A few months back, when I was still attending Penn State Altoona, I had the privilege of speaking in front of my SALT Family. It was on this night that I opened up my heart and let my family have some insight to the ups and downs of my life at the time. I spoke about a song that is near to my heart and when I listen to the words I’m still reminded of the love my God has for me even when I feel I need to carry the weight of the world. The following words are what I was able to present to some of my closest friends.
Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on
I look at the first part of this song, and I almost laugh because I know this is me. And I know, I can tell you countless times that we don’t have to be and aren’t supposed to be in control, but I still feel the need to do it. Nowhere in the bible it tells us we must hold it all together. How many of us feel like we need to be in complete control of the situation? Whether that be your schooling, or an assignment, or having your whole life planned out?
Instead scripture tells us to hold tightly to hope. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.”
I don’t know how many of you have ever held a newborn, or have nieces or nephews. But when that little baby latches onto your finger, they’re holding so tight and it’s seemingly impossible to loosen their grip. When you’re with your niece or nephew and they want to show you something right now, they hold tightly onto your fingers and lead you to where they’re aiming. They grasp your fingers because they believe you’re going to be there to provide, to guide, and to encourage them. They put their hope in you without wavering.
And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go
I love this promise. It’s backed up over and over in scripture. James 4:7 tells us “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Recently I’ve discovered that I needed to let some things go in order to completely submit myself to God. A seemingly good thing I was a part of was actually hindering me from doing the works that God was calling me to do.
I think a huge part of faith and finding out the calling He has for us is learning to listen to God. Praying is something that I have used in my listening process. We need to remember to look for the little signs God gives you daily. Whether that’s a song, a passage from scripture, even the advice we give each other can be a huge message from God.
The sooner we learn that we are not in control of the situation, and learn to depend on God, the more beneficial it is not only to our spiritual lives, but we can help others grow in their faith journeys as well.
If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will
One of the first times I doubted my faith was when I was fourteen and my grandmother passed away. She was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and when she passed, it was hard for me to believe that God still loved me. Because I was so young it was hard to comprehend such a thing could happen to someone in my family. After turning to scripture, I found the verse, “Look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Although my faith wasn’t magically restored within that moment, it did give me faith that continued to grow over the years. I miss my gram, but thanks to the cross I know that God is with me through whatever I may face and He’ll love me unconditionally regardless of the things I’ve done wrong. Now, I don’t doubt that He is on the throne and He has me in His hands.
And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands
For me to try to count the amount of times that God has taken something seemingly negative and turned it into something positive is not something I can do. One thing super influential on my life is the fact that I’m legally blind. And for a very long time I was mad that God had made me that way.
Now it’s so easy for me to see that because I myself have a “disability” I notice when others are less fortunate, hurting, in need, or disabled themselves. God has given me a heart to help those who just need a little extra help. I find solace in Ecclesiastes 3:11, which tells us “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” God eventually makes everything beautiful.
Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won’t let go
When I was in my last few years of high school, we were going through a major transition within my church. Our head pastor, who had been there for many years, was retiring. Meanwhile our associate pastor felt as though he was being called to move to another church as well. Right before our associate pastor was to move a member of our church named Alex Barkman passed away. He was only 20 at the time. He planned on attending Penn State Altoona that fall. Our congregation was kind of rocked. While all this was happening I was about to come to Penn State Altoona, and I knew about CSF run by Tom Trexler at the time, and I knew about SALT. And I thought “Yes! Some stability!” Not too long into the year Tom informed me that he was no longer going to be running CSF, and soon after I was told that Stumpf was no longer going to be running SALT. It felt as though I couldn’t get any kind of spiritual stability anywhere. Meanwhile, back home we were transferring from interim pastor to a new full-time pastor. I’d lost and gained 6 “pastor figures” in a span of about two years.
I decided I needed to be a part of SALT leadership because I needed a support system. And believe me I got that. I love them like family. However, recently I’ve discovered it’s best for me to stay out of the leadership position because I need to focus on myself and really find where God is calling me before I can help others with that as well. I still consider myself a leader for Christ. I believe everyone in this room is a leader for Christ.
Through all of this, I found that the only way for my heart to truly find peace, was to search earnestly for God. It wasn’t about the pastors; it was about Him. It was about following where He directed me to go, talk to who He urged me to talk to, and believe that He had my best interest in mind. He really does have me and you. And he’ll never let go.
So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held
Recently, I found a quote that spoke wonders to me. It reads, “God sometimes takes us into trouble waters not to drown us, but to cleanse us”. While I’ve been taking this year to somewhat rediscover myself, I’ve unearthed some things from that past that I’m not proud of and I’m really not comfortable with. At the very beginning of this year, I went with the leadership team to Blue Knob for our Leadership retreat. On the trip Will Coleman introduced us to an experience in which we essentially took a nature walk, and found a stone, and wrote on it something we needed to work on. While on my walk, I realized how angry I was with God for some of the things that happened in my past. It was a bitterness I really hadn’t noticed built up until that moment. Instead of talking to God, I began yelling at Him and asking why He’d done some of the things he’d done. I began writing on stones the things I was angry with him about. I started throwing them over the cliff side. Eventually, after I got my frustrations out, I realized most of these things weren’t anything I could change. So when it came down to it, I wrote the word “acceptance” on my rock. As I was walking back to the cabin, I looked down at a rock on the ground and Leiana had written on it “He knows what He’s doing.”
I’ll never forget those words because they remain true no matter what we care to think. It’s so essential to remember that He has a plan, He knows what’s going to happen, He has you in His hands, and He’s never going to let you go.
I want to conclude with my favorite scripture from Jeremiah 29:11
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”