I am currently reflecting on my blogging journey. I am still so new to this, just a baby blogger, really. I can’t believe it hasn’t even been two months since I created Your Mercies New, and I already have 40 published posts. Wowzas!
I’m still assessing where I want to go with my blog. What do most of my readers connect with? What type of posts do they want to hear? What do I feel most fulfilled writing about? What tone do I use most of the time?
I am very worried that my posts too often brood over past events, specifically my depression. I want to raise awareness about depression, anxiety, and mental health, but I wonder if I am casting too negative a light on it. I am most worried that my posts give off a bitter vibe, and more than that- that I AM bitter.
With this self-reflection in the back of my mind, the sermons preached at our church these past two weeks really hit home with me. I want to share a lot of the notes I took, so let me give credit to the man behind the thoughts. Our youth pastor, Nathan Jager, preached these two sermons entitled “Be You.” They were enlightening, down to earth, and I totally connected to what he was saying in a personal way.
Nathan focused his sermons on Jacob, the twin who came out second, holding on to the heel of his brother. His name literally means “heel grabber.” Jacob was born trying to get ahead, to one-up his brother. He wanted the monetary AND spiritual heritage, which came in the form of the blessing from his father Isaac. If you know the story you know that he bargained with his brother Esau for the birthright over a bowl of stew, and tricked his father into blessing him with the help of his mother. “God can’t bless who you pretend to be. They tricked Isaac, but not God,” said Nathan.
What good is it to gain the whole world but lose your soul? Although Jacob finagled his way into getting what he wanted, he had live on the run for many years, working like a slave for his uncle. “Me first is a terrible way to live,” is how Nathan put it. He said the turning point for Jacob came when he wrestled with God all night. At that point, he finally “stopped grabbing heels and grabbed onto the one who really had the power to bless him.” When the man asked his name, he gave a truthful answer- Jacob. He demanded to be blessed, and he received it, along with a new name- Israel, which means “Triumphant with God.”
When God spoke with Moses in the book of Exodus, he introduced himself by saying, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” It makes sense that he was the God of Abraham. That man trusted God to lead him far from his home and family to a new land, and God blessed him with a son in his old age. Abraham was so devoted to God that he was willing to sacrifice his own son if God willed it. Isaac fully trusted his father and went willingly as the sacrifice. So it makes sense that God would claim those two…
But Jacob? The liar and cheater who ran in terror from his brother and hid in exile?
Yes. God claimed him too, and in doing so, showed that God is not just the God of people who have it all together.
“Be You,” encouraged Pastor Nathan. Stop trying to be the person who seems to have it all together. Stop trying to heel grab and get what other people have. GRAB ONTO THE ONE WHO TRULY HAS THE POWER TO BLESS YOU AND WHO WANTS TO USE YOUR IMPERFECT STORY.
My imperfect story. My depression and anxiety. My self-image struggles. My grief over losing my father. God can use it! He wants to use it for his glory! This is such an encouragement to me. Good WILL COME OUT OF THESE THINGS!
Then today his sermon moved on to the moment when Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel gave birth to Benjamin. In her dying breath, she named him Ben Oni, which means “son of my sorrow.” The name reflected her emotion as she realized she was dying. Oni also means strength. “What if strength is always born out of sorrow?” wondered Pastor Nathan. “Trials form strength.” He pointed out that even Jesus had to endure many trials before conquering death. Isaiah called him a “man of sorrows.” He endured betrayal, a terrible beating, and a humiliating death on a cross before he showed his strength and came out victorious over death.
“What you are facing today can be your source of strength tomorrow.” -Pastor Nathan Jager
Does this encourage you like it does me? Because right now I want to jump for joy! It makes me look at my struggles in a new light, with thankfulness in my heart.
After Rachel named her son Ben Oni, “son of sorrows”, Jacob swooped in and renamed him Benjamin, “son of my right hand.” The person who sat at the right hand was blessed and had authority. What was once called sorrow instead was called a blessing. Israel demonstrated his decision to move on by renaming his son. He refused to let his child’s future be influenced by a sorrowful moment. “So just like Jacob, you have naming rights over your life too. You can call it what it is or you can look through the lens of faith and turn bitterness to blessing.”
A few weeks ago I posted about looking at the world through The Eyes Of A Child. I still love that- it’s a rosy, untainted, and innocent viewpoint. But as an adult, Pastor Nathan’s viewpoint encourages me in a much deeper way. It means I can face adversity knowing the Lord will use it. It means I can look at my mistakes and know that God still wants to claim me. It means that what I’ve been through- the good, the bad, and the ugly, can shape me into a stronger woman, and here’s the key for me- if I let it. Or I can let it make me bitter and angry. It’s a choice. Pastor Nathan said that “you can’t wait until everything is good to give God praise” because life is always swinging back and forth from joy to sorrow.
Pastor Nathan Jager’s closing words were:
“My motto is: ‘I will not dwell on what was lost, I will build on what remains.’