Heart, Mind, & Body

Seeing Struggles Through The Lens Of Faith

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.’

BE YOU.”

15 thoughts on “Seeing Struggles Through The Lens Of Faith”

  1. Of all blogs that talk about depression I think you are the most positive one I’ve seen. Even in the little time I’ve read your blog, all your posts have been uplifting. You are definitely gifted in writing encouraging and deep posts. As a middle child, I’ve often struggled to find out what I could really do that was unique. My older sister played violin. So I played it. My older sister is a perfectionist and a straight-A student. So I tried to squeeze myself into that mold. The problem is that I’m miserable as a perfectionist and I’m not the same person as my sister. I struggled to find something different to do. Eventually I found cooking. I enjoy cooking and now I do it every day (I’m sure my mom appreciates that part:) Now I more struggle to take a moment and think about why I cook for my family. Am I doing it just to prove that I’m different and am good at something? Or am I simply doing because I enjoy it and love to serve God in whatever way he gives me? Anyway, thanks for your post!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Aw thank you, and it is good for me to hear from others what vibe they get from my posts. I definitely want to shine a light and not cast a shadow! I also like to cook, although I find it to be much harder with toddlers. I hope you can continue to find your own special niche and enjoy things just for you!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I have thoroughly enjoyed all your posts. They document your real life and are very relateable (is that a word?) Joys of motherhood, doubts about being good enough, being weak to the enemy’s taunting, being strong and standing on God’s word and in the midst of all that, there is always the paint color that turned out wrong (just happened to me the other day and I thought of your post!). Its just wonderful, crazy, unpredictable life – we are all interconnected and sometimes something you think is simple or unimportant reaches someone else just at the right time. Keep writing and being you!!

    Lori

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lori! My goal with my blog has been to be honest about my struggles in a positive way if possible, to connect with other women. You’re right- life is crazy and wonderful! So what happened with your paint project? Did you pick another color and repaint? I still have to even out the glaze on my island, but I’m starting to get used to the color. I think it was such a big change from red to turquoise that it was hard to adjust to at first!

      Like

      1. Its a tiny wall and I wanted it to be a dark smoky gray blue but it ended up a lot brighter. The rest of my living room is gray and with the bright blue it looks like a Dallas Cowboys uniform! For now, I hung an old shutter I found on it and will hand a wreath on that so I might keep it for a while and see how we like it. Its just paint, right?! I’m reading the Cozy Minimalist right now and its inspiring me!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes. It’s been a strategy for years. It’s a process. I have a couple of posts about it. It’s what I tend to read about. I think I have a lot of links on my first or second post.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so powerful! I just want to shout hallelujah! Reminds me of Laura Story’s song “Blessings”, which came out about the time your daddy died and was a comfort to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This was very good. The key, as you stated, is “If I let it.” Trials and tribulations can take us out, and we can let them get the best of us, and then we can become bitter and angry with God because life did not turn out for us as we had hoped, or as we thought it should. And, then we can become people who just moan and groan with a “Woe is me” attitude, which then can even lead us into other sinful behaviors as a means of escaping our miserable circumstances. But, that never works, for all we do is just become more miserable, because we are even going further away from God’s best for us into what is for our worst.

    So, the key is to grab onto our Lord, and to hold on to him, and to believe in his promises to us, and to trust in his sovereignty over our lives, and to know that he has our best interest in mind, always, and that he is working all things together for good for those who love and obey him, and who have been called according to his purposes. We have to trust him with our lives, and with our pasts, present and future, and trust him that what he allows in to our lives is ultimately for our good to strengthen us and to teach us perseverance, and to make us holy.

    It is not the circumstances (the trials) that do this, though, in and of themselves, for we know that those trials can take us out, too. But it is God working in our hearts and lives strengthening us through our trials as we yield control of our lives over to him, and as we rest in him and we don’t become anxious and worried and stressed out, that we are able to gain that victory over our circumstances and rise above them and live and walk in the victory that is ours in Christ.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Oh, Holly! I think most people wonder about their blog from time to time. I know I certainly have and still wonder sometimes on how God is using it. But I’ve decided if He is glorified, if the truth gets to who He wants it to get to (and I have confidence He can do that part) then I need to rest in Him and keep listening to what He puts on my heart. ❤

    This is a beautiful post! I did not realize what Benjamin's name meant at first!!! WOW! That makes even more sense!

    I'm going to share this post on the community spotlight.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for sharing it! I just reread this post and realize I’m still struggling with “Be you.” But I like what you said about glorifying God. I will try to keep that as number one and not worry about the rest. Thanks for reading!

    Like

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