have an identity through Christ.

Need to be Needed

I’ve been going through some pretty rough times lately, and after a lot of thinking, I’ve realized what’s been bothering me the most.

I want to feel needed. I feel like no one on this earth actually needs me. I feel like I don’t make a difference in anyone’s life, and there’s no real purpose for me – actually me. I depend on so many people and I need so many people to continue living the life I want to live, but I feel like no one depends on me, and no one needs me. I want to make an impact on someone’s life. I want someone to depend on me. I want my existence to completely alter someone or something. I want to wake up every morning and say, “Without me, ____ couldn’t go on. That’s why I should get up this morning.”

It’s kind of astonishing to come to this conclusion after three months of dabbling in and out of certain things and groups of people. I got a job, got a writing gig, made tons of new friends and even got in a relationship that started and ended abruptly because I realized I needed them way more than they needed me.

Things I have learned from that:

1. Don’t base your happiness off of another person.

It’s easy to do this when you’re young and inexperienced with relationships, I guess. But when I felt like a rug was pulled out from under me when the person I cared about most revealed they didn’t feel the same about me, it was heartbreaking. Now I understand the importance of not relying on someone else for your happiness and instead relying on God. God is never going to leave you (Deuteronomy 3:16) and is never going to give up on you. He is never going to stop caring for you and never going to stop loving you. Remember what He did for you? He died on a cross so that He could call you His (John 3:16). Never forget that even though people leave and change and lie and betray you, God will never, EVER do that. How could we ignore such unfailing love?

2. Don’t make yourself feel inadequate. 

You’ve got a lot more going on for yourself than you really realize. God truly realizes all aspects of ourselves, but sometimes we can be so hard on ourselves that we forget all of our great qualities. Maybe you can write well, or you are great at speaking to others, or you are an effective problem-solver. Never make the talents that God gave you seem inadequate compared to other’s. Just because you don’t have the flashiest, most impressive talent doesn’t mean that God isn’t using that for the furtherance of His kingdom (Colossians 3:23).

3. Step out of your comfort zone. 

I am NOT an outgoing person. I am a person of routines and daily comforts. I like the people I have in my life. But these past three months as I have ventured off to college, I have taken more risks and done more things out of my comfort zone than I ever did in the previous 18 years of my life. I have gone to events alone in attempts to make friends, applied for several jobs and landed one that has brought me blessings upon blessings, reached out to people I didn’t know, spoke up in class, and taken risks that have brought me heartache but have made me stronger. I’m grateful for all that God has taught me already. But I’m ready to step outside of my comfort zone even further and set new goals for myself that I never thought I would make. And if I can make these decisions to step outside of my comfort zone, then you can do. The more tasks you have to complete, the more purpose in your life you have. Join a club. Get a job. Make new friends. Volunteer. Be sure you pray with God every step of the way, and know that if things don’t work out the way you imagined, then it’s not in God’s will, and you can rest assured that He has something WAY BETTER planned for you.

4. You are needed – whether you realize it or not. 

Do you have a job? Do you have family and friends? Do you have Christian fellowship? Then you are needed. Your job wouldn’t get done if it wasn’t for you. Your family and friends’ life wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for you. Your fellow Christians wouldn’t have the same support and prayer if it weren’t for you. You are needed! If this isn’t enough for you, as it was for me, then I suggest taking a look at #3. But above all, God needs you to spread His Truth and His Gospel. Above all else, we should be looking to do this in our daily interactions with other people. Spread His Word. Let others hear His voice. Be a light for Him.

 

Jesus’s Familiar Love in an Unfamiliar Place

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about making Christian friendships and needing Christ in college. Since then, I feel like I’ve grown and learned a lot. I’ve dabbled in a lot of the Christian clubs around my campus and tried to talk to the people there. I’ve tried my hardest to strike up conversations with people I’ve never met and try and connect with them in some way. I’ve gone to events on my own and put myself out there unlike I ever did in high school.

These past three weeks have been a whole lot of unfamiliarity. That’s the best way I can describe it. The dramatic change from high school to college is enough to make your head spin. It’s all been incredibly exciting and fun, but at the same time, there’s so much unfamiliarity.

I think when I was in high school, church was just so familiar to me. It was the same thing I’d done for years. It was the same people, the same pastor, the same situations. Don’t get me wrong – I love my church and my pastor and its people. But it became a situation where my church life was just a part of my routine, not a part of me.

Since coming to college, the unfamiliar situations – people I don’t know, places I don’t know, situations I’ve never been in before – have made me crave familiarity. I didn’t know that until I stepped into my campus’s Lutheran church. Immediately I felt comfort, comfort that I now know came from Christ. Immediately I felt like I was home, I was safe. Immediately I knew that I loved this – because it was familiar.

The service was that much more enjoyable. The hymns washed over me with Christ’s love for me. I was reminded of the real reason I’m on this earth – to glorify God, and not to just go to college. I received Christ’s body and blood, and I heard the Word of God. Afterwards I had fellowship with my fellow Christians, and it was a peaceful and beautiful morning.

So why did I enjoy church so much? Because church is my home. I had never been to this church before, but I immediately felt like I belonged, like these people had known me my whole life. There’s something that comes along with being in a church service that just takes you back to reality. Jesus loves me, and He cares for me, and He’s going to be there for me: today, tomorrow, for the next four years, and for the rest of my life.

That was what I needed among this unfamiliarity. To feel Jesus’s love take over my heart. That is what I needed and what I will always need for the rest of my life. And there’s no better place to find it than in the place you find Jesus – His church.

I know this is mainly a blog for teenagers, so I want to emphasize on the fact that this doesn’t necessarily have to do with college. For those of you who are still going to your same old familiar church – enjoy it! Enjoy the familiarity. Enjoy the people and the pastor and being home. But know that there will always be a church family out there for you, wherever God takes you. There will always be a home for you while you are on this earth. And let us never forget the home that God has prepared for us for eternity – His kingdom in heaven. Let us focus our eyes and hearts on heaven and what joy is yet to come.

Making Christian Friendships

I’ve only been at college for three days and I already know that I’m going to need God’s help more than ever.

Of course, there’s the struggles of defeating temptations, getting through classes, getting along with people, but there’s also problems closer to our heart…finding a group of friends who support you and your beliefs, and finding a place where you belong.

I’ve found that’s much harder than finding my way around campus.

Granted, it’s only my third day, but something tells me that I’m going to find my closest friends in Christ. I’ve been praying fervently for God to bring me some close friends that I can talk to. Maybe He will provide me with some, maybe not.

I was a little discouraged when I went to a seminar on Keeping Your Faith in College. Out of a campus of over 40,000 people, there were seven people in that class. I looked around at my fellow Christians, and what did I see? People who were just as concerned about making friends as I was. And I wish I could reach out to people, and just speak my mind, but something holds me back every time. I think that they’ve got friends, I’m the odd man out. They’re just here to see what this is all about. They’re not really as concerned as I am.

I considered going to a Christian college, but I wanted to have the opportunities that my university has to offer in my career field. It’s certainly not the right or wrong choice for everyone. I hope I can find my place on this campus, one where I feel loved and accepted through faith in Christ.

For now, I ask humbly that you pray for me, as a large campus can make you feel so very alone at times, and I’m experiencing that already. Pray that I will make connections with my fellow Christians that will bring me lasting friendships.

College? What’s a Christian To Do?

I’m leaving for college in a few days, and all I can think is that I need God in my life more than ever. 

College brings lots of temptations. Even if you go to a Christian college, the temptations are there. Underage drinking, premarital sex, ignoring your studies and family and responsibilities, changing who you are as a person to conform to the rest of the world, and much, much more. 

So what’s a Christian to do? 

Certainly not avoid college. If college is the right path for you, a path that you’ve discussed with God, then by all means you should pursue your higher education. Temptations shouldn’t scare you away, because with a strong faith, you don’t have to submit to temptation. There are temptations everywhere in life. We live in a sinful, fallen world, where temptation lurks around every corner. College just seems to be full of temptation.

So if you’re thinking about college, heading to college for the first time, or going back to college, here are some guidelines for staying close to God that hopefully we both will be able to implement into our lives.

1. Keep your relationship with God in tact. Pray that He will help you to be strong and faithful in college, and seek friendships and relationships with other children of Christ. Before you even leave, you should be heading into college confident that God can help you in any and every situation, whether it be making friends, having a social life, surviving your classes, and avoiding falling into sin.

2. Remember prayer. Prayer is the key between you and God. Without it, your relationship will collapse. Don’t be afraid to let God know how you feel about something. He’s your counselor, 24/7, ready and willing and able to help with any situation. He will help you in the happiest and the darkest of times. Seek Him in every situation and you will find comfort in everything you do. 

3. Get involved. See what your campus has to offer as far as Christian youth groups, volunteer organizations, churches, clubs, and more. Being around other Christian people will give you a home away from home and a group of people to guide you through these next four years.

4. Have fellowship. Don’t be afraid to speak to other Christian people. Many of them will give you insight on the fact that though many people have very different walks of life, we all worship one God. 

5. Make time to read your Bible. Just like you would at home, you should set apart a time of your day where you are focused and alert to read your Bible. The Bible is not only the guide to your daily life but contains the words of your salvation.

6. Remember what comes after college. It can be easy to get caught up in the things of your daily life. But you should remind yourself daily that college is not the end of the world! Life goes on after this, and life goes on after death. All who believe in Jesus Christ will have eternity with Him forever, and that’s something we should never, ever forget.